Motivation to Beat Procrastination
Post written by Leo Babauta.
Procrastination can be tough to beat because, although the steps to beating it aren’t that tough, sometimes we just don’t feel motivated to tackle them.
How do you build the motivation you need to finally beat procrastination?
There are two things I’ve found to work well to add motivation:
- Public accountability
- Intrinsic rewards
Let’s take a look at each.
I haven’t found anything better at providing motivation than some kind of accountability to others — whether a large group, a handful of friends, or just one or two people you care about.
Why is this? It’s interesting, because when we’re only accountable to ourselves, often we will allow ourselves to slide. It seems to be OK to fail if no one else is watching. But when we know we’ll look bad in the eyes of others, we’ll put in more effort to succeed.
Have you ever been challenged by someone else to do something — maybe something you really didn’t care about doing before the challenge? The challenge from someone else is what motivated you. You wanted to seem like the kind of person who can meet the challenge, not someone who would fail.
This powerful tool can be used in many ways to beat procrastination:
- Tell everyone you know (perhaps on Facebook, Twitter, or email) that you are going to create a new Unprocrastination habit this week. Promise to update them daily.
- Start a blog about your Unprocrastination journey and share it with people.
- Find an Unprocrastination partner, and have a daily log online (maybe using Google Docs) where you both keep tabs on each other’s efforts.
- Promise to send small chunks of a big task to a friend or colleague by certain deadlines. If you’re working on a book chapter, for example, promise to have 5 paragraphs every hour (or whatever works for you).
- Create a group challenge where the people who stick to the challenge get a reward, the ones who don’t have to pay a penalty.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. But choose one and get started today! It’ll make all the difference.
The definition of “intrinsic rewards” is tricky — it’s best if viewed in opposition to “external rewards” such as allowing yourself some dessert if you don’t procrastinate today, or buying yourself some shoes, getting a massage, etc. These are external rewards, and they aren’t bad at all.
Intrinsic rewards, by contrast, are pleasures that come from doing the activity itself. There are many of them, such as:
- Enjoying the fresh air, beautiful nature, and exertion of an outdoor run.
- Enjoying the intoxication of creating something new (writing, music, art, programming, etc.).
- Enjoying music as you do your task.
- Being mindful as you do your task, and enjoying the mindfulness.
- Feeling great because you’re doing something important, or something you’ve been putting off.
- The feeling of accomplishment from getting even a small chunk of good work done.
- Turning the task into a game, and having fun playing that game.
- Creating a competition with someone else related to your task, and enjoying the competition as you do the task.
- Having a peaceful, beautiful, minimalist working environment, and enjoying the serenity of that as you work.
These, of course, are just a handful of examples. Everyone enjoys different things, and you’ll want to find your own version of intrinsic rewards. What about the task can you find enjoyable? If there isn’t anything, can you create an enjoyable environment, turn it into a game or competition, or practice mindfulness as you work and enjoy that? Can you enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of doing 5-10 minute bursts of work and getting things done this way?
Find a way to enjoy doing the task, and your reward will be the task itself. This is one of the best motivators of all.