It’s probably safe to say: we ALL struggle with procrastination in some area of our lives. We know what we have to do – which task we need to complete – but we put it off, choosing more appealing ways to spend our time instead. Sadly, our digital life makes procrastinating easier than ever.
Who hasn’t fallen down an internet rabbit hole, with link after link providing ear-and-eye-catching distractions 24/7 (musicians no doubt surf YouTube for their favourite songs and tutorials more often than they care to admit– but this isn’t just a problem for musicians!).
It might surprise you to learn that procrastination isn’t always a bad thing. Some people say it may even be the key to unlocking our creativity. Others claim they work better under pressure and enjoy the rush of being on a deadline – and that’s fine as long as we get our work done.
But what happens when there are no deadlines?
Chances are, if you’re an adult playing an instrument, you’re doing it because you enjoy it. It’s not something you’re obligated to do, it’s something you actually want to do. No one is going to nag you about releasing your next solo-album or writing your first original song.
There are no deadlines when it comes to being a musician.
To realize our dreams, we have to come up with our own intrinsic motivation, or we just won’t ever get around to it. Deadlines can be helpful, they provide us with a container to keep our procrastination habits in check — and without them we can easily turn into long-term procrastinators. But it takes more than that. To keep from turning into perpetual procrastinators, we have to use tricks and tools that turn ‘want to do’ into ‘done’.
The following tips will help you achieve your goals and train your brain to quit procrastinating by helping you understand the underlying psychological barriers that might be holding you back.
Here are 6 tips that will help you stop procrastinating on your dreams:
- Turn big tasks into small, manageable tasks.
Start with baby steps. Almost every big undertaking can be broken down into small chunks. Don’t think about finishing, just think about starting and do a little every day. Becoming “a great guitarist” for example starts with a 10-minute practice session. No one gets to be truly great at anything overnight, it takes many deliberate small steps to get there.
- Make yourself vulnerable.
Be brave and put yourself out there! The root cause of most procrastination problems is a fear of failure. We put things off because we think we’re not talented, smart or disciplined enough — we want to avoid making mistakes. Just consider your mistakes opportunities to for learning. Try to use your fear as a compass — what we fear the most is what we want the most!
- Connect with your goals.
Winning the battle between procrastination and motivation comes down to knowing your ‘reason why’. When you have a powerful reason why achieving your goals is personally important to you, you’ll have the drive to continue. Just focus on the negative consequences of not completing the task: what happens, if I don’t achieve my goal? Or: What doesn’t happen if I don’t achieve my goal.
- Enlist help.
Ask others for help when you need it. We all need people who believe in us, especially when we’re struggling to surmount an obstacle. Find an expert to get you past your roadblocks, or partner up with friends to make yourself accountable for your tasks. Surround yourself with people who help you achieve your best!
- Ditch perfectionism.
Don’t be so hard on yourself! Your high and unrealistic expectations may be stopping you in your tracks. Just remember, everybody has to start somewhere. It’s okay to have high standards, but expecting perfection and beating yourself up for falling short isn’t going to get you anywhere. No one is perfect every step of the way, be kind to yourself.
- Use the “Nothing Alternative.”
If you — like me — find yourself procrastinating, try making yourself do nothing! That is – if you really want to get something done, make ‘nothing’ the alternative. Here’s how you do it: allocate a set amount of time to a certain task and then, during that time, don’t force yourself to do the task, but also don’t let yourself do anything else. No talking out the garbage, no reading emails, no checking Facebook — nothing.
By the way, tip 6 was the procrastination-blocker that helped me immensely. I end up doing my task just to make the time pass. I first heard about the “Nothing Alternative” in a book called ”Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” (by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney).
One last tip — always remember to get a good night’s sleep. Baumeister’s studies show that we typically spend four hours every day resisting temptation — no wonder it’s so hard to stay disciplined. Willpower is a finite entity and our reserve depletes over the course of the day and replenishes over night. Rest is the key to realizing our goals. Next time you find yourself facing down a task that needs to be done but you feel the pull of day-to-day distractions - remember: you can overcome procrastination!