Break Your Procrastination Habit in 9 Easy Steps
Here are 9 ways to change your behavior so you can be more productive.
Everyone procrastinates. Sometimes it’s fun to procrastinate. Sometimes waiting until just before a deadline is very motivating. And sometimes procrastination is even necessary—as a way to put off a dreaded task until we feel more energetic, prepared, or able to do it.
But sooner or later, chronic procrastinating will begin to hamper job performance. It will also affect our mood and state of mind by generating worry, fear, or added stress. Perhaps most serious for people in a leadership position, procrastinating may cause our peers and employees to feel that we’re holding up progress.
If procrastination has become a problem for you—and you know who you are—here are 9 ways to change your behavior so you can be more productive. An added benefit is that you’ll feel more upbeat, less worried and stressed, and more confident about your reputation and effectiveness.
1. Put it in writing. Write down the task you’ve been putting off. Doing this brings the project to the front of your mind so you can’t easily ignore it.
2. Name your feelings. Psychologists acknowledge that procrastination is an emotional reaction. One of three core emotions is always driving it. What’s driving yours? Is it fear, that you won’t get the job done well enough and on time, for example? Is it anger, perhaps because you have to do something you hate or resent? Or is it sadness, because you feel inadequate or ill-suited for the task, for instance? Dig down deep to identify the emotions behind why you’re dragging your heels.
3. Release the emotion. Fear, anger, and sadness are just pure sensations in the bodies that get stuck. If they’re not expressed constructively and physically, they build up inside us like a pressure cooker. In a private setting, do exaggerated shivering to get rid of fear; punch a pillow or stomp around to release anger; or watch a movie that makes you cry to get rid of sadness. It may sound silly, but it works.
4. Neutralize destructive thinking. When you think of this task, what negative thought pops into your head? Find an antidote to that thought in the form of a truth that contradicts it. For example, if you think “I’ll never be able to learn all this,” you might say to yourself, “If others can learn this, so can I.”
5. Break it down. You’ve envisioned the task, dealt with what’s been holding you back, and fixed your destructive thinking. Now, break the big job down into a series of little doable steps so you can stay focused on just handling the next little task. Plot out each part of the project, including details such as whom you will talk with and what about, where and when you’ll be working, and how long you expect each step to take. (This will spare you from getting overwhelmed, because each step will be doable.)
6. Praise each little step. Don’t wait until the end of the task to congratulate yourself. Give yourself praise for each small victory, rewarding yourself for each little step completed. Doing this is very motivating, and it also prevents fear of failure from creeping in to the process and sabotaging your efforts.
7. Prepare for obstacles. Once you’ve broken the task down into smaller pieces, anticipate roadblocks that could pop up along the way. For example, how will you deal with projects with shorter deadlines that land on your desk? Have a tactic ready for sticking to your original plan.
8. Fight resistance. It’s time to take the leap and tackle the task you’ve been putting off. When you do, you’ll likely meet resistance in the form of excuses, bad moods, and discouragement. Shiver to express the fear. Say to yourself, “I’ll feel better when I handle this.” Repeat it like a mantra until the urge to procrastinate passes.
9. Enjoy the win. Finishing a daunting task is satisfying. Remind yourself that you’ll feel incredibly virtuous when the chore is off your plate once and for all. Accomplishing what you’re avoiding will simplify your work life. You’ll feel more energetic. You’ll sleep better at night. Relish the feeling of success.
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Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.
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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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