Stop Procrastinating Already: Combine Eating a Frog with Parkinson’s Law and More

Stop Procrastinating Already: About Eating Frogs, Editing Blank Pages & The Parkinson’s Law You Said Tomorrow Yesterday

You have an upcoming deadline, but whenever you think about it, there is always a reason to do it later, putting it off until there is no more “tomorrow”. Something else—usually self-imposed and more interesting than the task at hand—will come up at the right moment, demanding your attention and sending you off on a different track.

We all fall prey to procrastination. From school assignments to dental appointments or simply having to clean out the leftovers in your fridge, some tasks are trivial, just cumbersome to execute, mostly no fun at all, and have no dire consequences. However, never quite getting to the things you want to accomplish in life because of avoidance behaviours will be a shame. How to stop procrastinating?

Psychology Behind Procrastination

Procrastination is often associated with perfectionism and anxiety. If something cannot be done perfectly, one may choose to not start at all. Some people feel guilty later on for giving in to distractions and caring more about their present comfort than their future happiness. Others beat themselves up internally for not being motivated enough and allowing themselves to feel stuck in a rut. Meanwhile, stress continues to creep in as deadlines draw near, all these whilst getting nothing done.

Such is not the best quality of life. So why wait? Let’s start to shift this and get that momentum going again.  Use these tips to help you overcome procrastination:

Stop Procrastinating Already: About Eating Frogs, Editing Blank Pages & The Parkinson’s Law Frog

1. Eat the Frog (Starting is the Hardest Part)

If you wait till you feel like you are in the right mood to do it, you will never get started. Being passionate surely helps a lot, but when you cannot find the mojo, you have just got to accept that you cannot feel good all the time and get on with it.

As Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Eating the frog means to just do it, otherwise the frog will eat you means you will end up procrastinating the whole day. Eating the biggest frog is getting your most difficult task out of the way so that the rest of your day will be an easier ride.

It is worthwhile to note that our “power hours” differ—from a morning person to a night owl. Be aware of the various times of the day that work for you, and kickstart your assignment within your most productive hours.

2. Enjoy Small Victories

Congratulate yourself for getting started! It is a huge step. Progress contributes a sense of accomplishment, and such a feeling makes you feel better about the task and yourself, potentially eliminating the element of dread.

Celebrating small victories along the way is like checking off your to-do list, further increasing your confidence and firing you up to move forward. Once you start building the satisfaction momentum, you will almost always get into it and not want to stop.

Stop Procrastinating Already: About Eating Frogs, Editing Blank Pages & The Parkinson’s Law Paper

3. It Does Not Need to be Perfect (Can’t Edit Blank Pages)

For the perfectionists who fear doing a less-than-perfect job, tell yourself, “This doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be just good enough.” Do not let imaginary conversations of worst-case scenarios rule your decisions. American author Jodi Picoult said it best, “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

4. Curb Distractions

Let’s get real. We all need to practise some discipline when approaching something that is not our favourite activity. Set some rules for yourself, and they should not be hard. Identify your productivity pests and crush them. Some people wear headphones to muffle out the noise. Others switch off their phones. Distractions continue to lurk even when we are alone with the task at hand, such as self-talk and bizarre thoughts. Quieten the mind and focus.

If you know that checking social media feeds is your temptation, tell yourself, “Only after I finish this section of the task.” Studies have shown that finding work-life balance can drive productivity, where leisure activities are dedicated as motivation to increase efficiency. When you have time for everything, including play, you will find work—even the most dreadful ones—rewarding.

Stop Procrastinating Already: About Eating Frogs, Editing Blank Pages & The Parkinson’s Law Deadline

5. Use the Parkinson’s Law

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” British author Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote that opening line for an essay in The Economist in 1955. This concept is now widely known as the “Parkinson’s Law”.

The idea behind the theory is that if you give yourself a week to complete a one-day task, the task will naturally expand in complexity (in your mind), adding unnecessary stress and tension to fill up the whole seven days. The more time you have to complete a task, the more time you will take to do it. People tend to give themselves buffer or overestimate the time they need. Until this principle is fully tested, they do not become fully aware of how quickly some tasks can be completed.

Try to half or quarter your time limit and see where that takes you. You will learn that it is possible to do it in a fraction of the time because you are psyched, racing against time, with no bandwidth to complicate things—keeping it simple.

Of course, the Parkinson’s Law should not be considered free rein for you to set unreasonable deadlines. It advocates simplicity, and when work is simple and not intimidating, you have no reason to procrastinate.

Stop Procrastinating Already: About Eating Frogs, Editing Blank Pages & The Parkinson’s Law Today

6. Adopt a Simplified Perspective

More than managing time, overcoming procrastination is about managing your attitude and emotions towards the task. The Parkinson’s Law challenges you to set aggressive timelines, “forcing” you to simplify your work. On the same note, breaking down your work into bite-size pieces also helps you view the task as less daunting, allowing you to take small steps towards achieving your goal.

For example, by dissecting your study topics into revision sessions of 50 minutes or aiming to clear one topic every two days, the task will seem simple enough. In time, consistency will win out as you keep working on the small enjoyable pieces a little at a time.

7. Make it a Habit

On not missing a day of blog posting since 2008 for 11 years in a row, Seth Godin wrote, “Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit. Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.”

To overcome procrastination, get into the habit of “eating a frog” by completing a high impact task every day. Train your mind, oil your gears. Day one of frog-eating may be uncomfortable. Day two shall bring a sense of accomplishment. On day three, you may feel that you have built some momentum. By day four, whether you are loving it, at least you are not dreading it. The task has gotten easier (plus, you are executing in lesser time), and you have grown accustomed to dealing with such scenarios.

Remember, knowledge is nothing without application. So, no more waiting. Cherish your most valuable resource in the world—time. Do not let procrastination have it.