The (not so secret) secret to overcoming procrastination

A psychologist’s take on tackling enormous tasks and overcoming procrastination.

You know those pesky tasks that feel like climbing a mountain? The painstaking ones you prefer to put off and park to the side?

I bet you do. We all know the ones.

How do you get those done with ease? Without avoidance. Or without regressing into your six-year-old self.

This article will outline the number one tip psychologists recommend to tick off those big tasks. 

And it helps with overcoming procrastination. Yes, that old chestnut. 

overcoming procrastination ocean

I like a story. So bear with me.

Imagine, it is the middle of summer, about 10 am in the morning. The ocean is glistening and the sun kisses your cheek good morning. The air is heavy with humidity.

Sweat is beading on your forehead. You look up at the arduous climb ahead. About 400m of steep stairs. Then a further 11km awaits you. 

There is a map to your left as you begin the climb. It details the journey ahead. Somehow 11km looks further on a map. 

You start the climb. Your muscles are aching. You look up, the climb is steep and there are endless steps ahead. 

The image of the map looms large in your mind. 11 more kilometres of this. 

In a flash. You see red. Screw this, I will not do it. It’s impossible. 

So you think about giving up. 

For a moment you do.

It’s not worth it, you think. Anger boils. You want to scream.

But then you remember you want to do this hike. 

Exercising and looking after your body aligns with your values.

You pause. 

A magic pause. There is power in a pause.

You breathe. You recognise this feeling of frustration. 

A feeling that has its roots in when things didn’t go your way. 

Like the times you were young and felt overcome by emotion.  

Now you are older large tasks look different. But the feeling of frustration from when you were young threads and connects to the here and now.

Recognising the roots of the frustration. You center yourself. 

You whisper to yourself, “just to the top of the stairs”. Then you can finish the hike. 

So you trudge on. Catching your breath. Your muscles are aching but you mark the milestones of 10 steps with a break. 

With glee, you make it to the top. The breeze rewards you.  

The ocean glimmers and beacons to you to keep going. The hardest part is done. 

Another kilometre more, then another kilometre more.

You find you finish the hike.

So. What has this story got to do with accomplishing big tasks?

Well. You may have guessed. 

The secret to completing big tasks is by breaking them up into smaller tasks. With the marking of milestones in between.

Sometimes the most effective strategies are the ones that you forget about. They are simple. 

So how do you overcome procrastination… Perhaps it also starts with a pause. 

Connecting with what you value. Taking a breath. Recognising the origin of the feeling. 

Where is the emotion coming from? What is it trying to tell me? 

Then, how can I break this task up into smaller tasks?

Are there milestones along the way that you can celebrate? Take a breather and feel the cool air on your face.

You will get there.

As Carl Jung said, “do with conviction the next and most necessary thing”.

Whether that is one foot in front of the other. Writing one word then another word. Ticking off one small job at a time. 

Just do the next and most necessary thing.

Over to you. Let me know your biggest tip on overcoming procrastination.

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