Procrastinators want to find a way to nudge, push, or force themselves to stop the delays. They want to get the things they really want to do, done in a timely way.
First, understand your willpower. It can be easily depleted by difficult decisions, lack of sleep, lack of food, and disorganization. And you need the willpower to implement a new habit.
So start after a good night’s sleep. And have an apple close by to boost the glucose to your brain when you feel your willpower flagging. (see Strengthen Your Willpower, April 2013)
Part of using the PURRRR technique is to recognize your irrational thinking, which allows you to enjoy delaying work on an important project. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
You can prepare yourself for PURRRR by being optimistic and talking rationally to yourself. See Stress – Develop Your Resilience for more encouragement.
The PURRRR acronym describes a six-step process – pause, utilize, reflect, reason, respond, revise – to keep our “do-it-now engine” purring. You can use this self-regulation any time you find yourself procrastinating.
- Pause. This is the first sign that you intend to establish control over your procrastination. Use the first step of your old habit to signal to yourself that this time, you will do something more productive.
- Utilize. Here you resist and subdue your procrastination thoughts and actions.
- Reflect. Check how you are feeling and what thoughts are triggering those feelings, which often cause you to procrastinate.
- Reason. Notice your irrational thoughts, which keep you in a procrastination mode. Then change them by using a rational dispute.
(These first 4 steps only take seconds, and by adjusting your thinking, now you are primed for success).
- Respond. Keep repeating your disputed thoughts while you proceed in a do-it-now direction. Each time you succeed, identify the next small target, and go ahead and hit it.
- Revise. This is an adjustment phase. Here you track the results of your actions and adjust your aim and method as needed.
By using the PURRR process, you adjust your thinking for action, act, and keep acting to achieve a purposeful goal.
Here are some recommendations for chronic procrastinators from Dr. Piers Steel, Professor, Faculty of Management, University of Calgary.
Goal setting is one of the most established ways of moving forward on your plans. Take any task and break it down into individual steps.
- Your goals should be somewhat challenging but achievable for you. It is more satisfying to accomplish a challenge.
- Your goals should be achievable fairly soon, preferably today or over the next few days.
- Your goals should be specific, that is, you know exactly when you have accomplished them if you can visualize each step involved in reaching your goals, even better.
Stimulus control is a well-documented strategy that combats procrastination. What you need is a single place where distractions are minimal, which is difficult — but not impossible — in today’s offices.
- For stimulus control to work best, your office or desk should be free of any signs of temptations or distractions. Turn off email signals, use noise-blocking headphones, mute your phone and block social media.
- If you need a break, make sure you have it somewhere else, preferably outside of the workspace itself.
Routines are often difficult to establish but are worth the effort to foster. Things are much easier to do when we get into the habit of them, whether it is work, exercise, or family activities. If you schedule the tasks, you are presently procrastinating so they occur on a regular schedule, they will become easier.
- Start your routine slowly, something which you can easily commit to. Eventually, like brushing your teeth, it will likely become something you just do, without taking much effort at all.
- At this point, you might add to your routine again, always keeping your overall level of effort at a moderate to low level. Most importantly, when you slip out of your routine — which is inevitable with the unexpected — get back on it as soon as possible.
- Your routine gets stronger every time you follow it. Likewise, it gets weaker every time you don’t.
Although most of us procrastinate sometimes, research has shown that 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. If you want to know your Procrastination Quotient, check out Dr. Piers Steel’s website here.