How Harvard Researchers Get Work Done (When They're Already Checked Out)

Updated 06/30/17
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Let's be honest: We all procrastinate. Some of us have a chronic issue and literally wait to do everything until the last minute; others among us only stall for decisions when the outcome might be unfavorable. If you're like us, then you've probably given the whole ditching the unnecessary, self-inflicted delay thing a try more times than you can count. But of course this is easier said than done. Fortunately, Harvard researchers have devised a few solutions that can make us all get into work mode when we're feeling like doing the exact opposite. And it all starts with why you're procrastinating in the first place.

They Just Drop Everything and Do It

One of the most important parts of adulthood is leaning into the hard decisions, especially when you'd rather avoid them. Simply "not feeling like it" is not a good reason to avoid doing things like paying your bills, going to work, and taking care yourself. In short: Getting necessary stuff done has nothing to do with your emotions most of the time.

"Who says you need to wait until you 'feel like' doing something in order to start doing it?," author Oliver Burkeman asks. He also reminds us of one of his favorite quotes from American artist, painter, and photographer Chuck Close. "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." So just go for it; there is nothing standing in your way.

They Embrace a "Prevention Focus"

Though making mistakes is a natural part of life and humanity, it never feels good to mess up. And you may actually be procrastinating because you fear making a misstep, however slight, that could lead to a loss or negative outcome. So in this case, adopting a "prevention focus" is a way to shift your thinking. By embracing the task, you actually transfer your fear of what will happen if you mess up into decisive and almost immediate action. Is this a solution brimming with roses and sunshine? Not in the slightest, but it's a method that works. It takes an unsettling feeling and turns it into a positive, action-oriented step. 

Head over to Harvard Business Review for more, and pick up a copy of The Procrastination Cure for an in-depth read on the topic.

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