do it - procrastination conceptHow many times have you experienced procrastination: the moment you know that you need to work on something, but your body and mind simply not ready for it. Your consciousness urges yourself to get into the working mood, but unconsciousness refuses to cooperate, and tells you to sleep a little more, or browse the web a bit longer, etc. Such state can last for a few hours to a few days, until you feel so bad about it and finally decide to work on the tasks you need to work on. It’s painful and bad for your health.

While this state can be a sign for taking a break when you body and mind are truly exhausted, in such cases, you should really rest. Often it is not the case, and being able to recover from such state can make you feel better and be more productive.

Here is a trick that might help you to get out of this state a little bit easier, which I call the incremental approach.

When you are in a procrastination state, it is often because there exist a large gap between what your mind and body is ready to work on to the task that you need to work on. The procrastination may be an unconsciousness signal that the task you need to work on is too difficult or too overwhelming; therefore, instead of working on it, you have so much stress or fear that you just refuse to work on it.

When that happens, instead of trying to get into that state right away, you can choose to do the next easiest thing that’s one step closer to the working state. For example, if you are currently lying down, refuse to get up; instead of trying to work right away, you can tell yourself to just sit up. After entering the sit-up state, you then try to stand-up and walk around a bit. Next, you can try to sit down in front of your desk and start to work on something lightweight: maybe fix a time table, or reply an email. Once that’s done, you can then try to switch to the task you needed to work on. The key is to choose the easiest next state to enter and keep doing that until you enter the final state. Of course this may still not work, but it may help you to stop procrastination a few times.

Written by Shengdong Zhao

Shen is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department, National University of Singapore (NUS). He is the founding director of the NUS-HCI Lab, specializing in research and innovation in the area of human computer interaction.