Faced with an important task, how often do you say to yourself, "I have plenty of time to do this later"?
Or "I'll do it first thing in the morning, when my mind's fresh"?
Or "I just need to [fill in the blank] first"?
These are all signs of a procrastinator. We all do it sometimes--maybe you're procrastinating even now by reading this article.
Procrastinators love distraction. And if there's one thing we're surrounded by in our current information age, it's distraction.
Whether you're online, tuned in to mass media, or communicating with others, there's always something else to do.
Researchers who study human behavior have found that bossing yourself around may hold the secret to getting things done.
The method is called the multiple selves model. The concept is that your goal-oriented future self is almost constantly fighting with the immediate-gratification present self. They're duking it out for control, and you're the battlefield.
Years ago, when LeBron James wanted to make the leap from Cleveland to Miami, he told ESPN reporter Jon Greenberg, "I wanted to do what's best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy."
It may sound like a self-centered verbal tic, but University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross says "using one's own name ... to refer to the self during introspection is a form of self-distancing that enhances self-regulation."
It may even be a way of crystallizing that "two-selves" idea by helping you get the other you to listen for a change -- and to stop procrastinating on doing what you want.
So how can we boss ourselves around to get things done?
When the duality kicks in, tell any uncooperative parts of your head, "I'm the boss here and we are going to tackle this problem now."
2. Mind control.
If you know you have a deadline and you are doing everything to distract yourself, use your mind to control yourself. The moment you start to wander off track, say something to yourself that gets you back to the task at hand. You can say STOP IT really loud--hopefully your co-workers won't think you're crazy.
3. Hard parts first.
In the morning we have the most energy, and you can boss yourself around to do the harder tasks first. Then as the day goes on, your energy drains--but you have momentum. Remember: Be the kind of boss that gets her own work done.
4. Tools and trickery.
Break up your habits. Do things in the opposite order. Find your preferred tool of procrastination (usually a smartphone) and lock it in a drawer to make it harder to check--maybe even a drawer in someone else's office, so you have to explain why you need it. Turn off pings and alerts so you don't hear them until you're done.
5. Just make it happen.
We don't have to feel good about a task to do the task. Motivation makes us feel better about what we have to do, but we don't need it to get the job done. So if you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself, "I am choosing to do this now." Not wanting to do it now is not a good enough excuse.
In procrastination and other problem areas, remind yourself daily that you ARE the boss of you.