Procrastinator? Me too. These 5 tips really helped me get to work.

Let's get this out of the way: I'm a procrastinator. It's likely you are too.

There's nothing I enjoy more than writing — OK, sleeping is a close second — but when I open a new Word document to type out a story, I immediately begin to think about things that I would much rather be doing right now. You know, like washing every dish in the house or seeing just how many YouTube videos I can watch in an hour.

Don't worry, we're not alone:


If you need more evidence that so many of us (20% of people worldwide are "true procrastinators") are putting off the things we could be doing until tomorrow — "a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored" — you need to check out this video that's going viral.

It's a lecture by professor and procrastination researcher Timothy Pychyl. The video was originally shot in 2012, but you won't be surprised to learn that not much has changed for all us procrastinators out there.

Check it out if you're looking to understand and change some of your procrastination behaviors.

Ah, you've scrolled past the video, just as I suspected you would. My guess is that your first thought was "This video is 58 minutes long!" and your second thought was "I'll definitely watch this over the weekend." Or maybe, like one Redditor, you've saved it to watch at 3 a.m. when "all other options have been exhausted."

You know how I know? I've done this, too. So how do you break the cycle? And why should breaking it even matter? Well, here are five procrastination facts to seriously convince you to change your habits, gleaned from personal experience and boiled down from those 58 minutes I watched on your behalf.

1. Procrastination isn’t ever actually fun.

Think back to the last time you procrastinated. Did you have a good time? Maybe a little, because it feels good to give in to avoiding something — at least at first. It's probable, though, as you watched a movie or baked cookies or scrolled social media and checked your email for the umpteenth time that you also felt guilty. And that's because you know you were putting off something that could have and should have been done right now.

And if we're being really honest, Pychyl points out in the video, behaviors we perform while procrastinating are often "moral in nature" — like cooking and cleaning. It's a way of assuaging some of our guilt for choosing to leave the taxes for another day (even though the deadline is looming).

GIF from "SpongeBob SquarePants."

As my thesis advisor once told me as I made another excuse for not having a part of my draft finished, "You're turning a little discomfort now into a lot of suffering later." She was right.

Sure, my house had never been cleaner (to the delight of my husband), but I also had to suffer the pain of writing a 40-page paper in less than two weeks. Not something I  recommend.

2. Procrastination can have devastating effects.

One lie we tell ourselves when we procrastinate, Pychyl says, is that we do much better under pressure. Of course, that's not at all true. In the video, Pychyl says that those who procrastinate tend to make more errors. And that leads to poorer quality work. (Research supports this.)

That's not all, though. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but new findings show that chronic procrastination can lead to a host of health problems because putting important things off causes stress, making you vulnerable to headaches, insomnia, and even hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

GIF from "The Simpsons."

People who procrastinate, Pychyl warns, also have a harder time eating well, exercising, and taking care of themselves otherwise. That's because, as he puts it, procrastination isn't a time-management issue (so that planner isn't going to help you on its own) but an existential one. You procrastinate to (unconsciously) avoid getting on with life.

3. Before you stop procrastinating, you have to realize you won't accomplish this goal overnight.

If you've ever tried to achieve a goal — or several — at one time, you know what happens. You'll start off strong, promising yourself that this is when you'll really start kicking butt and taking names. And suddenly you're exhausted and don't know if you have the strength to carry on.

That's actually not uncommon. While most of us view self-control as limitless, the reality is that it's more like a muscle — building it up takes time and effort. You're going to have to break your goal up into bite-sized pieces instead of viewing them as huge obstacles.

Whenever I'm getting ready to procrastinate (*cough* as soon as I was assigned this post *cough*), I'm reminded of this quote by Mark Twain:

"If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first."

What that boils down to (because boiling frogs is the healthiest way to eat them), is that if you know you've got something to do, try to do it as soon as possible so that it's over with. And do the part you're least interested in first.

GIF from The Lonely Island/NBC.

Here's another tip, this one from author James Clear: "If it takes less than two minutes, do it now." More on that:

"Want to become a better writer? Just write one sentence (2–Minute Rule), and you’ll often find yourself writing for an hour."

"Want to run three times a week? Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, just get your running shoes on and get out the door (2–Minute Rule), and you’ll end up putting mileage on your legs instead of popcorn in your stomach."

4. Just the fact that you spent two minutes reading this piece means you're on the way to ending your procrastination.

That wasn't so bad, was it? Let's take a moment to mark this monumental occasion with this video of a dog riding a skateboard (a perfectly beautiful and natural thing for dogs to do).

Now back to the important stuff:

As you practice not putting things off, you build up your belief in yourself. And that belief translates to a change in your habits and identity. The catch, though, is that you can't go too fast, and you can't put off the small steps until tomorrow or next week or the first of the month.

You've got to start taking care of what you've been putting off now. Stop and think what you can accomplish in a few minutes. Just start. Don't think about it.

5. The most important step? Something called "implementation intention."

You know what's on your to-do list because it's keeping you up at night. You promise yourself you'll get it done first thing tomorrow, but another day has come and gone, and you're still stuck in the same place. That's not because you're lazy but because, as Pychyl says, procrastination is "the gap between intention and action."

Let's make that even simpler: The problem isn't that you don't know what to do, it's that you don't know how to do it. The items on your list — even ones like "clean the house" or "get back to people" — are big and vague enough that you don't know where to get started.

In the video, Pychyl says that when he asks a grad student what they're working on and they say "my thesis," he knows that they're not getting any work done. Wasn't the same true for you when you said "I'll do my homework" rather than saying "I'll do the problems I have for math followed by the paper I've got for English"?

Implementation intention, based on the work of researcher and New York University professor Peter Gollwitzer, is the idea is that you break goals down into the following formula: "In situation X, I will do behavior Y to achieve subgoal Z." You give yourself concrete plans that don't just include an intention but a clear plan for your action.

GIF from "Home Alone."

That turns "I'll definitely clean the entire house on Sunday" to "On Sunday morning, I'll do my dishes and mop the floor so that my kitchen is clean."

It's really as simple as that (and research shows that it works).

And if you find that you don't feel like it? Well, Pychyl knows that you won't. But learning to regulate your emotions is an important part of learning not to procrastinate.

"When I ask my children about feeding the fish, dogs, or horses (or any other chore, including homework), and they say, 'I don’t feel like, I don’t want to,' my typical response is, 'I didn’t ask you how you felt or what you want to do. I asked you about that action,'" Pychyl writes in a blog post.

In short, recognize that "'I don't feel like it' is not a reason, it's an excuse."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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