‘In delay there lies no plenty’, legendary poet and writer Shakespeare once said. We live in an era where everything is moving with the speed of light, everyone is busy and the wish for extra time to “catch up with things and tasks” seems to be the line we use when the clock is ticking, but we are not yet done with our work. The struggle with procrastination is actually a tale as old as time. Look up the word in the Cambridge English Dictionary, and the definition is ‘to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring’. It affects most people to some degree, both at work and at home. Are you a procrastinator?
Do you perhaps see yourself next to the word ‘procrastinator’? Are you avoiding tasks until last minute or is your ability to make decisions-from starting a business, or changing career to getting your English into shape, something you’ve meant to do since forever- is affected?
It is so easy to lose focus, motivation and will power and get lost in a series of tasks you need to complete unenthusiastically. So here lies the key to beating procrastination.
As an English language coach, I have met so many people who have the desire to upgrade their language skills and yet, they cannot take action, start and reach their goal, use English with confidence. I have experimented with various methods to help each one of my clients to tackle procrastination: a time-management system called the Pomodoro Technique, Mindfulness and Journaling. Read on to discover all methods and see which one suits you best.
Can you smell the tomatoes?
The Pomodoro Technique is a 25-minute time-management tool named after the tomato-shaped timer used by Francesco Cirillo, the man behind this method. It’s based on the concept that people complete tasks quicker when they are entirely focused. All you have to do is to choose a task to work on, remove all distractions- if you’re working at a computer you close all unnecessary tabs, if you have your smartphone close, put it away, so you avoid the temptation to check your messages- set a timer for 25 minutes and get going. When the timer is up, you take a five-minute break before resuming the work for the next 25-minute slot.
When I suggest this particular anti-procrastination cure to my clients, they find it easy to follow. There is an initial phase of getting ready (getting coffee, removing all possible distractions) and then they see themselves getting into the flow of English learning. Whether it is writing a great business email, creating content for a presentation or having another go at their keynote, things are done quicker. The success behind this method is breaking down tasks into shorter slots makes the task less overwhelming. The fact that there’s only a 25-minute window to get through means you can lose focus.
What if you find yourself distracted? You simply go back to what you need to do, since there are no distractions around. The reward is a great feeling of accomplishment and a new found confidence when it’s time to use English!
Mindfulness, a game changer
When you get to be aware of the present moment, your focus and clarity increase. With clarity, you get an insight into what is essential and what is less important. Making decisions becomes easier; tackling that unpleasant task does not feel like going against your will.
I have written excessively about Mindfulness and how it can help you really improve your English ( you may want to read more this article “How Caroline Webb Can Help you Improve your Work and English Performance” and “Learning English the Mindful Way”.
The term Mindfulness is these days very trendy, yet very few understand what it means to be mindful. It is an internal process that helps the mind and body to sync, allowing you to accept that your mind is busy and how overwhelming it is to deal with tasks that are not your cup of tea but need to be done. The key here is acceptance and awareness.
When I infuse mindfulness in my English language coaching, I notice something spectacular. My clients, after a while relax and smile, they become more receptive and less judgmental about their performance in English. We focus on ways that increase their motivation to English learning- each client is unique, so the one-size-fits-all approach does not apply- we get to work on what really blocks their motivation to reach their language goals. Whether it is self-awareness about pronunciation and presentation skills, integrating new vocabulary or constructing sentences effortlessly in English without translating every word to their native language, mindfulness seems to be a cure to procrastination.
Practising Mindfulness goes beyond learning a language or performing well at work. It is a way of understanding how we react to life events and how it is possible to perform under stress or pressure with a positive mindset.
Journaling, the power of pen and paper
Do you keep all your tasks on your online calendar that you can access over your smartphone? It’s great to be able to add tasks any time while you’re on the go, how does the overview of your weekly calendar make you feel? The majority of people feel overwhelmed only by looking at their schedule packed with meetings and tasks, not to mention the to-do lists.
Journaling is the latest addition to my anti-procrastination toolkit. It gives you the mental space to focus on what is most important of all tasks, check-in with yourself- how do you feel about prioritising and getting on with your tasks, get a mini-digital detox, always beneficial for your busy mind.
How to make journaling work for you
There are hundreds of types of journals out there; if you don’t know where to start, remember to keep things simple. If you want only to note the most important things you need to do, then a Moleskin notepad will do. If you want to learn how to increase your productivity, then you might want to give the Bullet Journal a try. Some of my clients love the idea of using a journal that keeps them organised and productive, and this is what that journal does.
My favourite journal and the one I use is the 5-minute journal. It is a journal that takes only five minutes to complete, and it is designed to help you focus on starting your day happy. The clients who choose this journal method report to me how important it is to start your day feeling grateful instead of feeling overwhelmed by their full calendars. Some of them even shared with me that procrastinating “is a great excuse for busy people who don’t want to feel happy”. This is such an important statement!
Together with my clients, we take a few minutes to discuss what they noted in their journal in relation to their English learning progress, what things are important to them at the moment to achieve -perhaps an essential international project, an upcoming event where they have to present their work or a meeting they need to lead with success- and how we can work on achieving the best results.
The journaling method is the perfect addition to any of the other methods I mentioned above to combat procrastination while upgrading your English. It creates an island of focus and calm, so you get to understand what lies behind your delaying tactics. The significant advantage of this method is that it helps you think and write in English, it is like a mini-English private session with yourself!
Whatever method you choose to follow to beat procrastination make sure to keep at it. My coaching experience showed me that it takes time to build a good habit, so be patient and consistent; the benefits of any of these methods are too good to overlook.
It is a fact that when tackling English learning and procrastination, you need as much help as possible. Feeling discouraged, hesitant with what you need to do to start making progress with your English can affect your will power. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Procrastination. I have developed a powerful 1-1 online coaching method targeting all the areas you need to focus on; it is super tailored; you get to work on your voice and pronunciation, your vocabulary and specialised terminology, how to speak or write with ease and precision or any other particular linguistic challenge that holds you back from shining with English. Book your clarity call with me -no strings attached- and let’s discuss your language goals, how to get your inspiration back, stay on track and become confident with your English.