How to Stop Procrastinating
We have all suffered with procrastination at some point. It is an issue we as humans have dealt with since the beginning of time!
We struggle with delaying the activities that matter most to us. That unique feeling we get once we finally fulfil our goals (cutting out the procrastination), is amazing but rare.
It is time for us to make our most productive moments a frequent occurrence, pushing ourselves to fulfil our goals on a regular basis.
In this blog post, we will cover exactly what procrastination is, why we do it and how to overcome it.
Let’s get straight into it and learn how we can stop procrastinating and start acting, as we aim to become our best selves, living our best possible lives.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks to the last minute, sometimes even past the due date! Instead of working on these important tasks we opt to do tasks that have less relevance and importance, even though we know we have much more important things to focus on.
Even though we know there will be negative consequences, we still decide to delay the activity, hoping for a spur of motivation to arise as we wait for ‘the right moment’ to fulfil the task at hand.
Procrastination is very common amongst all of us, with 25% of adults saying procrastination is a defining personality trait for them.
Chronic procrastination can lead to serious problems that affect our livelihood, such as bad grades in school, or a lack of progression in the workplace stopping us from gaining promotions and higher salaries. Procrastination can also negatively affect our mental health, potentially leading to depression or anxiety.
Is Procrastination the Same as Being Lazy?
Many people confuse procrastination with laziness but they are two different things, not the same.
Procrastination is caused by you making a decision to do a less relevant task instead of something that you know you should be doing instead (more important task).
It is an active process of choosing an easier more pleasant task which holds less relevance, than a task which may be boring and harder but more important to complete. Procrastinators want to act and do more, but they feel unable to.
On the other hand, laziness is a choice that people make, where they don’t want to do any more work. They have no plans in the future to progress to more important tasks, they don’t care about the goals they have.
Whereas procrastinators do care about the goals they have, they want to do more and fulfil their tasks, with an intention of one day completing them all.
In short, laziness is choosing not to do anything, whereas procrastination is wanting to do more, but being unable to.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
As mentioned in the previous section, procrastination is different to laziness, so why do we procrastinate?
There are numerous reasons behind why we procrastinate, but it all starts with self-regulation. We rely on our self-control when it comes to performing tasks.
When we decide to purposefully delay a task, it is usually due to the negative emotions we feel or a lack of motivation. Think about it this way, when you are about to start a task you are excited to do, will you procrastinate?
The likelihood is you won’t as you can’t wait to get started with it. We delay doing tasks which we find boring, hard, challenging or that has any other negative feelings associated with it. Naturally, we want to avoid this type of feeling whenever we can.
In most cases, our inability to deal with these negative feelings is the main reason we procrastinate, rather than it being a time management issue. Deep down we know we must fulfil these tasks, but that fear of facing those negative emotions puts us off.
For example, you may be set a task to write a piece of work. The task is your highest priority right now and you know that it is something you must do.
Your fear of failure creeps in, causing you to constantly delay the task. Whenever you think about starting the task, you question yourself. What if I write badly? What will people think of me?
These feelings of self-doubt overcome you, stopping you from actually beginning the work, sucking out your motivation to do it each time. This kind of example would resonate deeply with those of you that are perfectionists.
Though it sounds odd, perfectionists procrastinate a lot! Whenever they want to do something, they want to make sure everything is done perfectly, to the best of their abilities.
If they feel they can’t match this high expectation, they start to delay and delay, not wanting to fulfil the task with anything other than perfection.
Other factors could include mental exhaustion, which is when you feel extremely tired and start to become angrier and more irritable, not caring about much.
Being in a distracting environment is a big problem nowadays, as it is an increasing reason that causes so many of us to procrastinate. In this day and age, it is much easier for us to procrastinate.
We have TVs, mobile phones and gaming consoles right at our fingertips, ready for us to consume and escape to. When we start to feel negatives emotions from a task, we instantly avoid it by going to one of our devices.
Procrastination occurs when these factors outweigh our self-control. Patience is key, as we often must wait for this re-balance to happen, so that our self-control can take over once again, but this can be a time-consuming process.
There are methods we can try, helping us to find that right balance, which we will discuss in the next section.
How to Overcome Procrastination
Now that we have covered why we procrastinate, it is time to look at how we can overcome it. Below we have provided key steps that you should take to reduce procrastination habits.
Step 1: Realise You Are Procrastinating
First you must realise that you are procrastinating. Putting off a task once for a genuine reason, doesn’t necessarily mean you are a procrastinator.
However, if it this is a regular occurrence, where you find yourself constantly putting off important tasks, looking for easy ways out, you need to sit down and evaluate your approach to your tasks.
Reflect on your recent days or events, are there any important tasks that you still need to do? Any tasks that should have been completed by now? If you have answered yes, then you must accept you have procrastinated to move ahead and solve the problem.
Step 2: Understand When, How and Why You Are Procrastinating
For you to understand your procrastination tendencies in more detail, you need to take a deeper look into what has caused it to happen, only then can we create a plan to overcome it.
Beginning with when you procrastinate, take a look back at the times you have procrastinated. Where do you tend to procrastinate most? Is it at home? Is the problem getting a task started or getting it finished?
Find out the key reasons that lead to procrastination in the first place, knowing when you do it will allow you to see where the initial problem occurs, which we will dive deeper into now.
After knowing when you procrastinate, how do you do it?
Following the reflection on times when you procrastinate, think about how you ended up deviating from the task. Was it because of distractions around you? Did you start browsing social media? Did you end up going out with friends?
Realise the actions that you took which caused procrastination to happen. By knowing how you procrastinate, you can start to build plans to reduce your ability to take those actions.
Just like we mentioned above, there are many reasons why we procrastinate. You must fully understand the reason that causes you to procrastinate to come up with solutions to overcome it.
Some people may have poor organisation skills, no schedules or to do lists to help them prioritise key tasks. As a result of this, you could fall into a rabbit hole of being overwhelmed by your work , so again you end up putting it off.
You may have a fear of failure or be experiencing self-doubt. This fear causes you to delay tasks for something which is much simpler, which you know is easy for you to do.
People actually fear success too, not just failure! They think if they attain success, many more tasks may come their way as a result of their good work, which could lead to more stress and a higher workload.
Poor decision making could also be a reason why you procrastinate. You struggle to prioritise which tasks you need to do, hence you choose the wrong order to do your tasks in.
After breaking down your procrastination process, you should now understand when, how and why you procrastinate. This will be a key aid in helping you to implement anti-procrastination strategies to reduce your chances of procrastinating.
Let’s take a look at these strategies now.
Step 3: Anti-Procrastination Strategies
Make sure that you understand that procrastination is a deeply ingrained behavioural habit, it cannot be fixed overnight.
A lot of time and work is required, so you must be patient to overcome procrastination. The best chance you have to overcome procrastination is by carrying out as many strategies as possible and seeing what works best for you.
First, we will look at the key problems and reasons we mentioned above, as to why people procrastinate and show the strategies to overcome them.
The key reason we pointed out earlier were people’s inability to deal with the negative emotions they feel from a task, may that be boredom or difficulty.
The best way to counter this, is to make it easier for yourself. If the task is boring or difficult, break it up into smaller tasks. Plan out each step, clearly showing yourself how you can progress to get the task completed.
Set out specific times to do the work, reward yourself with small breaks in between to keep yourself refreshed and in a good mind space. You can make a boring, hard task much easier for yourself by planning out easy actionable steps to take.
This will make the task much more achievable and realistic for you, increasing your motivation to do it, as you can see yourself progressing through.
For those of you that are perfectionists, you must first admit to yourself that no one is perfect! We all make mistakes; it is natural in life and necessary for us to grow as individuals.
Making any sort of progress is better than none, so stop dwelling on trying to make things perfect, as it never will be, all we can do is try our best.
The most successful people in the world have all failed countless times, but we never hear about it because people only like to see the highs, never the lows.
We should see failures as learning curves which you can benefit from, as from every shortcoming you can only evolve and get better. Stop overthinking the task and start doing!
Once you get in the rhythm of acting rather than thinking, you will start to get in the flow of the task and can make improvements as you go along. The first step is critical, so start now!
Those that are facing mental exhaustion just need to do one thing, take a break! Mental exhaustion is caused by high levels of mental activity without rest, so you must take breaks to allow yourself to recover.
It is easy for us to stress over things we need to do, but know you are only a human, and we all need our breaks and rests. Don’t be too hard on yourself, when you are not feeling up to the task, take a break. Come back refreshed and you will feel much better and ready to go about your tasks.
The working environment is especially a growing factor in today’s society. Technology continues to advance, becoming a vital part of our lives, though very beneficial for us, it doesn’t come without its fair share of problems.
We easily get sucked into our mobile phones, TVs and any other technological distractions. When you plan to carry out a task, remove all these distractions from the workplace.
Sit in a quiet room away from all of this, put your mobile phone away, out of reach. By reducing all these unnecessary distractions, you put yourself in a place where you can focus much easier on the task at hand.
Those are some key ways to counteract the main reasons why we procrastinate. In essence, all of these methods focus on making things easier for ourselves to carry out the goals we aim to accomplish.
Procrastination is easy to do, hence why we all do it so much! By reducing our chances and understanding why we procrastinate, we can put together plans and methods to help ourselves overcome it. The goal is to make carrying out the task easier for us to do than procrastination.
What to Do Now- Stop Procrastinating!
Now we have gone through why we procrastinate and how we can reduce it, let’s put a plan together to stop procrastinating once and for all!
Here are the key things that you need to do now:
Establish a Routine
Establishing a consistent daily/weekly routine is a great way to avoid procrastination. By setting a routine that you can follow, you allow yourself to get into a good flow, having much more productive days.
Timeboxing is when you set a maximum and certain amount of time to do a specific task. Use the timeboxing method to set times to complete your tasks. Make sure you choose the best time for you to work, the most productive time so that you can maximise your performance.
Timeboxing is an effective method, especially for tasks you may not enjoy as much, as you know the exact amount of time you have to spend on it, which can help you to get through it.
Make sure your working environment is clear from any distractions. Your workplace should be removed of the factors you identified that cause your procrastination, making it easier for you to do the work, rather than procrastinate.
Once you’re in a routine with your whole day set ahead, you will feel much better as you know exactly what will happen in your day, making sure that you are progressing towards your goals. Every day, no matter how big or small, you should see some sort of progression.
Break tasks into smaller pieces and set deadlines
A big piece of work can be very daunting, by breaking the task down you can prompt yourself to take action instantly. Large tasks can be overwhelming, you can reduce this by setting smaller, actionable goals to take which will lead to the ultimate goal.
This will help you to be much more organised, knowing exactly what you need to do to complete the task.
You can start with the first few steps you need to take to get yourself going, then start adding in new subtasks to fulfil once you get into the task and are progressing through it.
Make sure you focus on more important tasks by prioritising them. Create a to do list, so you have all the tasks written down for you to see. Once you finish the to do list, you will be able to see which tasks hold more relevance.
Always start with the more important tasks and work your way down, so create a list ranking each task in order of importance.
Setting deadlines for these tasks to be done will help to reduce the likelihood of you putting it off. Make sure the deadlines are concrete and do not change, creating some urgency for you to make sure it is done on time.
Deadlines should be realistic, giving you the sufficient time you need to complete the task to the best of your abilities. They should also be meaningful and encourage you to start your task early, motivating you to complete the task.
A good way to do this is by setting smaller deadlines, just like breaking tasks up into smaller tasks, set smaller deadlines. The smaller deadlines will help you to stay on track to complete the larger task ahead of the final deadline.
Reward yourself for accomplishing goals
Many people procrastinate instead of completing important tasks because the rewards for them are in the long term, making it less appealing than those smaller tasks which have a much quicker feeling of accomplishment.
To fix this, add short-term rewards for yourself for the larger tasks. These can be small things like having a TV break or watching an episode of a TV series, this breaks up the task and gives you something more immediate to look forward to.
Other ways to reward yourself include writing down the tasks you complete, this allows you to reflect on your progress at night, giving you a sense of achievement as you see the work you have done over the day.
The purpose of rewards is to motivate you to continue, they should be awarded when some sort of progress is made, giving you something to look forward to as a result of your hard work.
Hopefully this blog has been insightful for you, helping you to understand exactly what procrastination is and why you do it. We all have our own fantasies and dreams of how we want something to turn out when pushing towards our goals, but the likelihood is that it is far from realistic!
There will be problems to overcome, confrontation to face, we have to accept that and move forward. No one is perfect, we all have our limitations, but it is up to you to evolve as you progress and learn new things to better yourself.
Take your first step NOW! Yes that task you have been dreading all day or week…Begin it now and see yourself progress!