This new article will show you everything you need to know about how to stop procrastinating.
What is procrastination? You know the feeling, right?
You’ve got an assignment due, there’s an important report for work that you should be finishing, or all that cleaning to be done around the house. But you find yourself reading articles- probably on procrastination, right?!
Or maybe watching TV, playing computer games, or scrolling through social media to find out what your closest one thousand friends had for breakfast.
Procrastination refers to the act of putting off something that’s important or necessary in the short term, but carrying out less urgent activities instead.
This can involve putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes leaving it to the ‘last minute’ before a deadline.
Did you know, that 25% of people say that procrastinating is a defining characteristic of their personality? Or that 75% of surveyed college students considered themselves to be procrastinators?
Procrastination is also a trait often found in high achievers and commonly attributed to perfectionists….now I know, I know, you all just said “That’s me!”…but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t place a significant roadblock towards being a high achiever, and you should know how to overcome it.
Procrastination can relate to many personal issues, health issues such as visiting the doctor or dentist, getting those much need repairs carried out around the home, as well as academic and work obligations where we would rather be doing anything else possible.
The effects of procrastination include stress, anxiety, guilt, panic attacks, health problems, loss of productivity, social disapproval for not meeting responsibilities and commitments, and the list goes on….all of which promote further procrastination!
Why do we procrastinate?
The main reason is instant gratification.
We want a good feeling from something now. If I do my assignments, attend classes and pass the exams, I’ll receive a degree in a few years and that’ll feel great…..or…..I could sit on the couch with a bag of chips watching TV and maybe even have a nap, and that’ll feel great now!
This is the toss-up between delayed and instant gratification, we end up doing activities which gives us the gratification now and cause blocks for those things where we’re working towards something bigger and better.
Another reason is that we may be overly time optimistic, and I know this one sums me up for sure.
I used to always misjudge the amount of time needed, whether it be to have a shower and get ready before going out, or the time it takes to drive somewhere and park.
Every minute that rolls by that you should be taking action, you look at the clock and think “I can make it happen in that time, in fact, I’ve probably still got a few minutes before I need to start, so we’re all good”…and you may tell yourself that, several times until panic sets in and you’re running late!
Another reason that results in procrastination is when the task seems overwhelming, and we talk ourselves into deferring it until later when we’re better prepared to tackle the task.
This ties back into the link between perfectionists or high achievers and procrastination.
Because they want everything that they do to be absolutely spot on, they never feel fully prepared to start.
If they put it off a day or a week or whatever, that in that time they might have thought about it, planned, tidied up their work area first, and then they would be better prepared to take on the activity.
But in reality, all they’ve done is push an important task back and caused more stress and panic to be brought on.
This can also be seen as ‘clearing the slate’ of small annoying jobs, in order to have a clear mind to tackle the big task, and then being left short for time.
The same result can also come about when the task is just straight up unpleasant, and then you sell yourself short for time and end up underachieving.
A final experience many young people in college or university comes across is the sudden personal freedom they obtain, whether they’ve left home after high school, or it’s just because their timetable has a lot of free time where they should be studying.
So instead they’re excited by having all this free time now and do all those instant gratification things that feel good now…and then end up handing assignments in at the last minute, staying up late the night before, or in my case pushing through the whole night to hand the assignment in that morning!
And we kid ourselves that we work best under pressure, right? No, we don’t! What is the result?
You lose sleep, you get really tired, and you usually end up sick. But you let this cycle continue all the way through college.
An important distinction to also note here is what is referred to as the have-to-dos and the want-to-dos. Now you might be achieving your have-to-dos, but procrastination can affect your life through the want-to-dos list.
For example, you may be successful at work in your career, but things like getting in shape, cooking these elaborate meals, learning to play an instrument, writing or reading a book…never happen because we don’t ever get to that panic stage which usually gets us over the line at the last minute with have-to-dos.
These activities however, enrich our lives and bring a lot of happiness…so what’s the point if we can do well at our jobs but never actually be happy and doing the things we want to with our lives?
Procrastination has been around for a long time too, it’s not just something that’s crept in during the last couple of centuries with an industrialised world.
Egyptian hieroglyphs dating back to 1400BC have been found which literally translate to: “Friend, stop putting off work and allow us to go home in good time”. Now that’s over 3,000 years ago!
And with the inclusion of technology in our modern day lives, social media has provided us with so many easy to access distractions.
So how do we beat this and overcome procrastination?
There are many techniques that you can use to break the procrastination habit.
Think of it like a toolbox full of tools, and you have to find the one which works best for you. Different tools will suit different people and the way they mentally respond, and the more you can utilise, the better.
So let’s look at a few.
How To Stop Procrastinating:
1. Positive / negative visualisation
You can visualise the great feeling that you will get on completion of the task. This allows a simulated release of that endorphin rush you’ll feel and positive feelings from the accomplishment.
The visualisation gives your mind a taste for that feeling, and can help with the motivation to get all the way there.
Conversely, if you work better from the fear or panic, you can simulate this feeling by visualising the effects of not completing the task, and that might motivate your mind to jump into action to avoid that panic and negative feeling in full force.
Everyone responds differently to different triggers, whether positive or negative. Personally, I prefer to focus on the positive feeling and endorphin rush of success, but that’s up to you.
2. Break down task
You can also break down a large task into a series of smaller tasks or steps.
Rather than going to the gym…think of it as putting your shoes on, driving to the gym, warming up with a brisk walk on a treadmill, and then the thought of more strenuous exercise should be less daunting when you’re already into your session and warmed up.
3. Just start it
Similarly to this, some people prefer the ‘just start it’ idea, where no matter how great the task, you dive in and commit to just 15 mins to get started.
Quite often you’ll find that you’ll develop some momentum and end up doing more than 15 mins, if not, re-evaluate.
Some people prefer to apply the ‘just start it’ method to the hardest part of task….don’t think about it, just dive in, and then you might have gained the momentum you needed for the rest of the day.
4. Make up time limits
Another tactic is to set artificial time limits to instil a false sense of urgency. It is a common theory that the time to complete a task will fill the entire time allocated for it.
And if you think you work well under pressure, move the real deadline to a false one and focus on that, creating your own urgency for the new deadline.
Have that assignment or report due on Monday morning? Well rather than watching TV all day Saturday only to stay up all Sunday night to finish it off…why not set yourself a false deadline of Friday night, and make yourself believe it!
This way Thursday and Friday should be your panic time where you push through with urgency. If you make it, you’ve just freed up the weekend for leisure activities as a reward for your hard work…which is actually another tactic, to…
5. Set rewards for yourself
Especially, when you achieve something that you’ve set. Focus on your own reward rather than the long term success that goes along with having that task completed on time.
6. Reframe task
You can reframe the task in a more positive way. Instead of ‘Oh I should really clean up all this mess in the spare room because it looks bad’…how about ‘today I get to transform this room into a space that I can use for a recording studio, a reading room, a games room, a gym, whatever you’d be excited about’.
Therefore you’re not focussing just on the negative of a messy room and a heap of junk that you need to tidy up, but instead on the future possibility of what you are going to use the space for.
That of course, is only one example, but it can be framed to suit your situation.
For some people, the simple reminder that most of the time, nothing is actually stopping you from completing the task, except yourself.
Sometimes just this simple realisation can give people some perspective and allow them to override their circuitry as such and push forward.
7. Social accountability
You can get someone to check-up on you. By letting someone know your goals and asking them to keep tabs on how you’re going, you are making yourself socially accountable, which for some people can be a major motivating factor in getting them moving.
Some people suggest that you can also trick yourself into thinking that you have an even more important task to do, and then the task at hand becomes the procrastination task.
I’m not too sure about this one myself….I know when I was studying and had an assignment due, a procrastination task would be watching a movie and eating food….I’m not sure how well I would have done if I had said to myself “Hey, you know you are meant to find the cure for cancer this weekend, maybe you should just do your assignment instead because that will be fun”.
8. To-Do list
By far, one of the key methods is to keep a to-do list.
Procrastinators are usually good at planning, but the key is scheduling – to prioritise and put time lines with the tasks. While procrastinators may be great at planning, if the doing part doesn’t happen, it’s not much use.
It’s not that procrastinators don’t like the concept of doing. They look at the plan and think “this is going to be great”.
This is because they picture that future moment when the achievement is complete. But this doesn’t involve delaying any gratification. Mentally, the gratification is there while picturing it.
But when it comes to start the work, there is no gratification there and then…but there is with watching a movie, having a snack or a nap or basically doing anything else at all!
The key to stop procrastinating is to recognise that you’re doing it in the first place, then you can identify why you’re doing it, and take the appropriate steps to overcome the block.
At the end of the day, procrastination is a habit, and habits can’t be broken overnight. You need to apply persistence in using the tools to break the habit, and the longer you can spend without procrastinating, the greater your chances of breaking this destructive habit for good.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to stop procrastinating.
I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.