Everyone procrastinates from time to time. Here's our guide to recognizing and avoiding procrastination.
You know you have a deadline to meet, yet you can’t seem to resist distracting yourself. You scroll through videos, surf blogs, check social media, and refresh your email page over and over. No matter how much you tell yourself to focus, you have a hard time getting into the flow of work.
Most of us are familiar with this cycle. When you give in to procrastination, you waste all your free time. You keep putting off important tasks until you miss your deadline. And worst of all, this process compounds stress and makes you feel powerless.
Habitual procrastination can wreak havoc on your self-esteem after a while and make you feel incapable of simple tasks. Not only does it keep you from achieving your goals, but you spend most of your time trying to recover from wasted hours. In order to understand how to combat this problematic loop, it’s imperative to first understand why we procrastinate.
Why do People Procrastinate?
People often believe that procrastination has to do with a lack of willpower. But that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. In order to figure out why you specifically have this habit, you’ll want to look over the following list and see what applies to your situation:
A Lack of Impulse Control
Sometimes it’s as simple as not having a grip on your impulse control. If this applies to you, you may want to install an app that blocks certain distracting sites while you work, like Self Control.
Your procrastination problem might be a result of not defining your goals clearly enough. When your brain doesn’t have a clear set of instructions, it can’t give you clear results.
You might be resisting the items on your to-do list for a reason. You may have a job you don’t actually want, for example. Look closer at your procrastination and see if maybe you’re avoiding your tasks for a specific reason. Then you can see what you can do to fix that reason.
Perhaps you’re struggling with anxiety and it’s causing you to procrastinate when you should be working or studying. Seeing a therapist or starting a meditation habit can help immensely with anxiety.
The issues above can all lead to a chronic procrastination habit, but everyone is different. Try to look deeper to find out what your habit comes from. Be honest with yourself, even if it’s uncomfortable. The first step to becoming better at something is total honesty.
5 Tips to Beat Procrastination
Now that you understand some potential root causes of your procrastination a little better, it’s time to dive into some actions you can take to improve it.
1. Break Down Your Tasks
One major reason why many people procrastinate is feeling overwhelmed at everything they have to do. You’ll subconsciously avoid tasks that feel insurmountable. You can make this easier on yourself by starting small and breaking your tasks down into smaller chunks.
Keep breaking down the task until you can look at each individual to-do item without feeling overwhelmed. Even if your first mini-task is something as small as sending a single e-mail, you’re still making progress. With a list of simplified, smaller goals in front of you, you’ll soon find if much easier to get things done.
2. Design Your Space Effectively
The way your workspace is set up will have a large impact on whether or not you procrastinate and how productive you are. Your office should be comfortable, but not so comfortable that it makes you want to relax and take a nap.
Start making some small changes like keeping your phone in a different room, instead of on your desk. You can also decorate your office with a color scheme that makes you feel energized and ready to go. Once you rearrange your office for focus, you’ll have an easier time getting into a productive mindset.
3. Use Your Calendar
If you only have one deadline to complete, you’re pretty much guaranteed to procrastinate on your work. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you have more to do, you’ll use your time more efficiently. This is because you’ll know you have a limited amount of time to do each task you need to do.
Try to fill your calendar up with tasks, even if they aren’t all related to work. Hang your calendar up by your desk where you can see it. When you have all your tasks laid out in front of you like that, you’ll automatically start using your time in a smarter way.
3. Stop Waiting for the “Right Time”
You may not know this, but perfectionism is a dangerous trait. One of the commonest pitfalls that well-meaning people encounter is waiting for the perfect time to begin something. It makes sense that you want everything to be ideal. But trust me, the “right” time never arrives! And waiting for it is a surefire way to never get anything done.
In order to beat this trap of the mind, you’ll have to accept once and for all that the right time never arrives. Start now and accept that you won’t be perfect. You’ll learn as you go and improve along the way if you just jump in, but if you never start, how can you grow as a professional?
4. Reassess Your Goals Regularly
Your procrastination may not be simple laziness. You might be procrastinating on your daily tasks because they don’t reflect your current goals anymore. In other words, you might be trying to force yourself to do something that’s no longer relevant to the way you ultimately want to be living.
A good way to solve this is to take a break from work (whether it’s an actual vacation or just a weekend away) to reassess your goals. Are you on the career path you really want? Do your daily tasks align with your strengths and ideals? If not, how can you change that? It’s amazing how much better you’ll focus when the tasks reflect what you want deep down.
5 Just Begin!
While reading about tips for beating procrastination is helpful, there’s no substitute for just taking action. The person who gets to work on their goals will always do better than the person who spends their days thinking and reading about what to do. So, don’t listen to your urge to procrastinate. Just get started now despite how much resistance you might feel.
Procrastination no longer has to rule your life. It’s a bad habit, but like any other habit, you can change it. Follow my tips and you’ll soon find your productivity levels improving over time.