We’re all guilty of procrastination! We do it more often than we’d like to admit. It may be more than not turning in your report or project until the last minute. It may also be about delaying important life decisions. For instance, whether or not you should ask your boss for that raise he promised last month, or whether you should join a gym, leave your boyfriend, have a baby – it’s endless.
And if you don’t start learning how to stop putting things off, you’ll have to deal with procrastination your whole life, which may have a negative effect on your relationships, career, and personal health.
The thought process behind procrastination is that we believe there’s always tomorrow, so why not steer clear of the stress and anxiety and just put it off until later. So, this is the first thing you need to tackle. It won’t be easy but try to figure out what the stress factor is behind your procrastination. It could be fear of failure, fear of confrontation, fear of not being perfect.
Remember, you are your own worst critic.
You judge your flaws and imperfections way too harshly. Yet studies show that when you forgive yourself for putting things off or not getting things done as perfectly as you would’ve liked, you can actually help fend off procrastination.
Sometimes we tend to bite off more than we can chew, then we go off the deep end because the result wasn’t anywhere what we had envisioned. Remember to set realistic goals before you give yourself a hard time.
Follow these tips to help you avoid procrastination once and for all.
1. Turn burdensome tasks into habits.
We all have enough willpower to get about 3 or 4 tasks done each day. Habits use other parts of our brain rather than the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with rational thinking. So, when you train yourself to do something out of habit, rather than look at it as a mundane task, you think about it less, which means you’re using less willpower, and you won’t fall into the procrastination rut.
Things like brushing your teeth or making your bed have all become daily habits that you automatically perform without considering putting them off. Why not turn healthy eating, daily exercise, or turning in reports ahead of time into daily habits as well?
After that, it becomes easier, but you still have to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Procrastination is all about taking that dreaded first step. So why not ease into it with the knowledge that after a certain amount of time, or once I’ve finished X, I can watch videos on YouTube or get a cup of coffee. Make it pleasant for yourself because the reward is the part that the brain assimilates to gauge your enjoyment level. If you’re happy, then your brain slowly turns this task into a habit that you look forward to instead of something you dread daily.
2. Break work tasks into chunks.
Instead of cleaning out the entire garage, do the right side first, take a break, then do the left side, take a break, then finish off the rest. At work, big tasks may seem daunting when you look at them as a whole. The answer? Break it down into smaller tasks. Outline the entire project, and then divide it up into smaller tasks.
Working in 30-minute increments also helps break down tasks into smaller chunks, which are manageable and not so intimidating. After 30 minutes, take a break and assess your work. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished will give you that boost of confidence, you need to keep at it.
3. Remove distractions.
Checking your email every 5 minutes isn’t doing you any good. So, once you’ve committed to doing the job, limit your distractions. You can find apps that help you stay on track, but some will say that’s completely missing the point.
The important thing is that you set up a specific time for checking emails or your social media, and once you’ve started your task, you avoid the urge to take a sneak peek.
Another serious distraction is multi-tasking. Even though it may seem that you’re productive, the truth is it’s a complete waste of time and energy. Think about it, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to entirely focus on one task and give it 100%, and then you bring in another task, which means you decrease your focus level by half, bring in the third task, and the focus drops even lower. So even though you’re working more, your results will be below average.
4. Work during your peak hours.
We all have certain times during the day when we’re most alert. Some of us are morning people, some are night owls, and some have more energy during the afternoon hours. Find out what your peak hours are and tackle your most demanding tasks then. You’ll be more of a powerhouse then, with your brain working at its maximum capacity.
Procrastination is different from being lazy because you delay doing something for a more enjoyable task when you procrastinate. So why not turn that mundane task you’re dreading into something more fun and enjoyable, and kill off the urge to procrastinate?