Is procrastination stopping you achieving your goals and ambitions? Would you like to know how to stop procrastinating and accomplish more during the day? Well, you are certainly not alone. Procrastination is a serious problem for many people and can detrimentally affect both careers and personal lives. Side effects of habitual procrastination can be numerous. These can include stress, missed opportunities, guilt, tension, missed deadlines, lower self-esteem, resentment, medical problems, financial difficulties and the feeling of ‘life passing you by’.
It’s not all bad news though as it’s not that hard to stop procrastinating. Just by making some simple changes to your lifestyle, you can take back control of your life. You will accomplish more, achieve goals you never thought possible, learn new skills and have more time for fun and relaxation.
Before we get to some simple techniques on how to stop procrastinating, it is important to understand exactly procrastination is, what the triggers are, and why it affects so many people.
What Is Procrastination
To procrastinate is to put off an unwanted task until another time (or perhaps forever) even though you’ll often be worse off by delaying it, and replacing the task with something more pleasurable. It is typically instigated by correlating the task with either physical stress (dangerous or messy work, vigorous exercise etc.) or psychological stress (low self-confidence, don’t know where to begin, overwhelmed, frustration, anxiety etc.).
Procrastination isn’t only related to work-related tasks or personal goals. It can also include delaying actions that can have a negative impact on your health. Examples might include not visiting a doctor for a worrying health issue, or avoiding the dentist when you have tooth pain. Delaying a dreaded task and replacing it with something pleasurable can bring immediate relief making the tendency to delay tasks again more likely. This can eventually lead to a major procrastination habit.
Most of us procrastinate to some degree or another and procrastinators includes people from every walk of life. For some, it may be a minor issue that doesn’t detrimentally affect their lives. But for others, it can cause considerable anxiety and stress and can have a major impact on their productivity and accomplishments.
Consequences Of Procrastination
There are usually negative effects of habitual procrastination, both minor and major. Delaying a task often causes complications that could have been avoided if the work had been completed in a timely manner. Some negative consequences of procrastinating are missing out on opportunities that could have been taken advantage of if you had acted promptly. An employee who regularly fails to meet deadlines or complete set targets at work face the possibility of dismissal. Leave paying credit card bills until the last minute so you incur financial penalties for late payment.
Causes of Procrastination
The urge to procrastinate can be triggered in many different ways and you won’t always procrastinate for the same reason. It’s not about being lazy, idle or disorganized but can usually be traced to more complex psychological reasons. In general, our reasons for delaying a task or avoiding it completely are most commonly rooted in fear, anxiety, and stress.
Common triggers are: fear of failure, fear of success, you find the task pointless or boring, discomfort dodging, perfectionism, low energy levels, low self-confidence, low frustration tolerance, confrontation, lack of motivation, feeling overwhelmed, skill deficit, lack of focus, rebellion.
Benefits of Overcoming Procrastination
Overcoming your habit will reduce your stress levels, lower anxiety and give you peace of mind. It will also make you feel more confident, give you a feeling of purpose, give you more free time and the feeling you have taken back control of your life.
Now we’ve discussed the symptoms, causes, and consequences of procrastination, I’ll offer 6 tips on how to stop procrastinating.
How To Stop Procrastinating
Tip 1: Eliminate Distractions
Different environments can have different impacts on productivity. Some people can have their concentration broken by the slightest interruption, while others can easily ignore most distractions. If you are finding yourself easily distracted it is vital to remove the disturbances that are diverting your attention. I’ve outlined a few suggestions below. For a more in-depth read on the subject, check out my article on how to eliminate distractions in the workplace.
Disconnect yourself from the internet. The internet has changed our lives immensely, but for those of us that are prone to procrastination, it can be a frustrating distraction. If you work on a computer or laptop and don’t need to be online, disconnect the internet.
Disable smartphone notifications – notifications of emails, text messages etc. arriving can be too tempting to check so disable your notifications.
Organize your workspace to minimize visual distractions – take a look around your work desk…is it full of things that are likely to distract you as soon as you get a little bored? Remove any unnecessary items and keep only the project you are working on in front of you.
Personal phone calls – tell your family and friends to only call your personal number, not your work line. Chatting with a friend is too tempting to someone with a procrastination habit.
Tip 2: The First 60 Minutes Is For Work
This is a simple strategy that really works to get your day moving in a productive way. Spend the first 60 minutes of your day attacking your list of tasks before doing anything else. That means no checking email, reading the news, reading texts or looking at Facebook. Once you have successfully spent 60 minutes working you can treat yourself to a few minutes catching up on social media. This is probably my favourite how to stop procrastinating tip.
Tip 3: The 5 Minute Rule
This strategy is designed to get you started on all those small jobs you know you should be doing but never get round to starting! Here’s how it works… if the task takes less than five minutes to do, DO IT NOW! Yes, it really is that simple! If you follow this strategy you’ll soon clear away a lot of the quick tasks that on your to-do list and have been playing on your mind. Plus, you’ll free up more of your time to concentrate on your bigger goals and form a habit that will serve you well every day of your life.
Tip 4: Focus On Small Steps
Procrastinating over starting a large overwhelming project? Breaking it down into small manageable pieces can calm you down, make it seem less intimidating and far more manageable. Plus, it can help motivate you into taking action. Check out my article on how to break a big task into small steps for a more in-depth read.
Tip 5: Make Boring Tasks More Interesting
Maybe the worst enemy of the habitual procrastinator… an uninteresting, mind-numbing task! It’s no surprise that if you find a task incredibly boring you are going to have difficulty generating enough enthusiasm to start it. Luckily there’s a simple solution – make the task fun! Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish this:
Listen to music – a simple technique but stiff very effective. Listening to music you love and that inspires you can distract you from the tedious task at hand. And it will motivate you and make the time go faster.
Change The Environment – this doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you can, changing your work environment to one that is more interesting can make your task more enjoyable.
Create A Challenge – try turning a boring task into a challenge by timing the work from start till completion and then try to beat your record the next time.
Learn A New Skill – try listening to a foreign language course or an educational podcast while you are performing a mundane job.
Tip 6: Do The Worst Task First
For your next working day try performing the worst task first. It doesn’t have to be your biggest or most important task, just the one you’re most dreading. By accomplishing it first you will feel more productive, energized and less stressed throughout the rest of the day. And all the following tasks will be a lot easier to perform!
There isn’t a quick fix to beating a procrastination habit and you shouldn’t expect to rid yourself of the urge overnight. The key is to find strategies that work for you, practice them daily and eventually, you’ll be successful. Good luck!
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