Did you know that 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators? If you’re reading this article, maybe you’re one of them. Or perhaps you don’t consider yourself a “chronic” procrastinator, but you still put off work and you’re looking to improve on that. You are definitely not alone (I initially planned to start writing this blog post yesterday).
Unfortunately, if left unchecked, procrastination can have negative effects on your mental health. College students are the most notorious for procrastination, putting their grades in jeopardy by doing so. It can cause issues with your employment if you constantly miss deadlines. Even watching clutter pile up around the house can reduce your wellbeing. This all leads to increased stress, which adversely affects your health. A little procrastination is natural, but a lot can be dangerous.
Let’s not wait any longer. Conquer your procrastination with these various tips and tricks.
Why do so many of us procrastinate? When you have work looming over you, it’s easy to push it off to the next day through rationalization. “I’ll definitely take care of it tomorrow,” you tell yourself. Without any motivation or accountability, that quickly becomes the procrastinator’s mantra. The task is finally addressed once the deadline looms, which leads to panic and rushed results. If there is no deadline, it may never get done.
Procrastination has only worsened over time. My Time Management warns that procrastination levels have quadrupled in the past 30 years. It’s not hard to figure out why. We’re living in the golden era of distractions. Our phones alone (which are usually within arm’s reach) offer texting, social media, video, games, apps, and boundless information. Couple that with society’s impressively short attention spans and you’ve got the perfect recipe for procrastination.
Luckily, there are many different approaches you can take to defeat this.
Break it down. That major project looming over your head? One reason you may be avoiding it is because it makes you feel overwhelmed. It makes you want to not think about it for as long as you can. That problem can belong to future you.
Do your future self a favor and start breaking that massive project down into smaller, more doable tasks. Baby steps. A slow crawl towards the finish line will be much better for your mental health than scrambling to your feet at the last second for a mad sprint. Maybe “The Tortoise and the Hare” had the right idea when it preached “slow and steady finishes the race.”
If you still feel overwhelmed by your tasks, break them down even further. They can become monthly, weekly, or even daily goals. Don’t look at the big picture. Take it one step at a time and live in the now. If you abide by these rules, you may feel the iron grip of procrastination begin to loosen.
Create multiple deadlines. The deadline is the procrastinator’s number one fear. It’s what kicks the procrastinator’s work ethic into high gear. Our previous point can’t be completed without organizing a timeline of deadlines for your tasks. This will create a sense of urgency within your brain. It may cause a little bit of stress, but it will be better to meet these deadlines now instead of letting the work stack up for later.
You must hold yourself responsible for meeting these self-appointed deadlines. If you can’t, find a friend who will. An “accountability buddy” can help motivate you. If you’re both looking to improve, you can even make it a little bit fun. Meet over coffee to talk about your goals, turn it into a friendly competition, or even a bet. If others know about your efforts to conquer procrastination, they may hold you to it and ask about it every so often, fueling your motivation to impress.
Say goodbye to distractions. If you can’t keep from picking your phone up, leave it in a drawer or another room. Humans are creatures of ease. We don’t typically go out of our way for something if it’s too difficult to access. “Out of sight, out of mind,” also applies here. If you need to keep your phone on hand, go into the settings and disable the notifications from social media or other distracting apps. You can also utilize "do not disturb" mode to be sure you're only being notified of texts from important sources.
If you have the choice between going to the office or working from home, ask yourself where you get more work done. Do you buckle down in a work environment or fritter away the hours chit-chatting with coworkers? Do you have zero focus when left to your own devices at home or does the peace and quiet lead to more productivity?
Recognize burnout and take breaks when needed. Sometimes, you need to hit the reset button and that is perfectly okay. If the negative emotions are overwhelming, then don’t be afraid to take a step back. Take a mental health day or go on a weekend trip. Recalibrate. When you are ready to dive back in, take a moment to revisit your goals and those deadlines you set for yourself. Shift them around if you have to. The break may help you see everything in a new light.
Sometimes the right thing to do is recognize that it’s just not happening for you today. Maybe once in a while, procrastination is right—and it’s healthiest to save it for tomorrow.
Reward yourself. The fact is our brains are easily tricked through simple psychology. If you treat yourself to dessert after every meal, your brain will view the act of eating as something that is followed by a sweet reward. Then, every time you eat, that meal will be followed by a craving. Not very desirable! However, you can spin this to your advantage.
For every major project you complete, celebrate! Take a day off, splurge on your favorite restaurant, buy your favorite flavor of cake. Do what makes you happy. Eventually, your brain will come to realize that hard work = reward.
Just don’t overdo it, or you may become victim to those pesky cravings.
Just do it. Sometimes, all it takes is simply getting started. Once you clear that initial hurdle, you might get a good rhythm going and not be able to stop! Make it more enjoyable by putting on your favorite background music (but nothing too distracting). Create an hour-long playlist of tunes and tell yourself that you're going to get as much done as you can while the music is playing. You might just surprise yourself.
Procrastination is a common problem. There are countless methods and techniques out there on how to overcome it. If none of these tips prove useful, there is certainly another approach that could. Find what works for you.