How to Beat Procrastination

Source: sxc.hu Photo: MJimages
Source: sxc.hu Photo: MJimages

One of the things that can really slow you down, no matter your goals, is procrastination. Putting things off seems like a good idea at the time, but shunting your work aside until you “feel like it” often results in little beyond adding to the pile of work you have to do later. Soon, you are so overwhelmed that it seems as though there is nothing you can do besides procrastinate further. The good news, though, is that it is possible to overcome a penchant for procrastination. This can actually help you change your life and even be a little happier.

Understanding why you procrastinate

The first thing you have to do is figure out why you are procrastinating. Often, we focus so much on what we should be doing, and what we are not doing, that we forget to self-reflect on the reasons behind the procrastination. April at Get Rich Slowly suggests that you ask yourself these questions the next time you find yourself procrastinating:

  1. Are you conscious of what you are doing, thinking, or feeling right now?
  2. Are you responding rationally to your circumstances?
  3. How do your feelings relate to your actions in this moment?

Some of the follow-up questions to those listed above can include such items as: Are you sick? Do you feel as though you don’t know where to begin? Are you afraid of failure? Do you fear the consequences of success? Are you concerned about what others will think?

All of these are very real reasons for procrastination, and can result in the way we respond to work that needs to be done. Realizing that you have some underlying issues can help you figure out how to focus on the source of the problem, and possibly make the changes necessary to overcome procrastination.

General tips to help you beat procrastination

Once you have a handle on the reasons behind your procrastination, it’s time to start working on overcoming it. The tips listed below can help you overcome a tendency to procrastinate. Not all of them may be applicable, but if you’ve done some self-reflection, you will have a pretty good idea which of these tips can help you the most:

  • Start a “worry log.” Write down your fears, and then note which ones actually come true at the end of the month. You might be surprised that a lot of your worries never materialize. This can help you overcome the fear that sometimes paralyzes, leading to procrastination. A variation of this is to write down your fears, and then put the list away. After you have got the fears out in the open and faced them, you can set them aside and move on.
  • Consider your self-talk. Instead of negative self-talk, think about couching things in positive terms. Rather than saying “I need to” or “I should”, consider saying “I choose to” or “I will.”
  • Schedule important activities. Once a week, have a personal planning meeting. Use a calendar (Google Calendar works great) and schedule the most important tasks that you know are coming up. If prep work is needed ahead of time, block of some time for that as well.
  • Prioritize your activities. Knowing what is important can help you avoid procrastination. When you have a list of the most important things to do in the day, you can more easily move from one thing to another. Visualizing what needs to be done can help you overcome procrastination by helping you see exactly where to begin.
  • Focus your time. Set a timer for between 15 and 45 minutes, and decide what you will do for that time. Whether it is answering emails, reading materials, working on a project or cleaning the house, knowing that you will be doing something and only that something for a set amount of time can be helpful as you kick-start yourself.
  • Break things down. If you are overwhelmed, break down big things into smaller tasks. This can help you see where to start, and prevent you from being overwhelmed to the point where you just put it off.
  • Schedule time for you. Don’t forget to schedule some “me time.” You need to re-energize, and doing something you like for 30 to 60 minutes a day can really help you feel up to the next task.

In the end, procrastination can reduce your productivity and sap your energy. By focusing and scheduling your tasks, you can feel better about what you are doing, and you can avoid procrastination.

Do you have any tips for overcoming procrastination?

7 Responses to How to Beat Procrastination

  1. I have always had a hard time with procrastination. I also read that its a form of perfectionism, which is the case with me. I want everything to be perfect so in my mind, if I can’t do it perfect now, I will just put it off till I can do it perfect. That time will never come so the task just gets done at the last second and usually ends up fine, but would have saved the stress if done earlier.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, all! I think perfectionism is one way to procrastinate. The good news, though, is that you can overcome that 😉 My problem is that sometimes I just get tired of doing what I have to do, so I put stuff off, making more work later.

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