We never mean to procrastinate, but somehow procrastination always gets the better of us.
It’s the same for us. We’re human, after all.
Whether it’s putting off that paper or your New Year’s resolution, procrastination comes in all shapes and sizes. What’s worse is we don’t even realize it’s taken over our lives.
If you’re reading this right now, then you’ve already taken the first step to curing procrastination: Recognizing that you’re procrastinating!
Why Do We Procrastinate?
The hard thing about procrastination is it happens mainly in our psysches. The best way to overcome this vicious cycle is to understand the psychology behind it.
The driving force behind getting anything done is our free will.
Since no one ever had to pull your teeth to do something you like doing (like receiving free money), there’s no problem in accomplishing tasks we’re motivated to do.
Procrastination happens when things start to demotivate our motivation, and there’s nothing like an unhealthy list of all kinds of hindering factors:
- Task aversion
- Fear of failure or negative feedback
- Disconnect from perceived rewards
Thankfully, since it’s only our free will getting in the way of us taking action it means we can turn the situation around: Harness your free will and get things done.
Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to help you stop procrastinating on your tasks!
Overcoming Procrastination [The 4 Pillars]: How to Stop the Cycle for Good
Our tips on how to stop procrastination is best explained through 4 key pillars:
- Focus And Increase Productivity
- Reward Yourself
- Practice Accountability
- Keep Going
Now, it’s possible that not all of the tips you see here will apply to your working style; however, there’s definitely still a lot of advice you can use and adjust to suit how you work.
Focus And Increase Productivity
1. Change Up Your Scenery
You’d be surprised at how changing your work environment can affect your focus and productivity.
Again, it’s all about going back to the psychology behind how feelings associated with your workspace affect your motivation.
If you’ve been working in your bedroom, the reason you might be feeling demotivated is because you associate that room with rest and relaxation.
Try switching it up by taking your tasks to a spot in your house with a lot of sunlight and quiet. Re-arrange everything you need to be within easy reach- like setting your coffee and pen by your laptop.
Keep in mind, though, that inspiring environments can lose their effect over time. Feel free to just keep hopping from one new place to another to see what works.
2. Break Down Your Tasks
One thing that might be fueling your procrastination is because you’re overwhelmed by the thought of the task set before you.
Whenever you feel this way, it helps to make a habit of breaking down your tasks into small assignments you’re sure you can finish.
If you feel like your sub-tasks are still too much, break the work down further!
It doesn’t matter whether you break things down from 10 to 100, as long as they become even more achievable goals.
Even if that lengthens your to-do list, remember you’ll get the job done faster by starting rather than continue to procrastinate.
3. Create A Schedule And To-Do List
That said, do create a to-do list. Not only does forcing yourself to list down your tasks help you get started on the job, but it helps you stop procrastinating further.
Listing down your assignments also allows you to see which important tasks you should prioritize first and helps improve your time management.
Take things further and break down your goals into timelines. Having scheduled tasks to attend to everyday will make it much easier to shrug off the helplessness.
One of the ways you can do to make schedules and lists fun is by picking out a nice notebook, planner, and pen to motivate you to jot down those tasks.
4. Remove All Distractions
This last tip is probably the most obvious (but also effective!) of the strategies to help stop procrastination. Remove all the things that distract you from the task at hand.
TV too loud? Turn it off. Hide the remote if you have to.
Friend chats keep pinging? Mute your phone or go so far as to put it in Airplane mode.
Do everything humanly possible to remove any kind of distraction to getting started on a task in the first place, even if that entails a 15-minute isolation break from life.
This is also the reason why many people work in a coffee shop aside from the perks of good coffee and free Wi-Fi: There’s no need to make small talk and you won’t be tempted by the comforts of home.
5. Give Yourself Little Treats
You know how dogs respond best to treats when you’re trying to teach them new tricks?
Well, turns out humans do, too.
If checking things off your to-do list isn’t motivation enough to keep you going, give yourself small rewards every time you finish a task.
Attach benefits to each project to give you a reason to celebrate milestones.
Treating yourself to small pockets of relaxation time will also help you feel like you’re not imprisoning yourself to any one task so that you don’t binge and lose self-control.
Just be mindful of the way you give yourself “treats”- like don’t work on a task for a 15-minute window and go online shopping for 2 hours.
6. Do The Easy (Or Hard) Thing First
Some people like doing easy tasks first since it frees up a lot of time to do more things, but this method can also help build your self-confidence to ACCOMPLISH the whole job.
Procrastination sometimes stems from the anxiety that we’ll mess up the project we’re working on. Tackling a job little by little will make the whole task seem less daunting and improve self-efficacy.
Conversely, some people prefer addressing the difficult parts first to remove a lot of the discomfort they may be perceiving with a particular task.
At the end of the day, pick whatever strategy works best for you to get the job done. What’s important in the long-run is you make it a habit to start and stop procrastinating!
7. Look For An Accountability Buddy
Sharing your productivity goals with someone will not only push you to actually achieve them, but also gives you extra protection when you’re being tempted to slip back into procrastination.
Find an accountability partner who shares the same set of goals as you do when it comes to stopping procrastination.
Don’t pick someone who will feed your temptations every day but instead hold you accountable to your long-term goals.
8. Use Apps To Block Social Media
It’s amazing how there are actually several apps to help you stop procrastination, which shows that there are so many people who struggle with the same problem!
These apps basically do the following things:
- Block certain websites and social media apps
- Set schedules and timers for your tasks
- Be extremely annoying when you try to disable them
- Offer productivity advice, procrastination tips, and encouragement
As silly as it may sound to have to force yourself to stop procrastinating, these apps actually help build a mindfulness practice for even the worst of procrastinators. Hey, whatever works, right?
9. No Negative Self-Talk
This method is arguably the most important of these tips.
Beating yourself down before you even had the chance to get up just tells your brain you can’t do it.
Instead of feeding yourself negative things like “I can’t” or “I need to, or else” will have a profound impact on your self-efficacy.
This is because your brain is what drives your self-will in the first place. Negative self-talk just adds another layer of bleak emotions to your already unenthusiastic attitude toward your work.
Being kind to yourself is a good mindfulness practice. Use your energy wisely and capitalize on getting everything you need to do done instead of making yourself feel bad.
10. Don’t Over-complicate
Sometimes, procrastination comes from our habit of “waiting for the right time” to do things.
If you’re still procrastinating on a certain task, I think it’s safe to say there is no perfect time in life to get started on a job.
Try to keep those perfectionist tendencies in check because they can definitely keep you from taking action.
The more you overthink ways to approach a project, the more time and energy you waste than actually getting work done.
11. Just Do It!
At the end of the day, you just have to hunker down and get started! This might be the most obvious aspect to stopping procrastination, but it is definitely one of the hardest things to do.
You could have gone through all the tips listed in this article but if you continue to overthink and overcomplicate things, you’ll just end up procrastinating longer.
The best way to make work much easier for yourself is to stop fretting and just do it. Once you start something, it gets much easier to keep going until you finish a task.
If You Must Procrastinate Though, Do It This Way
Granted, there will be days when we will continue to procrastinate even after reading this article. Procrastination is just an unexplainable phenomenon of life, you know?
Kidding aside, there are ways to be productive even when you’re procrastinating and make it seem like you’re multitasking instead.
Check out these top strategies.
A good method to making the most out of your procrastination is to view it in a positive light, like telling yourself you just have a naturally inquisitive personality and enjoy variety in your work.
That said, a way to be productive in your procrastination is to make sure you’re doing work that actually needs to be done.
This could be anything from doing chores around the house, grocery shopping for your dinner menu, or even reading this article.
By procrastinating in this way, you’ll still end up with a list of several practical tasks that you were able to do that day.
Try to Align Your Procrastination Interests With Your Work
The concept of productive procrastination is to further improve your efficiency in procrastinating. To do this, try to synergize your extra tasks with your actual work.
For example, you’re a graphic artist who should be working on a client’s project but choose to procrastinate instead. You open Adobe Illustrator and start illustrating a weekly menu for yourself.
While you did not accomplish your main goal (working on a client’s project) you did not lose productivity because your chosen procrastination activity compliments your work.
If you can take steps to align most, if not all, your hobbies and interests to your primary line of work, you’ll be able to stay productive even when you’re procrastinating.
The 4 Types of Procrastinators
Understanding why we procrastinate is just one half of the battle won. The other half is finding out which strategies work best for your method of procrastination.
Identifying what kind of procrastinator you are is one of the first steps to learning how to stop procrastination.
Check out the 4 kinds of procrastinators and the strategies on how to beat each one.
1. The Perfectionist
The Perfectionist is the type of procrastinator who focuses so much on minor (and often unimportant) details that they can’t even get started on a task.
If they do get to start a task, Perfectionists have a tendency to get stuck on many parts of the process as they overthink and over complicate all the steps.
For Perfectionists, procrastination really stems from the fear of failure or negative feedback.
How to Beat It
Be clear with the end-goal of your tasks and create deadlines for yourself.
Instituting a forced, time management method will help you focus on the need to finish instead of all the minute parts of your task.
It also makes it much easier for you when you’re not leaving things to the last minute, since you’ll worry less that you didn’t have enough time to deliver good work.
Finally, get a grip and remind yourself nobody and nothing is perfect!
Your boss care won’t bat an eyelash if your case report is “very good” instead of “excellent”, but he will mind if your reason for submitting it is because of poor time management.
2. The Pessimist
The Pessimist type of procrastinator is the one who, from the get-go, tells themselves they can’t do it.
Pessimists are all too comfortable with feeding themselves negative self-talk, which makes them feel they’re unable to meet their goals no matter what they do or don’t do.
Pessimist procrastinators usually can’t stop procrastinating because of the fear of not being able to finish the job or do it well.
They would rather not get started on tasks instead of being judged for making a mistake.
How to Beat It
The best advice for how to stop procrastination for the Pessimist is to break down your tasks into parts.
It’s also better to do the easy task first. By doing this, you give yourself some self-confidence that you can manage simple tasks and the momentum you need to reach the goal.
Another piece of advice is to go straight to working on each item in your to-do list.
When you procrastinate by doing other things- even if they’re productive- you can get distracted or discouraged which will zap your energy for the more pressing assignment.
3. The Yes Man (Or Woman)
The “Yes!” type of procrastinator never gets anything done because they over-commit to too many tasks and fail to prioritize in the long-term.
Though they mean well, the Yes Man (or Woman) usually takes on more work than they can handle because they’re trying to live up to an impossibly high-standard of themselves.
Procrastination for the Yes Man (or Woman) stems from the fear of missing out on a reward.
This fear can manifest in negative self-talk like “If I don’t say yes, they’ll think I’m not ‘Employee of the Month’ material” or “If I don’t say yes, I might miss out on a chance to prove myself”.
How to Beat It
Be realistic. Life isn’t a race!
More often than not, it’s about quality of work over quantity of work. You might also just be imaging a perceived standard of others and being too hard on yourself.
Accept tasks you can finish within a reasonable amount of time. If you take on too much work at the onset, you’ll have a tendency to burn out in the long-run.
This procrastinator likes to be challenged by new goals all the time.
Easily bored and distracted, the Distracter will procrastinate by looking for other tasks to perform first.
While they have no problem actually starting something, Distracters often quit completing a task halfway through because they have a constant urge to do something more interesting.
This type of procrastination comes from the failure to perceive end-goal rewards or long-term benefits.
How to Beat It
The best method to beat this kind of procrastination is literally to stop procrastinating. Force yourself to stick to a task and don’t do anything else until you reach your goal.
It may help to isolate yourself in a workspace with no distractions and install browser-blockers and focus apps on your devices.
Break down your to-do’s item by item so you have a setlist to go through and accomplish.
Achieving the little steps will also give you positive feelings associated with actually finishing a task, motivating you to keep going.
1. Is Procrastination Laziness?
Some people may interpret procrastination as laziness, but they’re actually two very different things.
Laziness is defined as “the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy”. With procrastination, you’re actively choosing to do other things instead of the main task at hand.
People often choose procrastination as a way of avoiding a task they perceive as unpleasant, while laziness is just outright not doing anything.
2. Is Procrastination A Mental Illness or Addiction?
While procrastination is not a mental health diagnosis, it is a common characteristic of mental health issues like ADHD, depression, or anxiety.
People turn to procrastination as a coping mechanism when faced with high-stress situations.
If your procrastination is so severe that it gets in the way of you being able to do basic self-care, it’s best to see a therapist because it could be a sign of something much more serious.
That said, procrastination may seem like an addiction because it can be a chronic habit which turns into a vicious, never-ending cycle.
However, procrastination can’t be defined as an addiction because addiction involves having a compulsive urge to engage in an activity even when it goes against your conscious wishes.
With procrastination, it’s not that you can’t stop yourself– it’s just that you don’t really want to.
2. Why Is It So Hard To Stop Procrastinating?
One of the main reasons it’s so hard to overcome procrastination goes back to the phenomenon happening in our brain.
Our thoughts correspond to our feelings, and for every feeling, there’s a certain chemical released by the brain. For example, more negative feelings will create more of the same chemicals in you.
Consider the need to get instant gratification when we’re feeling down. Exhilarating, right?
Now apply that to your own life where you’re avoiding all the important tasks and e-mails in your inbox that you need to attend to.
By telling yourself, “I have a lot of time to do it tomorrow” or “The deadline isn’t until next week” you give yourself a method to escape.
If you continue your procrastination, it becomes a habit you rely on as a way to feel relief.
3. What Is the Root Cause of Procrastination?
Ultimately, procrastination happens when you have a fear or anxiety about whatever task you need to get done.
This negative feeling about a task can be caused by a lack of self-confidence or self-efficacy, shame, guilt, feeling uninspired, and a myriad of other things.
And because you feel so bad, you give in to the urge to do something else.
One thing leads to another and suddenly you’re falling down the steps of despair unable to get out of a cycle of negative self-talk and procrastination.
Takeaways: How to Stop Procrastinating
To sum up this article on how to stop procrastination, we narrow it down to main 3 steps:
- Figure out why you’re procrastinating and which type you associate with yourself the most.
- Do whatever works for you to be as productive as possible.
- Just start!
Procrastination can be a nasty habit that will be hard to break, but it isn’t impossible.
It all comes down to understanding why you’re avoiding a task and actively taking steps to override any negative feelings about it.
Start today and don’t procrastinate on overcoming procrastination!