Do you procrastinate from the tiniest to the most significant project and use excellent excuses to justify your lack of action?
You’re not alone. We all put things off until tomorrow – and tomorrow becomes next week – or next month – and sometimes even years!
But why do you procrastinate?
It’s not just one reason. That would be too easy.
Let’s take a look.
If you want to start a project or learn a hobby, you need to learn the necessary steps.
You need to practice those steps. And practice implies action.
Before putting things into action, you need preparation as your success depends on researching the proper foundations.
However, this is where many spend way too much time. You might believe the more you research, the more you’re prepared, and the more you’ll succeed.
But that’s not how it works. It’s a trick your mind does to postpone the inevitable.
At some point, you do need to take action and at least try to put a dent into the work.
When you research indefinitely, write out notes, make graphs, and everything else you think you need, it may feel like you’re taking action, when in reality, if it’s excessive, it’s just a perfect setup for more procrastination.
Do you procrastinate with infinite preparation for fear of actually tackling your project?
Do you procrastinate because you don’t feel like you can actually finish it?
That’s a possibility. We all fail somewhere somehow.
However, those who succeed are those who turned failures into lessons. And the only way to do that is to follow up with action.
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT
You’ve heard that before.
And it’s so true. Do you procrastinate because you seek perfection?
If that’s the case, you know you could tweak, curate, research, and perfect forever, and it still wouldn’t be good enough, right?
In turn, your procrastination keeps you stuck in the imaginary quicksand you’ve created for yourself.
Expecting excellent results is healthy and something to work towards.
But expecting perfect results only leads to disaster and lowers your self-esteem considerably.
If you’re a perfectionist, procrastinating may confirm you can’t actually achieve your goal or finish live up to your obligations.
It’s a way of hurting yourself. Build up your self-esteem, and your need for procrastination will decrease.
Some projects or obligations are due so far ahead in the future that it’s hard to evaluate the benefits of working on them today.
Say, for example, you have exams at the end of the semester or a big project due at work. Do you procrastinate working until the last minute – until you’re backed up against the corner with little space to maneuver your time?
Why is that?
You know you need that grade, or project, or whatever it is that will help you in the long run, and yet, you push it off like the plague.
Your mind tells you that time isn’t a problem, that, of course, you can manage and you’re organized.
But surprise, surprise, in the end, you rush to get to the finish line, all stressed and nervous. And no, it’s probably not your best work.
But you repeat this over and over simply because the consequences or rewards seem far off and don’t bring you immediate results.
No, it’s not laziness. It’s a lack of a precise vision for the future.
You focus on short-term rewards vs. long-term accomplishments. Which, in some cases, is fine. But not always.
For example, Sarah is starting a new freelance business. She has to write at least 10 articles on various subjects to build her portfolio. That’s a lot of hours and hard work and in no way guarantees new clients immediately which she needs asap.
So Sarah puts things off and tries other ways to get clients. That’s short-term rewards vs. long-term accomplishments.
Eventually, Sarah has no choice but to rush to build her portfolio under stress.
Another example: say a doctor diagnoses a smoking-related problem and insists the person stop smoking.
The doctor takes the person’s health for years to come into consideration. We all know he’s right.
But an intangible reward is so much harder to grasp than the immediate gratification of the here and now.
Do you procrastinate for lack of immediate gratification?
One technique that helps understand how your actions today will impact your future is writing things down.
Write how you feel, what you see, how you imagine your life, why you put things off, what scares you, and so on…
Do you procrastinate? Then the start a journal and reap the benefits.
We all have to make our own choices according to our values, principles, and deep-seated beliefs.
But sometimes, those beliefs are misguided, and you may think you’re making the right choice, when in fact, you’re not.
For example, do you procrastinate while convincing yourself you’re in control of your decisions?
When you put off something you need to do, you’re making the decision that you’ll handle it when the time comes – even if the “time” is in your face or has already passed.
It’s insidious how procrastination changes itself to “I’M deciding to do it later. “
Actually, you’re just deciding to postpone the inevitable and believing that it’s a good thing.
A straightforward example: You have a difficult article to write. You decide to take a short break on social media, yet as you scroll, so do the minutes, the hours, and your article is still not written.
But you say to yourself: I’ve got this, it’s my choice to go on social media, and I’ll go back to my task at hand soon.
I’m in control. It’s all good.
But in reality, it’s not all good, and you’re not in control of much.
You’re procrastinating with excuses.
FEAR OF WHAT?
Do you procrastinate because you fear you’ll fail?
Or you fear you’ll succeed?
Both are crippling.
Managing fear is essential in regaining self-confidence and moving forward to where you want to go.
Fear can also come from being judged.
If you do something that requires time and effort only to get negative feedback in the end, then why bother?
Well, this particular fear is related to your self-confidence and not other people’s opinions of you!
It’s normal to feel anxious when working on a project or when you need to achieve a specific result – but when you procrastinate to the point of self-sabotaging your efforts, then it’s time to turn things around.
DO YOU PROCRASTINATE TAX TIME?
We procrastinate when we feel negative about a particular task.
Like taxes. Or cleaning. Or talking to your boss, or friend about something sensitive, or calling to make a doctor’s appointment.
Or performing some action that creates a sort of internal battle between you and you.
And possibilities for internal battles are endless.
These battles bring on anxiety, frustration, lowers your self-esteem, and creates insecurities.
And even though we must face the consequences, we still procrastinate to hide from these deep emotions.
tHE PATH OF INDECISION
A BIG reason why you procrastinate involves indecision.
I can relate to this one. I have so many ideas, plans, and projects that ALL seem essential.
Do you procrastinate when faced with a big project that YOU want to see become reality? You know you want this even though it generates a great deal of stress.
Usually when personal projects come to life it involves good stress.
And when you procrastinate from indecision, it can quickly put you on a long anxious-ridden path.
Another consequence of procrastination from indecision is overwhelm.
That’s when a large task at hand or many small tasks just seem impossible to achieve, although you want the desired result.
Either way, it can paralyze your efforts and make you feel like you can’t handle it.
A very simple example could be decluttering your space or starting a project. It may seem like such a massive task that you just put it off even if it causes turmoil.
Of course this feeling also applies to life projects, business, personal relationships. It doesn’t matter how small, or intricate your desired result is.
In addition to the reasons above, procrastination may also come from :
- Being unorganized
- Lack of sleep
- An extremely long to-do list
- Not having your best interest in mind.
- Morning stress.
4 TECHNIQUES TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
1. WHAT’S yOUR VISION?
To choose the right path, you need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.
This takes time, but it’s extremely important.
It gives you the direction you need to follow and helps you prepare for each step you need to take.
To understand the steps you have to take for your future, your project, or even just a hard task, try creating a timeline.
- Draw a horizontal line.
- Write START on the left, DONE on the right.
- Don’t worry about dates just yet.
- Focus only on the steps and desired results.
- Within this timeline, pinpoint the necessary tasks to get to the next step.
Really think about it, and don’t leave out any details.
Always ask: what do I need to do, what needs to happen for this specific result? What are the benefits? Consequences?
If you really want to get creative, you can make your timeline very big and add photos or images of your desired result.
Now onto goals.
2. GET SPECIFIC
If you want to decrease your procrastination habit, then you need to specify your goals.
For example, if you want to get fit or want to learn a new language or any other project requiring constant attention, you must get specific with what actions you’ll take, when you’ll put them in place, and exactly how you’ll get to the finish line.
If you can’t make your timeline specific, then you’ll stay in “vagueness land,”
And you’ll keep going around in circles because procrastination thrives on vague.
As seen above, one of the many reasons you procrastinate is because you can’t grasp the immediate gratification of a particular task, or because you’re a perfectionist, or because it’s just a pain to do.
But most often, it’s because your goal, project, or task isn’t specific enough. And because what you can get out of it isn’t clear.
Ask yourself : Why do you need to achieve this?
What are the consequences if you don’t?
If you succeed, how will it help you in the future?
Keep asking personal and detailed questions. It helps to prioritize the bigger picture.
3. cREATE TRIGGERS
A tried and true technique to stop procrastination is to consciously create triggers.
A trigger is a small action that indicates the start of a more considerable effort.
For example: When I make my coffee or tea in the morning, I know it’s time to sit down and write for 2 hours immediately with no distractions.
In this case, the coffee or tea is the trigger and signals a specific action will follow. This setup helped me to decrease procrastinating over time.
Triggers help you make progress by creating positive habits and reducing daily procrastination.
Try to make up your own triggers, but here are a few simple examples:
- Prepare your exercise clothes the night before. Exercise first thing in the morning.
The trigger: seeing your exercise clothes as you wake up.
- Scotch a quote or citation that speaks to you on the bathroom mirror or anywhere always visible.
The trigger: a quote that reminds you to stay on track.
- Before bed, I always write the 3 most important things I need to do the next day.
The trigger: my top 3 list
- When you close your laptop, stretch out, then read a real book for 15 minutes. The trigger: closing your laptop
These are simple positive triggers followed by a specific action. When repeated often enough they become a positive habit.
It’s not enough to say, ok, tomorrow I’ll work on this or that.
For example, I really need to get healthy, I think I’ll start cooking more at home.
I want to eat healthy because I want more energy.
Tomorrow morning between 8 -830am I’ll look for easy recipes I can make 4 nights this week.
Then during my lunch break at 1230, I’ll go grocery shopping.
You really need to take the guessing game out of the picture and state when, where, how, and especially why.
You can set up positive triggers for the simplest to the most complex task.
4. BREAK IT DOWN!
The easiest way to avoid procrastination is to break down your tasks.
Whatever the size of the project you’re procrastinating over, it’s essential to tackle it in bite-size pieces.
So, for example: If you have a thesis to write, a new business to figure out, or a new book you want to start, but you’re doing something else instead, then maybe it’s just too big and overwhelming.
Get a piece of paper and break things down into manageable periods.
Even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon, it’s a start.
It doesn’t seem like much, but 15 minutes daily adds up, which may be enough to gain momentum.
Anyone can handle 15 minutes, right? Reduce it to 10 or even 5 minutes if necessary.
TRACE, CHECK, AND REWARD
To stop procrastinating, you need to state each step of your priorities clearly.
Otherwise, you’ll feel a huge weight when faced with obligations.
Write out your bite-size time slots on a calendar.
Then add another column for the very satisfying checkmark when the 15 minutes are up. Or whatever manageable bite-size time slot you’ve chosen.
Now add a box at the end of each work week. This box is for a simple reward.
The reward part is a great motivator until you can replace the harmful habit of procrastination with a positive practice.
I reward myself by allowing time for art journaling 🙂
You could reward yourself with anything you love, maybe a great meal or a movie, some time for yourself or even a present!
AVOID DISTRACTIONS RIGHT?
Social media is a big problem for many.
It’s addictive, literally.
Some people feel lost or have some type of withdrawal symptoms (bad mood, irritability) if the phone is too far away.
It’s a whole other subject, and one worth delving into of course.
But to answer Do You Procrastinate, let’s emphasize that social media is probably the number one rabbit hole of distractions.
Procrastination via social media will take you into the pits of mindless scrolling and comparing and liking and lurking.
It never ends and contributes very little to helping you reduce procrastination.
You could turn off notifications while working. You could put the phone in another room. You could set up specific times to check on your social media. You could try a lot of things.
Do you procrastinate because you spend too much time on social media? Be honest with yourself.
Take a closer look at how much time you scroll, like, etc…you’d be surprised.
So put the phone down. And act on what helps you accomplish your goal, however big or small it may be.
DO YOU PROCRASTINATE? THEN START EARLY
Although most experts agree that mornings are the best time for productivity, keep in mind we are all different.
When do you procrastinate the most? Observe yourself for a couple of days and pinpoint the best working hours for you.
Once you know which hours are best for which activities, then start your project by using a few simple techniques (above) and work on your task consistently.
Even if it isn’t due for another few weeks or months keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it.
You shouldn’t be looking at the deadline as a measure of when you do the work.
As soon as you know what you need to do, start doing it.
Find your triggers, fill the calendar, break them down into bite-size time periods and be consistent.
It’s the most crucial factor in creating a positive habit and achieve the desired results.
It’s a way of staying in control! And the best way to reduce all the reasons why you procrastinate.
TODAY IS A GOOD DAY
If things are still a bit confusing and you’re unable to prioritize, then you need to have a clearer vision.
Go back to visualizing the big picture.
What exactly do you have to do? Is it a large project? A task? A chore?
How will this make you feel when it’s done?
Then follow the specific steps to achieving your goal.
Why not start today?
1 Page exercise:
Get a piece of paper and write how you procrastinate.
You need to be honest here, or none of this will work in your favor.
Now, flip the paper, summarize the project you want to work on, and break it down (use the calendar technique above).
Add a few lines on the specific techniques you’ll use when you start procrastinating again…
All of this should fit on one sheet of paper.
It’s to the point.
Remember it takes time to establish good habits. Be patient with yourself and little by little you’ll succeed and reap the benefits.