How often do you find yourself saying, “I’ll do that tomorrow” or “It can wait until next week”? If it’s often, is it because you really don’t have time to take care of it or you might just be procrastinating?
When you procrastinate, you are wasting time and putting off important tasks that need your attention, often until it’s too late. At that point, you find yourself panicking and getting stressed out. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s easy to get twisted in it.
The thing about procrastination is that although you might be aware that it doesn’t get you anywhere, you are still tempted to do it.
Procrastinators are good at coming up with excuses to justify their actions. You may create reasons in your head that can supply you with enough logic to put off the task at hand.
Once your procrastination becomes an everyday habit, it starts hampering not only your work but also your life.
It can take its toll mentally. It affects your mood and behavior by generating fear, worry and unnecessary stress. According to a 1997 study by Western Reserve University, college-age procrastinators ended up with higher stress, more illnesses and lower grades by the end of the semester.
Here are 30+ helpful tips to stop procrastinating and take bold action to change your behavior.
- Create a to-do list. Your to-do list will help you remember your important tasks. Be sure to include tasks that you’ve been putting off.
Seeing a clear outline of your completed and unfinished tasks will help you keep organized and focused.
- Identify your state of mind. Procrastination is usually an emotional reaction. You need to identify it. Is it due to a fear of failure, feeling incompetent or ill-suited to do it? Or is it just anger because you hate doing a particular task?
- Release the emotion. If you do not release the emotion you identified behind your procrastination, it will build up inside you. If it’s anger, scream it out. If it’s sadness, watch a sad movie and cry. Then, proceed to complete the task.
- Counter your negative thoughts. Does thinking about the task generate negative thoughts in your mind? Counter those thoughts with positive messages that will help you finish what you need to take care of.
- Change your thinking. When you think that you are being forced to perform a task, you tend to procrastinate. Instead of telling yourself that you have to do something, tell yourself that you want to do it. You will instantly feel better by getting things done.
- Stop being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is one of the major reasons for procrastination. Stop waiting for the perfect time or the perfect plan of action to begin working on your task.Take small steps and move forward.
- Avoid putting pressure on yourself. Stop telling yourself that your future and success depends on the outcome of a particular task. By putting this kind of pressure on yourself, you will end up finding an excuse to escape completing the task.
- Don’t underestimate your task. Some people procrastinate because they take a task very lightly or overestimate their abilities. You may think the task is very easy or won’t take any time at all. But when you actually get down to working on it, you find it’s harder than expected and thus you fail to meet your deadline.
Allowing yourself more time than you think is needed will reduce your stress level.
- Redefine your goals. When you’ve been procrastinating for a long time, take some time off from your work and reflect on your goals. Assess the practicality of your goals, then rearrange the timing and actions you need to take to achieve them.
- Revamp your work space. Does your work desk or your room make you feel sleepy or lazy? If so, change it around.
Many times, the environment that used to inspire you starts getting boring. You may need to revamp your work environment frequently to keep things feeling fresh.
- Identify your best time to work. Procrastination usually happens when you try to force something on yourself when it’s not your best working time. Identify the time of the day when your body and mind work best. Some people work better in the morning, while others during the night. By doing this, you will prevent procrastination and you’ll complete more tasks during your peak productivity time.
- Get rid of all the distractions. Identify the things that take up a lot of your time and distract you from completing the things you need to get done.
For instance, you might be letting your time be stolen from you by distractions like emails, Facebook posts or endless browser bookmarks.
- Reserve time to get things done. Block out a day or a few hours for completing certain tasks. Do not schedule appointments, meetings or any other kinds of distractions during that time. Those hours should only be reserved for the identified tasks.
- Don’t multitask. Multitasking goes hand in hand with procrastination. When you are trying to get too many things done at a time, you may start a task but stop when it gets challenging and move on to the next one. Then again, when that task gets tougher, you jump to another one. And before long, you end up accumulating a lot of tasks and not completing a single one.
In reality, it takes longer to get work done while multitasking. Research suggests that multitasking reduces your productivity by 40 percent. If you focus on one task at a time, you will get your work done with less exhaustion and frustration.
- Make your task enjoyable. If a task is boring, you will likely find some excuse for not doing it. In that case, find ways to make your task enjoyable.
- Break the task into pieces. Don’t try to do all your work in one go. You’ll get bored and easily distracted. Break your task into small, doable steps.
- Create a deadline for each small step. If you keep only one deadline, you will usually find yourself pushing everything back, until it’s too late.
Setting several deadlines helps you focus on the immediate tasks and not think about the remaining ones. As you succeed at each step, you'll gain confidence.
- Do two items from your to-do-list every day. You should try to do a minimum of two things from your list every day.
- Avoid skipping a day. Don’t let a day pass without doing something from your to-do list.
- Keep track of your time. Set a timer when you sit down to complete a task. Commit to staying focused for 30 minutes. When the timer rings, take a rest for a few minutes. Then, do it again.
- Prepare for obstacles. Once you have broken down the task into smaller steps, anticipate the obstacles and get ready for them. For instance: What will you do if you are faced with a distraction in the middle of your task? You could extend the time scheduled for the task. Instead of one hour, allow two hours to do it.
- Deal tactfully when faced with visitors. When a visitor drops by your place and begins to dillydally, excuse yourself or take over the conversation. As you are talking, suddenly interrupt yourself and say: “Oh gosh, I didn’t realize how late it’s getting. I need to wind up something important.” By interrupting yourself, you are not being rude to the other person.
- Reward yourself at each step. Praise and reward yourself when you successfully complete each step. Give yourself a brownie or a chocolate when you complete a step or maybe a movie once you finish all the steps in a task. This will keep you motivated.
- Set a penalty. Just as you reward yourself, penalize yourself when you fail to complete your task on time. For instance: If you don’t pluck the weeds out of your garden when you should, you will have to stop eating your favorite sweet dish for a month.
- Fight resistance. When you actually sit down to work on the task, you will meet obstacles in the form of excuses, bad moods and discouragement. But fight whatever it is and plow ahead.
- Remind yourself of the success you will achieve. Tell yourself how satisfying it will be to meet the deadline.
You will get a good night’s sleep knowing your work is done, and you’ll feel motivated and energetic the next day.
- Get down to business. Every day at the scheduled time, sit down to do the task even if you don’t feel like doing it.
- Hang out with people who inspire you to take action. Identify people who inspire you – the go-getters and hard workers. Hang out with them.
- Make your goals public. If you tell people about your goals, they are bound to ask you about your progress whenever you see them. If you are not doing anything toward achieving your goals, it can be embarrassing. This way you will be motivated to work. It keeps you accountable for your tasks.
- Connect with someone who has already achieved the same goals. Seek out people who have accomplished the same goals as yours. Seeing living proof can motivate you to take action.
- Use the buddy system. Having a friend with either the same set of goals or even different goals can help. Talk to your buddy regularly regarding your goals and the actions you need to take to achieve them. You can help each other make progress and achieve what you set out to do.
- Set aside time to relax. Scheduling sometime to relax and let loose is a great way to overcome procrastination. If you know that you have a party to attend in the evening, you are more likely to sit down and complete your task during the day than you would have done otherwise.