Five Surefire Ways To Finally Stop Procrastinating And Make Things Done
We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier. It’s easy to put off hard or time consuming assignments until the very last minute, but if you do, you then may have to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Here are my surefire ways to finally stop procrastinating and make things done.
We all fall victim to procrastination from time to time, but it’s never a habit you want to get trapped into.
Procrastination is a habit that is just as ingrained as biting your nails or tapping your fingers when nervous. Being a serial procrastinator is not only bad for productivity but is also detrimental to stress levels and self confidence. This results in unfulfilled goals and feelings of guilt. That said, procrastination is normal. The even better news is: There are ways to shift this habit and stop procrastinating for good.
Procrastination is an unnecessary act of avoiding what you need to do until it is too late.
You procrastinate whenever your demotivating factors become greater than your motivation to carry out a necessary task. But procrastination is more than simply keeping away from what you are supposed to do. It is not just to avoid completing a task and later you feel guilty about it. Procrastination is detrimental to your career growth, and can be a contributing factor in getting someone losing their job. So, when you realize you’re procrastinating, don’t let it become a bigger problem. It is vital you find out the cause and take the necessary actions.
If we aren’t “smarter” than procrastination, it’s a complete lose-lose situation.
The job doesn’t get finished or is performed poorly. While you procrastinate, you always have a reminder that you should be working somewhere in the back of your mind, and so you can’t be fully relaxed. I can confidently say that permanently eliminating distractions is an unrealistic goal. However, with the right mindset and strategies, you can curb our tendency to procrastinate. This post will tell you exactly how to do that.
Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating and make things done.
Procrastination is filled with distractions that prevent you from being productive, leaving your work to suffer. But to stay on track and continue ticking off your goals you need to learn to avoid it when it starts creeping in. There are many tricks and tactics to help you stop procrastinating, and in this article, I will cover some proven suggestions on how to stop procrastinating once and for all.
Set Your Goals
If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.
Part of the reason you might procrastinate is because what you have to do seems overwhelming.
It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than face a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll study chemistry tonight,” you might instead say, “I’ll study chapter six tonight.” This makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable. Oftentimes, the thought of completing one large task can seem overwhelming. Getting from the beginning to end can seem an impossible task. However, breaking such tasks down into much smaller steps can be useful. Having a list of small and achievable goals can help you tackle each one in turn, meaning that you make gradual progress towards completion. Understanding the fundamentals of project management can help you with setting these small goals.
In addition, you should get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend getaway will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself.
What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it? Simon Sinek wrote an entire book on the importance of starting with “Why?” There’s a reason for that: purpose facilitates action. It’s incredibly hard to justify pain and discomfort without having an underlying purpose for doing what you do. Waking up early, working out, and writing every day all sound great in theory, but if there are no real consequences for abandoning those commitments, it makes it a lot easier to fall off the wagon. Make a promise to someone you love. Start a challenge with a friend. Sometimes, willpower alone isn’t enough to ward off that temptation to procrastinate.
When you’re stuck fast, when pushing and pulling isn’t working, sometimes what you need to do is just rock gently. To start with some kind of motion, even if it’s tiny. And build from there.
If you haven’t exercised for years, you’re not going to run a marathon on day one. And if you overdo it, you’re likely to get injured or give up. But a 10-minute walk, every morning? That will get you into the habit of moving, and also into the habit of doing what you’ve committed to do. Set a tiny goal, one that’s so easy to do it’s a joke. Once you’ve done the bare minimum, stop if you want to. And give yourself a reward of some sort. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Make a cup of tea. Listen to an inspiring podcast. Dance around the room to a track you love. Something to celebrate the fact that you’ve done what you told yourself to do, without procrastination.
Goals are supposed to keep you inspired and motivated.
Thus, to overcome procrastination at work, it is important that you re-visit your goals periodically. If you clearly understand your goals and that they inspire you, it becomes easier to overcome procrastination at work. If your goals don’t inspire you, then you might want to consider changing them. To be highly motivated and not to deal with chronic procrastination at all, you want to make sure that your goals are totally aligned with your own life vision, your talents, and your competences and values. It’s where intrinsic motivation comes from. If your goals aren’t true to your real self, you will never be motivated enough to achieve them, since they won’t be your real passion.
Take a Break
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are having a tough time beating procrastination. Remember, you are human and we love to sit and stew in our own uncompleted mess of work sometimes. Just work hard to get out of it. When you’re tired or have low motivation, take a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself about the timing of a task and then you won’t try to escape through procrastination so hard in the future. Just reschedule and get back on track later or tomorrow.
Sometimes, taking a short break can help you clear your head, recharge mentally, and find the motivation that you need in order to get started on your work.
To make the most of your breaks, try to actively use them with the goal of helping yourself recharge, and treat them as you would any other task. For example, instead of taking a break which consists of browsing social media until you feel ready to work again, it would be preferable to take five minutes to get up from the computer and stretch your legs before coming back to work. This approach can often work better if you leave the environment that you were working in, and take a break somewhere else instead. This helps your brain to shift from ‘work mode’ to ‘break mode’, which could make the break feel more refreshing, and which could help you get right back to work once you’re done.
Though you are fighting to eliminate your procrastination problem, this does not mean you should abstain from breaks.
To ensure that you don’t procrastinate, you must take short breaks from work so that you feel energized. It is not healthy to focus on a single task for too long since that would burn you out. Therefore, plan breaks at regular intervals and make sure that you have enough rest and you won’t have to procrastinate at work. It is important to work at your best moments. If you are exhausted or cranky, your chances of procrastinating will increase considerably. To have a better attitude, take enough rest, control your nutrition and exercise.
We aren’t computers. We can’t go at full speed 24/7. We’re humans and we need breaks.
If we want to perform at a high level consistently, breaks are necessary. Elite athletes don’t train all day long without rest. They focus on recovery nearly as much as at their actual performance. When you let your mind wander more often, you can stumble upon new insights that wouldn’t occur to you in the heads-down work mode. Many creative people report they have their best ideas in a shower, in a bath, or while doing menial work. In fact, one of the best break options is to not use your brain at all for a moment — by taking a nap.
Whether you are using the Pomodoro Technique, or you have created a schedule of your own, taking breaks is paramount to help you to beat procrastination.
Often when people have large amounts of work to get through, taking a break seems counter-productive. However, your brain needs time to recharge, and if you don’t take the time out that it needs you will quickly find yourself just staring at the screen wasting precious time. Schedule breaks into your day, but also reward yourself with breaks once you complete a task, or allow yourself to take a break if you find procrastination has crept up on you!
Hold Yourself Accountable
We are more likely to deliver when there is someone waiting for us to give them something, Tim Ferriss says. That’s why it can be useful to set incentives or consequences for met or unmet goals. These can include check-ins with a friend or even monetary bets. We can hold ourselves accountable with powerful performance drivers like having our accomplishment recognized, aversion to letting someone down, or even friendly competition.
Increasing the cost or consequences of not doing what you want to do can sometimes give you the impetus you need.
Go public about your intentions. Make an announcement on social media. Hire a coach. Ask a friend to check in, and keep you on track. Or better still, ask them to be your buddy and do it with you. Or join a group dedicated to whatever it is you want to do, whether it’s an exercise class, or a writing group. Even if we feel comfortable breaking our promises to ourselves, we don’t like doing it to others. Sometimes all we need is a little peer pressure – and support. If it is a major challenge, make it public. Talk about it with your family and friends, post it on your social networks, blog about it… You will feel accountable and committed, and the job will be hard to postpone.
Start by tracking what you do. You can do this via a simple habit tracker.
Use a box for each day of the week and check it off or fill it in when you do the thing you told yourself you would do. Keep track until it becomes a habit or until the project is done. For larger projects that you may or may not work on a daily basis, it helps to write down your goal and then break it into milestones. Record your progress and how much closer you’re inching to each of your goals. Sometimes tools like Monday or Asana can help you to keep track of your various steps within a larger project. If you work alone, there is no one to hold you accountable. Lack of accountability can mean that deadlines aren’t achieved and hours are wasted on social media and chasing bright shiny objects. To avoid procrastination, find a coach, mentor or accountability partner to hold you accountable. They will help to motivate you and inspire you to tackle important projects and move you closer towards your goals. This accountability helps you stop procrastinating and complete your most important work.
Setting deadlines for yourself can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate, since deadlines serve as a commitment device, which helps you plan ahead and motivate yourself.
You should choose deadlines that give you as much time as you need to complete a task, but no more than that. Deadlines that don’t give you enough time to get your work done can cause you to feel stressed or to give up entirely, while deadlines that give you more time than you need encourage you to delay unnecessarily (a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s law). Keep in mind that deadlines are only beneficial if you actually abide by them, so your deadline should be set up in a way that encourages you to follow through on them. An easy way to make deadlines more meaningful is to write them down, but you can use additional techniques when necessary, such as finding someone who will hold you accountable, or finding a way to penalize yourself if you fail to abide by your deadlines.
Have strict, non-negotiable deadlines that you can aim for.
This will make you realize how much time you’re wasting when you cannot afford to. Although, where this may work for some people, not everyone is able to be as strict on themselves. Which is okay, but also something to work on. Consider the benefits and consequences of meeting your deadline. For example, if you’re writing an essay for your university course, think of all the stress that will be released if you get it completed early compared to last minute. Then think about the effects it will have on your grades if you aren’t strict and get it completed on time.
Removing distractions from your environment makes it more likely that you will focus on your work and avoid procrastinating. For example, if your phone emits a loud sound each time you get a notification, you’re going to constantly be distracted while you work, which will make it hard for you to focus. As such, in such situations, you will want to put your phone on silent mode while you work or use a dedicated app to block notifications, which will help you concentrate on your work.
You should keep in mind the harmful influence that even seemingly minor distractions can have on you.
An example of this issue is the fact that multitasking by doing things such as watching TV or browsing social media while engaging in cognitive activities such as studying, is associated with reduced levels of self-control, which in turn can make you more likely to procrastinate. Research suggests that the relationship between this type of multitasking and low levels of self-control likely involves reciprocal causality. This means that people with lower levels of self-control are more likely to multitask in this way while they’re working, but that multitasking in this way is also likely to decrease people’s ability to control themselves while they work.
Distractions can easily derail your progress. Distractions can add to your stress levels and increase procrastination.
If you’re an alcoholic, you don’t keep booze in the house and you stay away from bars and people who can’t respect your decision to lay off the whiskey. In similar vein, my final tip to avoid procrastinating all over yourself is to remove the cues that trigger your procrastination-habits in the first place. If you can’t work in public places because of the constant movement and noise, then find a quiet place to sit down and focus. Basically, you need to un-plug before you can plug-in and focus.
I encourage you to start your days by envisioning what the day will look like.
If you commute in the morning, use that time to run through the series of events you plan for yourself. By doing this we can prioritize more easily. For example, if your boss poses a question that you were not prepared for, you’re less likely to drop everything and find the answer if you already have a set list of tasks on your plate. You can acknowledge that the question was not anticipated and that you will need to schedule time for research to answer it properly. The more temptations you have to do something else instead of what you have to do, the easier it will be to procrastinate. Keep your smartphone, notifications and access to internet off when facing hard tasks.
If your environment is littered with temptations and distractions, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage from the get-go.
It’s all too easy nowadays to do something — anything else — to avoid doing something you don’t want to do. Create a new habit of switching off from social media, email and phone calls when completing important tasks. If you get distracted easily when working on your laptop, consider using an online distraction management tool such as Freedom. This solution blocks websites and apps so you’re not tempted to spend another 30 minutes browsing Wikipedia. Hideaway anything else that could possibly distract you. Or, to make things easier, find yourself a clear working space and only place helpful resources on there. Try to be minimalistic, but at the same time make sure everything you need is there so you don’t have to keep getting up to explore your office/house.
Finish Your Day Before It Starts
The best decision you can make towards avoiding procrastination is to plan your days in advance. Rather than frantically figuring out what you’ll do on any given day, a better way to approach your day would be to take a few minutes at the end of each day to quickly map out the following day. This way, my most important goals and projects are given ample time to be crushed — and to not be procrastinated on.
In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen discusses the power of intelligently “dumbing down your brain” by figuring out your very next action for any given thing you’re working on.
One of the main reasons why people fail to break the procrastination cycle is that despite having a strong goal intention, which means that they truly want to stop procrastinating, they fail to plan ahead for circumstances that could cause them to procrastinate. This issue can be significantly mitigated by creating a strong implementation intention, which you can do by identifying future situations where you might struggle to self-regulate your behavior successfully, and then coming up with the appropriate goal-directed behaviors that you should engage in if you ever find yourself in those situations.
We often feel we should wait until all of the conditions are perfect, before we begin a new project.
There are tools or equipment we might need, or knowledge and skills. We wait to have a perfect room or studio in which to work, or long stretches of uninterrupted time. But life tends to get in the way of the best-laid plans. The conditions are never perfect. So if there’s something you want to do, something you want to make or achieve, don’t wait. Make a workspace wherever you can find it. Learn as you go. Borrow the tools or equipment, if there’s stuff you need. Improvise. Make mistakes. Make a start. Once you’ve begun, you’ll find a way. And it might be that you didn’t need a lot of the things you thought you needed, after all.
Make it a habit to assess your work periodically to find out what you have accomplished and what you haven’t.
As you work throughout the day, keep checking your to-do-list, and ensure that you are on top of things. Doing that will prevent you from procrastinating on even the simplest tasks that only need a few minutes to complete. If you want to stop procrastinating, just get something that you need to do and start working on it. Despite the amount of work waiting, you can do things bit by bit while making progress. Therefore, stop procrastinating and look at the work you have at hand and start somewhere. If you feel stuck on any task, talk to your line manager or team members so that you get support.
Keep in mind that the more decisions you have to make during a certain time period, the more fatigued you become from a mental perspective, and the more likely you are to procrastinate when it comes to making new decisions.
As such, by minimizing the number of decisions you have to make within a certain timeframe, you can improve your ability to make decisions in a timely manner. If you approach each new day without having given thought to what you want it to look like ahead of time, then you’ll waste a large portion of your energy thinking about what to do and what not to do. Reduce the number of decisions you need to make during a given day by making those decisions ahead of time and/or creating habits around certain areas of your life to boost your effectiveness and prevent you from draining your energy by thinking about whether to do them or not.
At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Procrastination is a tough problem to solve, but if you’re willing to follow the necessary steps in order to create a good plan of action, and if you’re willing to then put in the effort in order to follow through on your plan of action, you have a great chance at being able to overcome your procrastination.
Procrastination may have gotten the best of you in the past, but the good news is that you’re in control.
At the end of the day, nobody is forcing you to put off your work. Once you realize this, you’re free. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is possible to take steps to stop procrastination in its tracks and hop aboard the productivity train. Be brave and don’t let fear hold you back from getting things done today.
Next time you go to procrastinate, reflect on your goals and why you’re working hard in the first place.
When you feel the fear and discomfort, you immediately escape into distractions. You want to write an article, but instead you bake a cake — or eat one. You need do something difficult, so you avoid it by going shopping, or sorting emails. You’re busy — but you’re doing nothing you really want to do. Don’t let small distractions make your road to success a bumpy one. It may take time, but train yourself the classic practice of “work hard, play hard”. Get what you need to be done completed and then reward yourself.
Now stop procrastinating and start doing.
If you have been to know how to stop procrastinating, I hope that this article helps you get through the predicament. These are just a few ways that may help us reframe procrastination. How do you deal with the urge to put things off? Do you have more ideas? If there is something else that helps you not to procrastinate, leave us a comment. Feel free to share your thoughts below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.