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What Is Procrastination And How Can You Overcome It? A Brief Guide.
Procrastination is a challenge that we have all faced at one point or another. For as long as humans have been around, we have been struggling with delaying, avoiding, and procrastinating on issues that matter to us.
During our more productive moments, when we temporarily figure out how to stop procrastinating, we feel satisfied and accomplished. Today, we’re going to talk about how to make those rare moments of productivity become routine. The purpose of this small guide is to break down the science behind why we procrastinate, share proven frameworks you can use to beat procrastination, and cover useful strategies that will make it easier to take action.
What Is Procrastination?
It’s Friday afternoon and the clock is ticking. You’re working furiously to complete a task before the five o’clock deadline, while silently cursing yourself for not starting it sooner.
How did this happen? What went wrong? Why did you lose your focus? Well, there were the hours that you spent re-reading emails and checking social media, the excessive “preparation,” the coffee breaks, and the time spent on other tasks that you could have safely left for next week. Sounds familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, according to researcher Piers Steel, 95% of us procrastinate to some degree. While it may be comforting to know that you’re not alone, it can be sobering to realize just how much it can hold you back.
Why do so many people procrastinate?
For most people procrastination, irrespective of what they say, is NOT about being lazy. In fact, when we procrastinate we often work intensely for long stretches just before our deadlines. Working long and hard is the opposite of lazy, so that can’t be the reason we do it. So, why do we procrastinate and, more importantly, what can we do about it?
In psychology, it has long been believed that people who procrastinate have a faulty sense of time—that they think they will have more time to get something done than they actually do. While that may be true for some, more recent research suggests procrastination is linked to difficulty managing distress. Specifically, it seems that task aversion is to blame—that is, when people view a task in an unpleasant manner (“It will be tough, boring, painful…”), they are more likely to put it off.
While procrastinators may be trying to avoid distress, this approach can ironically cause more distress in the long run. Procrastination can lead to increased stress, health problems, and poorer performance. Procrastinators tend to have more sleep issues and experience greater stressful regret than non-procrastinators. What’s more, procrastination can also hinder your self-esteem with the guilt, shame, or self-critical thoughts that can result from putting off tasks.
If you struggle with putting things off, try any of these tips to get you on track:
1. Do the task for just a few minutes
Not only do procrastinators spend longer distracting themselves doing ‘all the other things’ but they also delay starting the ‘right’ things. Starting a task is often the hardest part. If you can persuade someone just to start it for a few minutes, the brain’s desire to see it through to completion should then take over.
It’s easier to keep going with a task after you’ve overcome the initial hump of starting it in the first place. That’s because the tasks that induce procrastination are rarely as bad as we think. Getting started on something forces a subconscious reappraisal of that work, where we might find that the actual task sets off fewer triggers than we originally anticipated.
2. Break tasks down into smaller pieces
One of the main reasons that people procrastinate is because the project that they need to tackle is so big, that they don’t know where to start. This makes them feel overwhelmed. Studies show that when children are watching television and they don’t understand what they’re watching, they look away.
Adults do the same thing when they feel confused: if you don’t know how to start a project, you’ll “look away” and start searching for a distraction or something else to do. What you need to do is break the project down into small pieces, so that they feel manageable.
3. Manage your environment
If you can see temptations, you are more likely to be distracted by them, and therefore procrastinate. For example, a recent study found that having your phone out and in sight, even if you are not using it, can make you perform 20% worse than if you had put your phone away. The authors of this study state that ‘the mere presence of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention’. Consider your working environment; is it conducive to the task at hand or one where procrastination can flourish?
4. List the costs of procrastination.
This tactic works best when you’re putting off larger tasks. While it’s not worth spending 20 minutes listing the costs of not going for your evening run, listing the costs such as saving for your dream home will significantly help. Add to your list all the ways procrastinating could affect your social life, finances, stress, happiness, health, and so on.
It’s also worth making a list of the things you put off personally and professionally, large and small, while calculating the costs of procrastination for each.
5. Plan Your Day Each Day
This is not a big task. It should only take about 10-15 minutes of quiet time. Do the most difficult and most important things first and work your way down to the easier stuff in the afternoon. You’ll feel really good if you do this. Focus on that to motivate yourself into waiting to check emails or your phone until after you’ve finished your first big task.
If You Could Stop Procrastinating Right Now By Saying Yes, Would You Do So?
If you’ve decided to read this guide, you may be in contemplation stage trying to fight your procrastination.
You may want to keep this guide handy so you can look at it whenever you feel like puching things back again. It shall help you to should have given you the tools that you need to move on to the preparation stage, and from there to the action and maintenance stages, respectively.
Learn how to make “some day” today! Believe in yourself and in your ability to accomplish anything yYou want! Whatever you’re procrastinating on, our Programs will help you get started and see the task or project through to completion.
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. Click here to get started now!
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