We all have to deal with procrastination at some point in life. You are probably familiar with the feeling of knowing you should get some work done but somehow not being able to, and so you fool around all the way up to the last minute when stress and pressure force you to finish the job done; or, in an even worst-case scenario, the job never gets done at all. 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, so you can’t be fully relaxed. Not to mention that procrastination can make you feel like a loser and slowly turns your self-image into that of someone who just can’t get work done. Consequently, your productivity suffers a lot, and with it your earning and creative potential.
There are many tricks and tactics to help you stop procrastinating, and in this article, we will cover some proven suggestions on how to stop procrastinating once and for all.
Two Different Types of Procrastination
There are two types of procrastination, chronic and acute. Chronic procrastination has a deep, strong, and permanent psychological cause that may not be so easily eliminated. It can be done, but it takes patience and hard work. On the other hand, acute procrastination can be caused even by small mood or energy swings throughout the day, or other small psychological triggers which aren’t a steady natural part of your psyche (like having a bad day, for example).
Proven Tips to Overcome Acute Procrastination
Acute procrastination – you procrastinate from time to time, which is normal. Acute procrastination happens as an out-of-the-ordinary behavioral pattern. It’s actually quite easy to recognize acute procrastination and distinguish it from the chronic version. When acute procrastination attacks you, you behave differently. You may even ask yourself something like “Why am I acting so stupid?”. In a normal state, you’d just get the job done, but this time something is holding you back.
The first thing you have to do is to identify why you’re procrastinating. Just ask yourself the question and observe your inner dialogue. If you want to stop procrastinating when acute procrastination hits you, there are several things you can do:
1. Just Start Working
One thing you may do is to just force yourself to start and to make the first step. The first step is always the hardest. If you ever had to push your broken-down car, you know how it is. Once you get the car moving, it gets much easier. So, what you can try is to mobilize every single unit of discipline you possess and push yourself hard into making the first step. Sometimes it works surprisingly well.
2. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
An important concept in time management is that you don’t manage only your time, but also consider your energy levels. No matter how disciplined you are, you’ll have super productive days and not-so-productive ones. In the same way, you have your peak productive hours and less productive hours in the day.
Here are a few things you should consider in this context:
- Push yourself when you have your daily peak productive hours, not when your energy levels are low
- Take a nap or a walk and start working right afterwards if you feel tired
- After a period of hard work, take a break and recharge your batteries
- If you’re emotionally irritated, talk to other people and calm yourself down first
Accept that sometimes you’re simply not in the state to be productive and that’s okay. We are all only human.
3. Do Other, Easier Tasks Until Your Energy Levels Recover
What usually happens when you procrastinate on a task? Remember back in school when you had to study for example, how did you procrastinate? If nothing else works, you can use procrastination as a source of motivation to do other important tasks. The only key is that you don’t waste time on stupid things, but instead tick off other work that is currently marked as important on your to-do list. When the deadline for the procrastinated task approaches and puts more pressure on you, you’ll just get it done. Don’t fight procrastination, do other important things instead.
Proven Tips to Overcome Chronic Procrastination- a tougher nut to crack (but it can be done)
Acute procrastination is very different from the chronic version as there is often a deep and complex psychological issue behind it. You’re in a state of chronic procrastination when you constantly procrastinate with certain types of tasks or, even worse, with all of them. If you want to stop procrastinating when chronic procrastination hits you, there are several things you can do:
1. Engage in Assertiveness Training
A lack of assertiveness is the number one reason people usually procrastinate. The source of a lack of assertiveness usually lies in upbringing. To simplify, instead of trust, autonomy, initiative, and competence, unassertive people develop mistrust, shame, guilt, doubt, or inferiority. Luckily, a lack of assertiveness usually happens only in a specific context. For example, someone who is very assertive and competent on a soccer field may not be in intellectual matters. A successful professor may not be as skillful when it comes to money management.
Similarly, there are usually areas of life where you know how to assert yourself and others where you don’t. When it comes to the former, you procrastinate. The only way to fix this is to learn how to assert yourself in a healthy way in that area of life.
There are several things you can do:
- Mimic your assertive behaviour in fields where you feel less assertive
- Join an assertiveness training course
- Go to individual or group therapy to explore the underlying reasons for procrastination
- Get a coach or a mentor to help you become more assertive
2. Overcome the Fear of Failure or Fear of Success
Procrastination can also happen because of fear. The two most common fears connected with procrastination that are potentially holding you back are the fear of failure and the fear of success. There is a big difference between being hurt by failure, going through a recovery period, reflecting on what you learned and then trying again, and being paralyzed by fear. Nevertheless, failure is an integral part of success. Success is nothing but going from one failure to the next without giving up until you succeed.
So, if you want to succeed faster, you have to fail more. You have to learn to love failing and constantly learn from it. It may be hard to believe, but there is another fear that may be holding you back and causing you to procrastinate – the fear of success.
3. Make Sure You Don’t Have Unreasonably Big Goals and Expectations in Life
Yes, we all have to dream big. But life has its limitations, and we must make sure we don’t get caught in narcissistic grandiosity, driven by completely unrealistic expectations as to how fast we can achieve something. Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointments, and big life disappointments usually lead to procrastination or giving up. Here’s how it happens. When you have unrealistic goals and realize after your first try that it will be much harder to achieve them than you thought, you may start to procrastinate.
There are at least two things you can do about it:
- Focus more on the process than the outcome; nothing worthwhile comes easily
- Have big dreams, but start small; slice and dice your goals into little steps
4. If You Believe You are a Lazy Person, Make an Identity Shift
If you see yourself as a lazy person, the best solution is to change that perception within yourself. If you want to deal with procrastination due to laziness once and for all, you’ll first have to see yourself as an ultra-productive person. But before that, you must explore your underlying beliefs.
Ask yourself: “what beliefs are supporting my laziness?” Imagine yourself as an ultra-productive person, never suffering from procrastination. How does your life look? Do you see any benefits?
Here are a few additional ideas that may help you:
- Visualize your new identity and try to feel good about yourself.
- Write down the rewards you’ll get if you try harder (your whys). And make sure you really do reward yourself for small efforts.
- Try to support your new identity with small productivity actions – where you would normally procrastinate at a small task, do it immediately instead.
5. Improve Your Lifestyle to Have More Energy
If you don’t have high levels of energy, it’s very normal to procrastinate. A lack of energy may be caused by overworking, burnout, and temporary exhaustion, but it can be also caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. If you have a really poor diet with no exercise, small changes can have a big benefit on your productivity.
Here are a few recommendations for improving your lifestyle:
- Get enough sleep (7 – 8 hours) and make sure it’s quality sleep
- Have a few smaller meals throughout the day, so you keep your insulin levels steady
- Avoid unhealthy snacks
- Exercise at least a few times per week
- Drink enough water
- Make sure you aren’t destroying your body and spirit with addictions
When we talk about a healthy lifestyle, we should pay special attention to addictions. There are many addictions that could be destroying your life and your productivity and causing you to procrastinate.
These addictions are for example:
- Too much chocolate and sweets
- Watching TV shows late into the night
- Sleeping too much
- Hanging out in bars all the time
- Not to mention harder addictions like smoking, alcohol, or drugs
7. Find a New Passion That is the Result of Being Good at Something
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 competencies 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.
Don’t follow your passion, follow your effort. Become a master at something the market needs and passion will follow.
8. Make Sure Perfectionism is Not Holding you Back
Perfectionism might be the reason you’re constantly procrastinating. Perfectionism is a result of cognitive distortions and below are just a few examples of how cognitive distortions may contribute to procrastination and how negative thinking and toxic beliefs are preventing you from acting:
- All-or-nothing thinking: I have to do it perfectly or I won’t do it at all.
- Overgeneralisation: I never do this type of task right, so why would it be different this time? It’s better if I don’t do it at all.
- Mental filter: I have to work with someone I don’t want to on this task. I can’t get anything good out of it except frustration and humiliation.
- Disqualifying the positive: I shouldn’t be the one doing this task.
- Jumping to conclusions: Anyway, I won’t be rewarded for completing this task.
- Minimization: It’s another unimportant task I have to do even though anyone else could easily do it.
- Emotional reasoning: I don’t feel like doing this task, so it must not be worth doing.
- Should statements: I should perform better in life and I should have already completed this task a long time ago. Does it even make sense to finish it now?
- Labelling: I’m a lazy person, if I always procrastinate, why wouldn’t I procrastinate with this task as well?
In particular, all-or-nothing thinking leads to perfectionism, and perfectionism leads to procrastination. Since I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all. You’re never satisfied with your results, so why add another thing that you just won’t be proud of? But in reality, this is the sort of toxic thinking that may prevent you from achieving anything in life.
Final Words – How to Stop Procrastinating Once and For All
Now you should have a really good understanding of procrastination and what you can do about it. The next time you procrastinate, first determine what kind of procrastination you’re dealing with and find the real source. After you have identified the type and source of procrastination, you now have many tools available that can help you deal with it once and for all!
Article Credit: https://www.spica.com/blog/how-to-stop-procrastinating