Procrastination, the art of putting off tasks you should be doing right now. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all felt the consequences of our delay. It’s that nagging feeling that keeps us from tackling our to-do list. Procrastination can have negative consequences on our productivity, performance, health, and happiness. According to some statistics, around 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators, and up to 95% of college students procrastinate at some point. Moreover, the average person spends 55 days a year procrastinating, and 88% of employees admit that they procrastinate for at least an hour per day.
If you are struggling with procrastination and seeking self-improvement, you are not alone. However, you can also overcome it by applying some effective strategies that can help you get things done. Here are some tips to help you beat procrastination and achieve your goals:
Find the Root of Your Procrastination
Procrastination isn’t some mysterious trait; it’s a habit influenced by various factors. It can be triggered by fear of failing, fear of success, lack of motivation, or perfectionism. The first step is to identify what’s causing your procrastination. Some common causes of procrastination are:
- Fear of failure, success, or criticism. You may avoid a task because you are afraid of the possible outcomes, such as making mistakes, being judged, or facing high expectations.
- Lack of interest, motivation, or enjoyment. You may postpone a task because you find it boring, irrelevant, or unpleasant.
- Perfectionism. You may delay a task because you have unrealistic standards or expectations for yourself or the task, and you are afraid of not meeting them.
- Poor time management or planning. You may put off a task because you don’t have a clear idea of what to do, how to do it, or when to do it.
To identify the root cause of your procrastination, you can ask yourself some questions, such as:
- Why am I avoiding this task?
- What am I feeling when I think about this task?
- What are the benefits of doing this task?
- What are the costs of not doing this task?
- What are the obstacles that prevent me from doing this task?
- How can I overcome these obstacles?
Divide and Conquer
Big tasks can be intimidating and overwhelming, making it easy to procrastinate. The solution? Break these tasks into smaller, manageable steps and focus on one step at a time. For example, if you need to write a paper for class, you can divide the task into steps, such as:
- Choose a topic
- Do some research
- Make an outline
- Write the introduction
- Write the body paragraphs
- Write the conclusion
- Revise and edit
Breaking down the task can help you reduce the mental load, increase your confidence, and create a sense of progress.
Ambiguous, unrealistic goals can be a major source of procrastination. Set specific, realistic, and achievable goals. Another way to overcome procrastination is to set clear and concrete goals that are within your reach. Setting vague, unrealistic, or unattainable goals can make you feel discouraged, frustrated, or hopeless, and lead you to give up or avoid the task. On the other hand, setting specific, realistic, and achievable goals can help you focus, motivate, and challenge yourself, and increase your chances of success. For example, instead of setting a goal like “I want to be fit”, you can set a more specific and realistic goal like “I want to exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week, for the next month”.
When setting your goals, you can use the SMART criteria, which stands for:
- Specific: Your goal should be clear and well-defined, and answer the questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Measurable: Your goal should be quantifiable and trackable, and have a way to measure your progress and outcome.
- Achievable: Your goal should be realistic and attainable, and match your abilities and resources.
- Relevant: Your goal should be meaningful and important to you, and align with your values and vision.
- Time-bound: Your goal should have a deadline or a timeframe, and create a sense of urgency and commitment.
Reward and Punishment
Use rewards and punishments to reinforce your behavior. Another strategy to overcome procrastination is to use rewards and punishments to reinforce your behavior. Rewards and punishments are consequences that follow your actions, and can influence your future behavior. Rewards are positive consequences that increase the likelihood of repeating a behavior, while punishments are negative consequences that decrease the likelihood of repeating a behavior. For example, you can reward yourself for completing a task by watching your favorite show, or punish yourself for not completing a task by doing extra chores.
When using rewards and punishments, you should follow some guidelines, such as:
- Make them specific and consistent. You should specify what the reward or punishment is, and when and how it will be delivered, and stick to it.
- Make them immediate and contingent. You should deliver the reward or punishment as soon as possible after the behavior, and only if the behavior has occurred or not occurred.
- Make them proportional and appropriate. You should match the reward or punishment to the difficulty and importance of the task, and avoid using rewards or punishments that are too extreme or harmful.
We live in a world full of distractions, and they are a procrastinator’s best friend. It’s crucial to eliminate or minimize these distractions to regain focus. Distractions and temptations are anything that can divert your attention or lure you away from your task, such as your phone, social media, email, TV, games, or snacks. To eliminate or minimize distractions and temptations, you can:
- Turn off or silence your phone, or put it in another room.
- Block or limit your access to distracting websites or apps, using tools such as Freedom, StayFocusd, or Cold Turkey.
- Close or mute any unnecessary tabs, windows, or notifications on your computer.
- Choose a quiet and comfortable place to work, away from noise, people, or pets.
- Set a timer for a specific amount of time, and commit to working on your task without interruption until the timer goes off.
- Use the Pomodoro technique, which involves working on your task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break, and repeating this cycle four times, before taking a longer break.
In conclusion, procrastination is a common challenge, but it’s not insurmountable. By identifying the root causes, breaking tasks into smaller steps, setting realistic goals, using rewards and punishments, and eliminating distractions, you can overcome procrastination and boost your productivity, performance, and overall happiness. It’s all about finding the strategies that work best for you and sticking to them. So, stop procrastinating and start getting things done!