Yes! Finally a blog post about one of the things that affect me the most. Procrastination. In general, I get easily distracted. Most of the time I just find something better, and more entertaining, than the tasks on my to-do list. It’s a constant fight between my responsible self and my laid-back side. But guess what, there’s a way to stop it! Just take a look at these 5 simple steps to stop procrastination.
These are my go-to actions every time I feel like not doing anything. Let me add that when I wrote that my conscience kinda yelled at me saying: ‘feeling like doing anything is not bad’. Which is true. We are humans, not productivity machines. The problem comes when you have to get things done and your head is somewhere else.
I know you have seen many procrastination memes. You tag your friends in them saying, ‘that’s me’ or ‘accurate’. I enjoy laughing at them because they are just so me. Besides all that funny jokes, procrastination is a little bit deeper and has a reason why many of us go through that. In first instance, it’s related to a lack of value associated with the task. Which makes so much sense!
The TIME magazine has an article where they interview a few psychologists on the issue. One of them is Alexander Rozental, a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden that says “People procrastinate because they expect that they’re not going to achieve the value they’re trying to achieve; because the value is too far from you in terms of time; or because you’re very impulsive as a person.”
In general, the key to stop procrastinating is to find out why you are doing it in the first place. Maybe all those tasks you always put off to last have something in common. They might be boring, too difficult or you aren’t into them. Once you know where the problem relies on you have a better chance to fix it. That way you can find the strategies that will help you to be more productive!
Reasons Behind Procrastination
Before starting any strategy to stop procrastinating, the first thing you need to do is to find out which tasks make you procrastinate. It sounds a little obvious, but it took me years to actually realize that. All those times I wanted to procrastinate had two reasons in common.
The first one, they were long assignments. I was done even before starting. Only thinking about how long that would take me made me tired. For a more graphic image, take a look at Ryan below. That’s exactly the face I make when a long task is on my to-do list. Since I don’t know where to start I usually end up doing something else because I don’t want to start thinking on how to start.
The second reason is, the tasks are sometimes either boring or too complex. If I don’t get any value from that chore, why I even want to do it? A great example of that is answering emails. There are so many and I hate having tons of emails in my inbox, so I’m usually good at answering fast. I hate notifications so I just get that done first thing in the morning. Or as soon as I get the email.
If they are too complex, it means I will need to ask for help. And I hate asking for help. So the fact of having to do it makes me put off that task at the end of my to-do list. Or I’ll just avoid doing it as long as I can. As a side note, by complex, I don’t mean a hard math problem hahaha, just that implies a lot of logistics involving others. Like trying to do a photoshoot in the middle of winter. No one wants to help! Most of the time the problem is in my head, so I just write the simple solutions and repeat many times in my head ‘It’s easy, it’s easy’. I know, I sound a little crazy. But it works!
It’s known that we will have unpleasant tasks all the time, like laundry or tidy your room, but they are important or our lives would be a mess. So try to find the best way to trick your brain. Everything will depend on what kind of task makes you procrastinate (or the reasons behind it).
According to Psychology Today, some of the common reasons why we procrastinate are the lack of structure in your life, boring or uninteresting tasks, timing, fear of failure, and weak self-confidence. Which makes sense. We avoid certain chores or assignments because we feel that something is stopping us from doing them.
- Related: How To Overcome The Fear Of Failure
It’s important to set times to get things done even though those hours aren’t the same every day. So try to make your own schedule as a guide! Boring tasks are part of the problem too, we try to avoid them and try to put them at the end of the list when they normally are super easy or fast to do. So remember: the fastest you finish the more time you will have for other things.
The issue with timing is that we tend to do stuff at the last moment because we don’t see the benefit of doing it with anticipation. I mean… there’s still plenty of time, right? Well, not exactly. We think that we can do it later and everything will be fine, except that’s not true because we end up stressed out. And that sucks. Now is when I invoke my wise mom and her famous sayings “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. *Sigh* That’s so true. I know that working with pressure might be your thing, but that’s not ideal.
The thing about the fear of failure is a little upsetting. I mean, we can do it! We are capable. If we are doing something challenging then the best thing to do is find ways to reduce the stress and anxiety; and of course, have a positive mind. This is related with a weak self-confidence. If that’s the issue, procrastination that is causing a big damage. It’s stopping us to get better and bigger opportunities.
5 Simple Steps To Stop Procrastinating
Once you know which tasks make you procrastinate… find out the solutions! Okay, so it sounds easier than it really is. I found out my solutions to the problem, but here and there I just don’t do what I’m supposed to and I end up procrastinating no matter what. Because well, Candy Crush is still my weakness and finishing a book will always be a priority. I don’t know about you, but when a book is good I can’t put it down until I finish, that’s why avoid reading during the week. PS: If romance books are your thing, check out my book recommendations!
Here are the steps I try to follow to stop procrastinating:
1. Analyze Your To-Do List
What do you have written down? What is the thing that you want to avoid doing? That’s important information. If replying to emails is on your to-do list and you just don’t want to do it, think about what time of the day you feel more productive. Or maybe there’s a magic song that makes you feel pumped and motivated! Have it ready for when you have to do things you don’t want to.
Is there a task that sounds hard or too long? Try to break it down! Sometimes I write down ‘Start a new blog post’ on my planner, but what does that imply? It means I have to search for images, have ready the Pinterest graphics, search for keywords and write a few sentences of the direction I want the new post to go. See? Right there we have four different tasks.
Just try to think on how to make each task easier and more achievable!
2. Set A Schedule
We know that having a schedule is beneficial. Well, work on it! It might be hard to have a fixed schedule, especially if you work from home or you are a student. My days are different, but I try to have the same morning routine every day to start the day the right way and feel like I have my life together.
I also try to set repetitive tasks during the morning so even though they are boring, I feel happier during that time of the day and I’m more willing to do stuff I don’t want to. Like answering emails, pick a photo to post on Instagram, or working out.
3. Take Short Breaks
Now that you are actually doing the thing, you are allowed to stop! You don’t necessarily need to be machine until you get it done. You can stop, eat a snack or play a short game to distract your mind. Especially if we are talking about something that will take a lot of time.
Some days I get so distracted that I literally need to stop every fifteen minutes because I can’t focus on one thing. I just let it be. Some days are harder than others, and that’s fine too.
4. Don’t Try To Be Perfect
Perfectionism is one of the reasons why we procrastinate, so we need to avoid it. This was a problem especially when I was in college. That’s why is important to do everything with time. If you finish that assignment in advanced, you are done. The result doesn’t matter. Another day you can read it again and fix those problems before sending it to your professor, but at least the biggest part is done.
5. Imagine How You Will Feel After Finishing
How will you feel after finishing that task you have been postponing for days? Free, proud and anxiety-free. Search and channel those feelings so they can give you that energy and motivation you need to finally scratch out that task from your to-do list. It feels so good!
So now tell me, do you procrastinate a lot? Are you as good as me? What are some of your tips to stop procrastinating? Let me know in the comments! And while you are still here, check out these memes about procrastinating. They are so funny! But just do it if you have time. You don’t want to procrastinate with procrastination memes hahaha.