As human beings, we procrastinate. It’s just what we do. Even if you consider yourself a master of productivity, I’m willing to bet some things consistently fall to the bottom of your to-do list.
On the other hand, some suffer from severe procrastination so much that it negatively impacts their jobs and lives.
Regardless of what degree of procrastination you suffer from, there are tried and true ways to overcome it. In this article, we will explore some tips for beating procrastination once and for all.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Before we dive in, let’s first look at why we procrastinate, to begin with. The most common reasons for procrastination include the following:
- The project or task is overwhelming, or you are unsure of where to start. You know you have a project to start, but you’re overwhelmed with it and not sure where to start. Because of this mental roadblock, so to speak, you procrastinate starting the project at all. If you have a clear roadmap or starting point, then you will be less likely to procrastinate.
It’s easy for seemingly smaller or insignificant tasks to be cast aside to complete more demanding, urgent tasks from the “daily whirlwind“.
- You don’t see the value or purpose of the project. You might be procrastinating because you don’t quite understand what you have to do or the value or purpose of your project. If your project or task isn’t valuable, then you need to rethink the behind the project in the first place. Is it still aligned with your purpose and goals? If not, then maybe you don’t do it at all.
- You have too many conflicting priorities. If your particular project or task is related to your job, and you feel overloaded and constantly pushing that project or task that you’ve been procrastinating to the bottom of your to-do list, then it’s likely time to have a conversation about priorities with your boss or client.
If your project or task is a priority, but you just don’t have time to work on it, think delegation. Can you hand off your project or task to a team member or intern?
- You want instant gratification. Lying on the couch and watching Netflix sounds nicer than going on a run or finishing that article. Grabbing a burger at a local fast food restaurant is easier than shopping for groceries and preparing a healthy meal. However, instant gratification only leads to larger problems and more serious consequences later.
- You overestimate and overcommit. Maybe you’re a “people-pleaser”, or maybe you struggle with accurately estimating how much time certain projects and tasks take. Maybe you struggle with boundaries. Maybe you worry about letting others down. Regardless of why you tend to overestimate and overcommit to projects and tasks, you are only hurting your future self.
- You fear failure. This challenge can make or break you. Depending on the degree of severity, you might just need a little encouragement and a confidence boost. If you also struggle with crippling anxiety and depression, you may need to speak with a therapist or counselor. Regardless of your situation, always stand by your work and tell yourself that you can do hard things!
Of course, those are the most common reasons. However, some people suffer from anxiety, depression, or even ADHD, which exacerbates the procrastination problem. If this is the case for you, then you are strongly encouraged to seek professional help.
7 Tips for Beating Procrastination
Now that you understand why you might procrastinate, here are some tipis on how to overcome them.
1. Review your project list. If you are overwhelmed with everything you have to do or have many balls in the air and nothing is getting done, then it might be time to review your current project list to see what projects are still relevant and which projects aren’t. Priorities change over time, and that’s okay. Just make sure your project list reflects those priorities.
Take some time to list out all the projects on your plate. You can also do this by organizing all your projects and tasks in a digital system, such as Trello, for example. This can include projects at your job, at home, or for others. Then, review your list and mark a 1, 2, or 3 next to each project to indicate priority. If there are projects on your list that are lower priority, you can add them to a “backlog” or cross them entirely.
2. Recognize the value. Once you have organized your project list, look at your top priorities. Ask yourself why they are a priority. What does the outcome or end result look like? How will finishing the project impact your job or life? How will you feel once it’s complete? Answering these questions and recognizing the value behind each project might be enough to overcome procrastination and jumpstart your productivity.
3. Put productivity principles into practice. Find the best productivity principles that work best for you, and build them into a consistent, daily routine. Dedicate small amounts of time to working on your top priority projects each day.
If this tactic is new to you, then start small. Start by setting aside time—five, 10, or 15 minutes—to work on your highest priority projects. You are simply developing the habit and routine to work on them at this stage. The more you work on your projects, the more time you can dedicate to them, and the more motivated you will be.
4. Manage your energy and focus. We often associate productivity with how many hours of work we can cram into a day. However, being productive is less about how much you work and more about your progress toward your goals. Additionally, it’s also more about managing your energy and focus.
For example, if you work in 2-3 hour increments and cross off everything on your to-do list or make substantial, measurable headway on a project, this might be more “productive” than cramming a bunch of work in 20-30 hours.
5. Overcome fear. When we dread something or are afraid of something, we naturally avoid it or put it off. However, if we change our mindset, and learn to transform negative thoughts into positive ones, or see negative thoughts as opportunities, we can slowly learn to build confidence and overcome fear, which will naturally reduce our tendency to procrastinate.
6. Build a procrastination-proof environment. If you try to work on projects in an environment full of distractions, such as in front of the TV, in bed, or in the same room as your family or roommates, then you are more likely to continue putting off your work to focus on whatever is on TV, napping, or joining your roommates in a discussion.
Regardless of what people believe or tell themselves, your brain cannot truly focus on more than one thing at a time. So if you think, “I can still be productive while watching my favorite Netflix show”, you are only kidding yourself.
When it’s time to focus and work, set yourself up for success and choose to work in an environment that allows you to do so.
7. Change your mindset. Neuroplasticity, or how your brain changes and responds to changes and experiences and learns new things, play a huge role in procrastination.
We have more control over our thoughts, intents, and actions than what we realize. Intentions are wonderful, but actions are what makes them happen. Taking this step comes down to having the right mindset, which is 100% a choice.
Keep it Simple
Another “hack” to overcoming procrastination is to simplify hard tasks. There are several approaches to this…
1. Simplify Your Life
My favorite? Simplify your life. When you have too much going on, or you overcommit, you will find that you procrastinate more than you are willing to admit. This is because there is TOO much for your brain to focus on. As a result, you become overwhelmed, worried, anxious, and stressed. This prevents you from having sufficient mental energy to make any progress on your projects or the things on your plate.
If this sounds like you, then it might be time to re-evaluate the things in your life. This could be both things taking up your physical space and commitments and responsibilities.
2. Simplify Your Thinking
Begin with the things that you dislike or dread doing. After all, when we dread something, we put it off. However, you can learn to enjoy doing something, even if you dread certain aspects. This goes back to neuroplasticity and choosing the right mindset. Rather than focus on what you dread about it, focus on what you enjoy about it.
For example, if you want to go for a run, don’t think about how difficult the run will be or how much it will hurt. Focus on the end result. How great you will feel after, or how proud of yourself you will be.
3. Simplify the Process
To make the process easier, break it down into smaller steps. For example, just think about putting on your shoes rather than thinking about how difficult the run will be. Enjoy the simplicity of that action and then focus on getting out the door.
Focus on The WHY, Then the HOW
Regardless of whether you are an occasional procrastinator or an avid procrastinator, take some time to reflect and ask yourself why you procrastinate. The first step to overcoming procrastination is understanding why are in the first place. And the reasons can be different per project and per situation. All in all, the “why” influences “how” to overcome procrastination.