You’ve got a deadline looming, but you just can’t seem to focus. You tell yourself you’ll do it when you’re in the right mood, or once you finish one more thing. But when you finally get started, you have to rush in order to finish in time.
Does this sound familiar? If you’ve struggled with procrastination, you know just how much it can disrupt your life and your sense of peace. However, there is hope — if you want to avoid procrastination, there are several definite steps you can take to be more productive and feel more at peace. If you’re looking for ideas on how to fix procrastination, these seven tips should help.
7 Tips to Stop Procrastinating
Actively Counter Perfectionism
If you have perfectionist tendencies, you may have found that they go hand-in-hand with procrastinating. If it doesn’t feel like the perfect time to start a task, you may feel compelled to wait. Or if you’re worried about not being able to complete something perfectly, you may put off doing it for as long as you can.
Of course, as you put off what you need to do, you may find yourself getting more and more anxious. In some cases, this anxiety feels paralyzing. It seems like you can’t muster the will to do what you need to do, even though putting it off feels decidedly worse.
The good news here is that there are steps you can take to get out of this destructive thought pattern. Countering perfectionism is much easier said than done. However, if you consciously work to remind yourself that it’s better to get something done than it is to stress about doing it perfectly, you’ll be able to overcome some of your procrastination. This is also a skill that gets easier with practice. As you work to reframe how you look at the tasks you need to complete, you’ll improve your ability to do them efficiently and with less anxiety.
For some people, getting out of the perfectionism predicament feels impossible, even with work. If you find yourself still getting caught in the perfectionism trap, you may want to seek professional help. A therapist can help you identify the root causes of this pattern, and they can help you both overcome it and develop healthier work habits, too.
Schedule Important Tasks
Lots of procrastinators prefer to wait until they feel like doing a task. Depending on how urgently something needs to be done, this can work for a while. However, putting things off can get stressful, and so can trying to remember all the things you need to do. If you try to carry around all of your important deadlines in your head, it becomes very easy to forget one or to confuse two different deadlines.
One of the best strategies for overcoming procrastination (and just for getting more organized in general) is a fairly simple one — making a schedule. You can do so on an app, on a calendar or planner, or even just on a piece of paper. You don’t need to plan every day down to the hour, but it’s important to schedule important tasks and also make sure that you have enough time to do them.
That said, it’s also important to be flexible in your scheduling. If you’re working on a multi-part project, it’s possible that one or more parts may take longer than expected, which can throw off your plan. If this does happen, make sure you don’t throw out the whole schedule — in order to really overcome the habit of procrastination, you’ll need to be willing to make adjustments to your schedule as needed. This can take practice, but you’ll likely find that keeping a schedule helps reduce stress and anxiety. It will probably make it easier to make all of your important deadlines, too.
Break Things Down Into Manageable Sections
There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate, but a major reason is feeling overwhelmed. If you have a massive task at hand — whether it’s writing a long report for work or school or cleaning a very messy room — it’s easy to feel discouraged at the amount of work facing you.
This is a common reaction, but you can lessen your anxiety by breaking down the task into smaller segments. It’s a good idea to make a list of each small section you want to do. As you finish up each one, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. That sense of accomplishment will also boost your self-confidence, making it easier for you to tackle the rest of the task.
For example, if you’re tasked with cleaning an incredibly messy room, it’s easy to just get overwhelmed by all the clutter and feel frozen. But you could start with making the bed, move on to folding and putting away laundry, and then take out the trash. Just as you eat a large meal bite by bite, you can handle a major task more easily by taking it one step at a time.
Make Sure You Take Breaks
This may sound counterintuitive at first. After all, you might say that procrastination is a break in itself. But if you’re like many people, part of your procrastination is because you dread spending a considerable period of time focused on one task or project. Most people do better work when they have some breaks and variety built-in.
In order to lessen your dread and develop a healthy work-life balance, be sure that you schedule breaks throughout your time working. These don’t have to be long breaks — you can simply take a moment to walk outside or stand up and do some stretches. It may even help to schedule your breaks as you schedule your tasks.
Recognize the Drawbacks of Procrastination
It’s easy to look for ways to help procrastination, but one thing that may help you break through that wall is simply realizing the negative effects procrastination has on you. If you’re like most people, you probably feel stressed about all the work you need to do, even as you’re avoiding doing it. When you admit this, you’re taking the first step toward avoiding procrastination.
This tip has a flip side, though. If you just acknowledge the negative impact of procrastination, it can be easy to fall into negative self-talk. To avoid that, try to incentivize yourself — think of how much better you’ll feel once the work is done. It may help to plan fun or relaxing activities that you can look forward to once you’re done.
If you’re a procrastinator, you’ve probably fallen into a pattern of negative reinforcement. This means that you’ve been unwittingly reinforcing the behavior you want to stop.
For example, let’s say you’re a student and you have a paper to write. The prospect of writing that paper is stressful, so you avoid it and go to the gym instead. Avoiding the paper, even temporarily, gives you a sense of relief. Because that relief feels good, you’re likely to continue to procrastinate on this task and others.
This reinforcement cycle can be tough to break, but the best way to do it is to focus on a positive reinforcement cycle where you feel accomplished because you’ve completed a task. This is one of the more effective ways to help procrastination, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone because it takes time to do. In particular, it takes a lot of effort to push yourself to do something you’d prefer to procrastinate on. But once you start getting a real sense of accomplishment for completing things, it will become easier to do in the future.
Optimize Your Environment
Problems with time management and procrastination frequently go hand-in-hand. And if you’re like many people who procrastinate, you might find that the internet is a tool that makes procrastinating easier than ever. If browsing social media apps is a frequent cause of your procrastination, you may want to block them on your computer, or at least do so when you’re getting work done. If you’re often distracted by texts and phone calls, it can help to put your phone on do not disturb when you need to really focus on work.
If you’re optimizing your environment, it makes sense to carefully evaluate everything in your working area. If you see something that may distract you or trigger procrastination, it’s a good idea to remove it. If you like to play guitar and keep your guitars in your work area, you’re likely to be tempted to play them instead of work.
If you work from home and like to play video games in your spare time, you may want to keep your working area separate from where you play games. This will help you associate your home office or working area with just work, and then you can more thoroughly enjoy your gaming, too.
On the flip side, if you have anything that motivates you to work, you’ll want to keep those things in your working area. Motivational posters and any awards you’ve won at work are a good start.
Procrastination can be a beast to handle, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ll never overcome it. However, with a dedicated focus and a determination to change, you can build better work habits and ditch procrastination for good. And once you’ve beaten procrastination, you can begin to work towards improved productivity, too.