“I’ll quit procrastinating tomorrow” is one of these bad jokes that might actually hit home for those of us with a tendency to put things off.
Procrastination is a common phenomenon that affects people from all walks of life – it’s not just about homework! Whether you're a student with an impending deadline, a professional juggling multiple tasks, or someone simply trying to manage day-to-day responsibilities, the procrastination bug can strike at any time.
So, what’s procrastination and how do you overcome it? Follow the guide to uncover the secrets of this “time thief”.
Procrastination is NOT laziness
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often to the detriment of one's productivity and wellbeing. It involves avoiding or putting off starting (or completing) tasks, despite being aware of the potential negative consequences.
Let’s start by debunking a common misconception about procrastination. While it’s often misconstrued as a simple lack of motivation or laziness, its roots actually run deeper into our minds and the way we think.
One of the causes of procrastination is something known as the "present bias", which basically means we value immediate rewards over future ones. In a nutshell, we’re focusing on instant gratification rather than what’s to come further down the line.
4 reasons you procrastinate
Present bias is not the only cause of procrastination, though. Here are some factors that can play into it:
1) Fear of failure
Sounds familiar? When faced with a challenging task, the anxiety and self-doubt associated with potential failure can be paralyzing.
As a result, procrastination becomes a defense mechanism, shielding us from the perceived threat… Until we have to face the consequences.
Striving for perfection can lead to procrastination when you start overdoing it. The fear of not meeting impossibly high standards can be overwhelming, causing people to delay starting a task until the conditions are 'perfect.'
Unfortunately, this idealized scenario rarely materializes. The task, on the other hand, remains painfully real.
3) Task aversion
Certain tasks may be inherently unpleasant or triggering to you. You might procrastinate as a way to avoid facing the emotional toll they could take.
If you think that’s the case, it might be helpful to consider different ways to approach these tasks. Can you get help, make the task more enticing, or, if you really can’t face it, find an alternative?
Procrastination can sometimes be the result of depression. Low mood, feelings of hopelessness, and a lack of motivation can make even the most simple tasks feel overwhelming. Depression can also lead to feelings of insecurity, where someone might start to doubt their ability to pull something off.
If that sounds like you, it’s important to reach out for help and support. Talking to the people around you or your doctor is a good place to start.
7 ways to overcome procrastination
Want to quit procrastinating for good? Here are some strategies to try today to stop dilly-dallying – and start doing.
1) Break. It. Down.
When faced with a large task, it can be overwhelming to tackle it all at once. It can be very difficult to know where to start, especially if you’re unfamiliar with what the task entails.
In these moments, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. You wouldn’t eat a whole meal in one bite, would you?
Take things bit by bit – or bite by bite, if you will. Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps. Tackling one thing at a time makes the overall task seem much less overwhelming!
2) Be honest with yourself
Stop and ask yourself what exactly it is that you’re expecting from yourself. Unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy and foster procrastination.
Establishing realistic and achievable goals is key! That doesn’t mean you should only do the bare minimum either – you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Set goals that challenge you and help you grow but are within reach. It’s all about finding balance!
3) Identify your triggers
Take some time to reflect on the specific factors triggering your procrastination. Is it fear of failure, perfectionism, or task aversion?
Identifying the root cause can help you develop targeted strategies to address the issue. So, is it the task itself or how well you can complete it that bothers you?
4) Pomodoro like there’s no tomorrow
Effective time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, can enhance productivity and reduce the likelihood of procrastination.
Want to give it a try? Do 25-minute focused work intervals (Pomodoros) followed by 5-minute breaks. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break.
This method can help you procrastinate less by working with bite-size periods of time, meaning that the end of each slot feels more within reach. It makes the future seem much “closer” and more tangible.
5) Get excited about the future
As a procrastinator, you’re making the future that slightly threatening place where all your responsibilities hit at once. Give yourself a chance to look forward to it!
Shift your mindset from a fear of failure to a focus on learning and growth. Understand that setbacks are a natural part of the process and offer valuable lessons for improvement.
It can help to give yourself small milestones to look forward to. Celebrate small achievements instead of dreading how much work you’ll have to put into reaching the finish line. Life is a marathon, not a sprint!
6) Get an extra push
Sometimes, someone else’s support is all you need to stay accountable. Share your goals and deadlines with a friend, family member, or colleague.
That extra push can be particularly helpful if you tend to justify your procrastination to yourself with empty promises to do more tomorrow. No more weak excuses to put things off!
7) Break the cycle with self-love
Can compassion help you stop procrastinating? Accepting that setbacks are natural and that everyone procrastinates from time to time is essential to break the cycle.
Thinking of yourself as lazy because you keep putting things off will only feed into your insecurities and impact your self-esteem. It’s very unlikely to give you the motivation you need to get started!
Remember that procrastination doesn't define your worth. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a friend facing a similar challenge.
Progress, not perfection, is the key to overcoming procrastination. Every step forward is a victory! Now, get off your screen and accomplish something you’ve been putting off so far. You’ve got this!