It’s much easier to postpone a task until the very last minute than it is to work up enough willpower to decide to just do it now. And the more you procrastinate, the more it grows into a bad habit that just gets harder and harder to break.
A little procrastination here and there is fine, but when it starts to really impact the quality of your life, that’s when you know it’s time to make some changes. If you fall under any one (or several) of the following 12 types of procrastinators, you should have a look at some of the suggested tips and tricks you can use to stop putting things off all the time and start making it easier for yourself to decide to tackle them before it’s too late.
The cleaner is the type of procrastinator who would rather distract himself with chores and housework than do what he really should be doing. If you find yourself washing the dishes, vacuuming every room, doing laundry, or even organizing your closet — you’re a cleaner. Having a clean house or apartment is great, but if you use it to distract yourself for too long, you could lose track of your schedule and put yourself in a risky position for trying to work with a very limited amount of time to get those important things done.
1. Don’t try to work in a messy room. If you can’t see it, it won’t tempt you as much. And you’ll be less likely to get distracted by that pile of clothes on the floor or that stack of papers sitting next to you. Out of sight, out of mind!
2. Go to a coffee shop or your local library. If your place is just a disaster, then consider leaving to get your work done. Coffee shops, internet cafes, college campuses, and libraries often have dedicated workspaces with wifi you can use as well.
3. Plan ahead to get your chores done beforehand. Sometimes all you need to do to make sure you won’t go on a cleaning binge when you should be working is to get it done way ahead of time. Put it in your schedule to make sure it happens.
4. Maintain good organization habits. You can prevent messiness by simply keeping up good cleaning and organizational habits. Clean that dish right away to avoid having them pile up, and put clothing away after you’ve washed them rather than leaving them in a mound on the floor.
5. Get your roommates/family members to pitch in with cleaning, or hire help. It’s hard when you live with people who don’t exactly maintain the cleanest habits. Either make it clear to them that they need to start helping out now, or consider hiring a housekeeper.
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and panicky? These types of procrastinators get all caught up in their thoughts, focusing too much on all the details and the bigger picture. They usually end up paralyzing themselves from taking action and inducing unnecessary emotional stress.
1. Make a list of only the immediate things that must get done. To avoid overwhelming yourself, forget about all the stuff that can wait until tomorrow, next week, or next month. Just write down 3-5 things that must get done today.
2. Break down big goals into small tasks. Write down all the clear steps it will take for you to complete a bigger project to avoid getting too caught up in all the ideas and intentions whizzing around in your head.
3. Focus on completing one task at a time. Avoid multitasking on big tasks that consist of several smaller ones. Work on sticking to one at a time, and don’t move on until you’re done.
4. Take a few deep breaths. If you really start to feel the effects of panic and anxiety in your chest and you can’t get your mind clear, step away from your work station for a minute and take several calming deep breaths. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for one second, and breathe out for six seconds.
5. Go for a walk. Nothing helps clear your mind of worry and dread better than a quick stroll around the neighborhood. If you can get out into a wooded area, that’s even better.
Passing out for a bit rather than facing your responsibilities can often seem like a good idea, especially if you’re not feeling very alert and manage to convince yourself that you need a quick power nap to recharge. And it can work, but only if it doesn’t turn into a three-hour snooze session that makes you groggy afterward.
1. Ensure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night. If you feel like you need to nap during the day, you may need to fix your sleep schedule.
2. Avoid consuming too much caffeine or sugar, which can lead to crashes later on. Improve your nutrition so that you don’t experience huge energy swings throughout the day.
3. Drink more water. Most people don’t realize dehydration can cause lethargy, so crank up your water intake to see if it makes a difference.
4. Exercise. Regular body movement helps keep your brain healthy. Even just a short walk can make a difference in how alert and focused you’ll feel.
5. Set a timer for 20 minutes if you need to nap. If you absolutely have to nap, don’t do it without setting a timer first to avoid drifting off into a deeper state of sleep for too long.
The sidetracker is someone who just can’t stay focused on one thing for very long, and has about a million ideas he wants to explore. Jumping from one thing to the next, to the next, to another after that, sidetrackers have a hard time getting anything done because they limit their progress by spreading themselves too thin.
1. Rank your priorities. Get clear about which tasks need to be completed first by jotting them down and ranking them from most important to least important.
2. Work to complete the tasks at the top of your priority list. Use your list to identify what must get done first, so you get those important tasks done first before giving your attention to anything else.
3. Eliminate distractions. Get rid of books, papers, objects, open tabs in your web browser, or anything else that tempts you to shift your attention to anything that’s not at the top of your priority list.
4. Avoid multitasking. Many people think they can kill two birds with one stone by multitasking, but all it does is slow you down and decrease the quality of your work. Stick to one thing at a time.
5. Keep a notebook handy for ideas that come up. If something new pops up in your head while you’re focusing on your most important priorities, write it down quick in a notebook so you remember it at a later time.
The Internet Researcher
No matter how much time you spend researching, there’s never enough time to cover it all. People who spend too much time looking for answers online end up creating an imbalance between preparation and action. They want to learn everything before they actually start moving forward.
1. Build a list of the most essential questions you need answered. To avoid getting sucked deeper and deeper into the topics you’re researching, stick to the most pressing questions you have and focus on answering those only.
2. For big projects with lots of questions, aim to research the answers to just 4-5 questions every day. You may have 100 or more questions or topics you need to research. That’s okay — just spread it out over time so you actually have time to take some action too.
2. Set a time limit for research. Don’t lose yourself in six hours of online research. Limit it to a half hour or so before moving on to apply what you’ve just learned.
3. Stick to a limited number of sources. You don’t need answers from 23 different sources for one question. Three, at most, is best for questions or topics that aren’t so complex or controversial.
5. Switch your internet off if you can’t resist doing extra research. For anyone who has ever struggled to resist Googling something new every five minutes, sometimes pulling the plug is the only real option.
Snacking doesn’t just inhibit your productivity — it’s bad for your waistline too. People who regularly find themselves reaching for boxes of crackers, cookies, chips, or anything else end up distracted from doing what’s most important, and sometimes even end up needing to nap after eating too much.
1. Get rid of all unhealthy snack-like foods. If it’s not there, you can’t be tempted by it. Throw out anything that comes in a box or a package, and commit to not buying them again.
2. Don’t work in or around your kitchen. Your environment affects your tendency to become distracted. If the sight of your refrigerator steals your focus, it’s time to move to another room.
3. Sip on water or herbal tea. Fluids can make you feel full and give your mouth something to do if you’re battling cravings. Lots of water and tea will also keep you nice and hydrated.
4. Plan your meals and snacks for the day. Be conscious of what you’re eating by planning out your meals, including what time you’re going to eat. That way, you can look forward to them rather than sabotaging yourself with excess snacking.
5. Keep healthy snacks like fresh veggies and fruit handy if necessary. If you absolutely have to gnash on something, make sure it’s healthy and limited in quantity. Try celery sticks with peanut butter, an apple, or a handful of raw almonds.
Television, movie, and internet video consumption is drawing a lot of people away from their real lives these days. In worst case scenarios, having instant access to so much selection can cause them to completely lose sight of reality — including all their responsibilities and everything that’s truly important to them.
1. Limit TV/video consumption to one hour (or less) a day. Make a conscious decision to watch no more than an hour of your favorite show or movie to avoid going overboard.
2. Limit the number of TV shows, movies, or web series you watch. Getting invested in too many shows on TV or the internet means you have to keep up with their new episodes every week. Stick to one or two shows at most.
3. Schedule the time to indulge, ideally at the end of the day. Use your TV or internet video time as a reward at the end of the day for all the hard work you put into that project you should be working on.
4. Resist getting hooked on any new series. New shows pop up all the time, and before you know it, you’re watching 14 of them. Don’t fall for any new shows if what you really need to do is get more work done.
5. Consider cutting your cable or cancelling your streaming subscription. If limiting your time spent watching TV just doesn’t work, you may just have to consider quitting cold turkey. Cancel your plan, and you’ll have no excuses.
Everyone needs help and support from time to time, but it has to be done right to be effective. Certain people who’d rather bully people into completing tasks for them often end up right back where they started — or even a step or two behind if the person they delegated to did a bad job.
1. Ask first, and be respectful of people’s time and value. Don’t just tell other people what they need to do and expect them to do it. Treat them like real human beings who deserve real respect.
2. Don’t use power of authority to force people to do things. Bosses often use intimidating tactics to force their subordinates into doing things for them. Again, treat them like they deserve to be treated if you want to maximize results and earn respect back from them as well.
3. Avoid pushing tasks onto other people out of selfishness. Be honest with yourself. Are you making someone do something because you just don’t feel like it? Take responsibility for the things that can or must get done by you.
4. Maintain open and frequent communication. Don’t expect people to be able to read your mind. Communicate exactly what you need from them, and encourage them to regularly communicate with you on the status of their progress or any issues they may be facing.
5. Show that you trust others, and that you’re grateful for their help. Don’t delegate a task to someone without having any faith in their abilities. Put your full trust in their hands, and be sure to thank them for their efforts.
The Gamer shares a lot of similarities with the Watcher — they’re a sucker for entertainment and easily get hooked for hours. With video games, however, it can be far more addicting to try to level up, enter another world, kill the bad guy, find the sword, or spend forever trying to do whatever it is that games make you do to keep you playing.
1. Limit your playing time. If you you have enough self-control, you can use a timer to set a time limit of an hour or so.
2. Commit to saving video games for weekends. You know you really shouldn’t be playing games for extended periods every single day, so try scaling it way back to once a week when you’ve got some downtime.
3. Shut the game down or leave the room. If you use a computer to work, make sure any games you play on it are closed. If you play games on a TV, leave the room or get out of the house.
4. Play physical sports instead. If you’re competitive and love a good challenge, why not take up a team sport that helps your fitness rather than support your couch potato lifestyle?
5. Disconnect or uninstall your games. Can’t resist the temptation? Make it harder for yourself to keep playing by haulting your progress all together.
The Social Sharer
Social media can be just as addicting as TV and video games. The more people share, the more pleasure they get out of the likes and comments they receive. Over-sharing and interacting with friends online can quickly turn into a bad habit that takes up hours of a person’s day.
1. Put your phone away and close those tabs on your computer. If your phone is flashing with notifications right beside you or Facebook is left open in your browser while you try to work, you’re basically asking for distraction to happen.
2. Sign out, uninstall apps, or take links out of your bookmarks. Chances are you’ve made it easy to access a social network with a click or your mouse or tap of your finger. Make it harder by nixing those shortcuts so you’re less tempted.
3. Purge your friend/following list. Do you really need 543 Facebook friends and can you really follow 3,294 Twitter accounts? Do a cleanup to avoid being tempted by excess accounts that don’t even really matter to you.
4. Delete unnecessary accounts. Nobody really needs to be on 14 different social networks. Stick to one or two that you really like to avoid wasting time checking all of them.
5. Temporarily deactivate the most tempting accounts. Some social networks like Facebook allow you to deactivate your account and reactivate it later. Consider this option if you seriously can’t resist social sharing.
The List Maker
Everyone always talks about how great it is to make a list if you want to be productive, but too many people do it the wrong way. The people who try too hard to stick to an unrealistically large list often end up feeling rushed through everything or defeated at the end of the day.
1. Build your list items according to your time schedule. Rather than just listing off all sorts of things, build them into the hours you have in your morning, afternoon, evening, and night.
2. List appointments and meetings first. For things where other people are counting on you to show up, list them first to give yourself a better idea of how much time you’ll have to dedicate to other projects after that.
3. Only list the things that must get done today. You can avoid overwhelming yourself with too many list items by sticking to maybe 3-5 things that absolutely must get done right now, today, and as soon as possible.
4. Estimate time limits for each list task. Remember to use your time schedule to help you build realistic timeframes for your tasks that you can actually get done by the end of the day.
5. Edit and add to your list throughout the day. If you finish everything early, or if something pops up that needs your immediate attention, don’t be afraid to adjust your list accordingly. It’s not set in stone.
Some procrastinators just never learn, and when this is the case, they become Perpetuators. These types of people always try to justify whey the can’t get started on something or didn’t get started already. They dig themselves into a big hole by flat out lying to themselves.
1. Stop waiting for the perfect moment to start. Waiting for that big motivational kick only wastes more time, and it usually never arrives. Become conscious of the fact that perfect moments to start working on something just don’t exist.
2. Aim to start something and stick with it for at least 20 minutes. Just getting started is all you need to get motivated. You’ll probably find that after 20 minutes, you’ll have developed some good momentum.
3. Use alarms to start working and taking breaks. To avoid perpetually putting things off, set alarm reminders throughout the day and commit to starting your work as soon as they go off. You can use them to schedule your breaks too.
4. Promise to reward yourself after you’ve completed something. You can use rewards like TV time, a bubble bath, a social outing, or a snack as a way to motivate yourself to get something done.
5. Commit to focusing more on the present moment. Rather than beating yourself up for not getting started sooner or promising to start it the next day, focus on what matters right now, and what you can do about it to make some progress.
With 60 tips in total for 12 different types of procrastinators built into this super long and detailed list, you now have no excuses to finally get started right away on that thing you’ve been putting off for so long already.
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