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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

So what is procrastination? And what can you do to prevent procrastination?

In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating and manage time better by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

What Is Procrastination?

Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

“Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

    Signs of a Procrastinator

    Procrastinators don’t want to complete their works because they tend to feel overwhelmed easily and lack focus when they work.

    If you’re wondering whether you’re a chronic procrastinator, take a look at these signs of a procrastinator and find out: 30 Signs You’re Actually A Procrastinator

    Why Do We Procrastinate?

    The reasons vary from person to person. It could be a matter of emotion, which affects your motivation. It could also be something related to your ability to focus, and the way you deal with your fears.

    To understand more about your procrastination behavior, I recommend you take this quick assessment on procrastination, It’s a free assessment that can help analyze your procrastination behavior. Take the free assessment now.

    Here’re more reasons why we procrastinate:

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes, it is. Procrastination is bad. It drags your progress and make you unable to get anything done. If you procrastinate, you will lose your precious time and blow opportunities.

    Take a look at the consequences of procrastination here: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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    The Challenge of Getting Over Procrastination

    Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

    At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

    In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

    The common symptoms of procrastination are lack of vision, lack of time and lack of organisation. Check them out here: 7 Symptoms of Procrastination and How to Fight Them

    How to Stop Procrastinating (Step-By-Step Guide)

    Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to break the procrastination cycle.

    1. Identify Your Triggers: The 5 Types of Procrastinator

    Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

    Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

      Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

      Perfectionist

      Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

      Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

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      Ostrich

      An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

      Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

      Self-Saboteur

      A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

      In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

      Daredevil

      Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

      It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

      Chicken

      Chickens lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

      Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

      Learn more about the 5 types of procrastinators here: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

      2. Face Your Triggers and Get Rid of Them

      Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

      For Perfectionists, Re-Clarify Your Goals

      Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

      Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

      • What steps do you need to take?
      • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
      • What do you need to change?

      Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

      For Ostriches, Do the Difficult Tasks First

      Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

      If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

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      Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

      For Self-Saboteurs, Write out a To-Do (And a Not–To-Do) List Each Day

      Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

      Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

      Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

      For Daredevils, Create a Timeline with Deadlines

      It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

      If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

      Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

      For Chickens, Break Tasks into Bite-Sized Pieces

      A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

      If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

      Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

      3. Form a Ritual

      By forming a ritual, you save yourself time from thinking about what to do next. When you don’t need to think about what to do next, you can go autopilot to actually get what you have to do done because you have no time to think about what other things to do besides completing your important tasks.

      Here’s how to form a ritual and beat procrastination: The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

      I know it’s not easy to get over procrastination on your own, so joining the free Fast Track Class – No More Procrastination is an effective way to help you overcome procrastination. In this focused 30-minute session, you will learn how to take over your procrastinating mind and start taking action. Join the free class and never stop procrastinating again!

      4. Take Planned Breaks

      The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

      Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

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      A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

        5.  Reward Yourself

        It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

        Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

        Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

          6. Keep Track of Your Time in a Smart Way

          If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

          By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

          It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

          It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

            Here’re 5 extra strategies to help you stop procrastinating:

            The Bottom Line

            Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

            Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

            Make procrastination under your control!

            More Tips About Fighting Procrastination

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on April 8, 2021

            9 Strategies To Stop Putting Things Off And Start Getting Things Done

            9 Strategies To Stop Putting Things Off And Start Getting Things Done

            Life is exciting, and it offers many opportunities to experience moments of pure exhilaration. You’ve no doubt experienced that feeling of being in the clouds as you think about all the good things happening in your life. It’s also frustrating when things don’t work out as planned. It’s common for unexpected challenges to send our minds into a dark spiral. It feels like nothing is going right in moments of challenge, and everything around you is falling apart.

            We all start each day, week, month, and year with good intentions. We know that to experience the benefits of accomplishing our goals, we have to stop putting things off. However, the daily work that it takes to achieve our major life goals is not always straightforward. It’s hard work, and for that reason, too many people settle for a “good enough” life.

            The good news is that there are definite strategies you can use and mindset shifts you can make to stop putting things off, accomplish every goal you have, and live a life most people will only dream of creating.

            Here are nine essential ways to accomplish your goals and stop putting off the work it takes to create a life of success and accomplishment.

            1. Start With a Vision for What Accomplishment Looks Like

            People often don’t accomplish their goals because they don’t have a clear picture of what success and accomplishment would mean to them. Successful goal setting starts with clarity on what you want to accomplish. Putting things off can be traced back to a lack of clear goals.

            Your vision fuels your purpose and the action you take each day. To stop putting off working on your goals, take some time to get very specific about all the things you’d like to accomplish in your relationships, work, business, finances, friendships, health, and social impact.

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            Creating a vision board can help because we as humans are visual by nature. That can be as simple as changing your phone screen saver to an image of what success and accomplishment mean to you. You have to know where you’re going if you hope to get there.

            2. Set a Realistic Plan and Stick to It No Matter What Is Thrown at You

            Being organized can be your best strategy to put off procrastination. Along with being clear about your vision for accomplishment, you should have a realistic and specific plan for how you’ll spend each day and take action. Whether it’s a once-a-week planning session or spending some time each night planning out the next day, have a roadmap that takes the stress out of what action to take and how to take it.

            When you plan, you wake up with a purpose, which helps you avoid endlessly wandering through your days not knowing what you should be doing. When you have a plan, don’t let the unexpected challenges of life throw you off. Commit to following your plan and not putting things off.

            3. Start Each Day With Things That Are Just for You

            The needs and desires of others tend to dominate our priorities. We start our days with urgent requests and the things other people want from us. Starting your day with other people’s tasks is the quickest way to put off working on your goals.

            To accomplish your goals and stop putting things off, start every day with tasks, goals, and moments that are just for you. Spend the first part of your day doing what you want to do and on the things that move you closer to your goals.

            As you start your day by prioritizing yourself, you’ll accomplish more of your goals and then be able to give to others from a place of strength. Don’t put others first and end up with not enough left for yourself—that’s when you’ll put things off because you won’t have the necessary energy.

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            Make yourself and your goals a priority. Your dreams, desires, and goals should have the primary position in your decision-making. What you want to accomplish is important and deserves your full attention.

            4. Commit to Making Consistency Your Only Option

            The best way to accomplish your goals is by embracing and committing to consistency. As you do the daily work over a period of time, you’ll take a step back and realize you’re closer than you think to accomplish your goals.

            Consistency has to be your only option if you want to stop putting off all the things you know you want to accomplish. Stop looking at the complete picture of what you want to achieve because that will overwhelm you. Focus on breaking your goals into bite-sized chunks that are digestible and lead to quick wins.

            5. Stabilize, Optimize, and Expand

            You create success when you use the “stabilize, optimize, and expand” growth strategy.

            • “Stabilize” means you get consistent with taking action on your goals each day. You get to a place where the resistance and struggle don’t keep you from putting in the work. You build healthy habits and make this work a lifestyle shift.
            • “Optimize” means you look at your planning, daily action, your goals and see where you can optimize each part of your process. Optimization helps expedite growth as you tweak what’s working and eliminate what needs to go.
            • “Expand” means you set bigger goals and commit to accomplishing the things that feel impossible. The expand phase is when you experience exponential growth because you’re moving beyond what’s comfortable.

            This simple but effective framework can give you a roadmap to accomplish more of your goals and stay off from putting off the things you want to achieve. Your goals are complex and should be treated as such. You need to evaluate and adjust.

            6. Celebrate Your Progress

            One of the reasons people put off working on their goals is because they never celebrate their process. You’re not a robot.

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            As you experience each win—no matter the size of that win—you should celebrate the progress as if you won the Olympics. You have to be your biggest cheerleader in the journey to becoming your best you.

            While most people think accomplishing their goals is the key to growth and consistency, experiencing progress is the real driver. When you make progress, you’re motivated and hungry for more. Amplify that feeling by celebrating each moment of accomplishment.

            7. Add More Fun Into Your Goal-Setting

            “All work and no play” makes the work feel like work. It would help if you worked hard on your goals, but hard work can be sustained for more extended periods of time when you mix fun into your schedule. You put things off when you’re not excited about what you’re doing.

            To accomplish your goals, you should add hobbies and activities you enjoy into your planning. It breaks up the pressure and helps you genuinely appreciate life and its experiences. Tapping into fun is a great way to build a successful life with balance.

            You can also make fun a reward for not putting things off. When you make progress, you reward yourself with pleasurable experiences. It can be a motivating prize and the inspiration you need to stop putting things off.

            8. Be Intentional About Living Your Best Life

            You’ll accomplish your goals and stop putting things off when you’re intentional about your decisions and are committed to living your best life. Only you know what your best life looks like and what you want to accomplish, but intentional action to get there is how you’ll make a life of accomplishment your reality.

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            Putting things off happens when your plan is not built with intention. You accomplish your goals when every action you take is aligned with your values and purpose. You create a remarkable life when you make progress and consistently pursue your goals.

            9. Purge Negativity in All Its Forms

            One of the most commons ways people sabotage their goal accomplishment is by letting negativity creep in. This can be:[1]

            • negative people trying to convince you that your goals are impossible because those people have already settled in their lives;
            • experiences you know will frustrate you, but you do them anyway because of pressure or a sense of obligation;
            • unhealthy relationships that don’t support your efforts to create a better life and are codependent.

            No matter the negativity, purging it is the best way to stay focused and motivated to continue accomplishing your goals. It can hurt to purge things and people, but it’s the best strategy to stop putting things off and achieve your goals.

            Final Thoughts

            Nothing stops you from setting and accomplishing your life, work, career, relationship, or business goals. It’s not easy, but it is possible with a plan and commitment to doing the work to become the strongest version of you.

            The question you have to ask yourself is, what happens if you decide to keep putting things off and neglect the goals you want to accomplish?

            Don’t be the person that finds out the answer to that question. Work hard and refuse to settle for a good enough life.

            No matter what you’ve been through, what happened in your past, or any setbacks you’re experiencing, you can accomplish your goals and live a life full of incredible experiences. It starts right now and when you stop putting things off.

            More Tips on How to Stop Putting Things Off

            Featured photo credit: Magnet.me via unsplash.com

            Reference

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