Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 23, 2019

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

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 youwhy procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all 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:

    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.

    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 stop procrastinating.

    Advertising

    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.

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

      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.

      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.

      Advertising

      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. 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.

      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.

        4.  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.

        Advertising

        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.

          5. 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.

            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 About Procrastination

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

            The Lifehack Show Episode 10: Dealing With Burnt Out Bosses 13 Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Memory 10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness Why Am I So Tired Even After Rest? How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

            Trending in Smartcut

            1 How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired 2 How to Find Your Keystone Habits to Change Your Life 3 How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples) 4 7 Essential Success Tips to Achieve What You Want in Life 5 Pave Your Road to Success with These 7 Golden Rules

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on October 16, 2019

            Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

            Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

            Do you like making mistakes?

            I certainly don’t.

            Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

            Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

            Advertising

            Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

            Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

            • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
            • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
            • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
            • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

            We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

            If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

            Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

            Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

            Advertising

            When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

            Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

            We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

            It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

            Advertising

            Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

            Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

            Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

            1. Point us to something we did not know.
            2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
            3. Deepen our knowledge.
            4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
            5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
            6. Inform us more about our values.
            7. Teach us more about others.
            8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
            9. Show us when someone else has changed.
            10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
            11. Remind us of our humanity.
            12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
            13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
            14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
            15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
            16. Invite us to better choices.
            17. Can teach us how to experiment.
            18. Can reveal a new insight.
            19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
            20. Can serve as a warning.
            21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
            22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
            23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
            24. Remind us how we are like others.
            25. Make us more humble.
            26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
            27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
            28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
            29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
            30. Expose our true feelings.
            31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
            32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
            33. Point us in a more creative direction.
            34. Show us when we are not listening.
            35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
            36. Can create distance with someone else.
            37. Slow us down when we need to.
            38. Can hasten change.
            39. Reveal our blind spots.
            40. Are the invisible made visible.

            Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

            The secret to handling mistakes is to:

            • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
            • Have an experimental mindset.
            • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

            When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

            Advertising

            When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

            It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

            When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

            Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

            Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

            More About Success and Failures

            Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

            Read Next