Advertising

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

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

Advertising
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

    Advertising

    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.

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

      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.

      Advertising

        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 focused 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

            Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life The Careful Art of Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively How the Flow State Helps You Stay Productive and Concentrate What Is A Flow State And How To Achieve It For Productivity

            Trending in Procrastination

            1 15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home 2 80 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work 3 How To Overcome Laziness: 19 Simple Ways 4 Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It 5 Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on September 9, 2021

            15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home

            Advertising
            15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home

            Freelancing and working from home are becoming more and more common, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many assume that working from home can only bring positive change. Who wouldn’t want to work on their own schedule, get up later, and avoid the heavy traffic of a commute? However, once people begin to work from home, they see that it’s a bit different than they thought it would be and that procrastination at work can easily take over.[1]

            It’s not that people lack enthusiasm or motivation. It’s simply that the pull of distractions is quite strong, and many aren’t prepared to face them immediately. They find themselves postponing tasks until they absolutely have to be done, hunting for snacks in the kitchen, dropping onto the couch “just for a second” to see what’s going on with their favorite TV show, etc. After just a few months, many feel that they are working all day and having almost less free time than before.

            Fortunately, most of the major problems with productivity while working from home have to do with procrastination and distractions, which have some simple remedies if you’re willing to work on them. Here are some tips to help you stay on track and become more efficient.

            Examples of Procrastination When Working from Home

            Well, people who prefer working from home believe is a way of spending more time with family and escape the hell of having a boss breathing down their neck. However, what happens when you find yourself flipping from site to site, one YouTube video to another, changing your music, and watching countless movies that end up wasting hours of your time and affecting your productivity level.

            Procrastination is a major cause of concern for everyone who works from home as they find themselves pushing deadlines backward. Learning to “eat that frog” isn’t easy after all. Getting stuck in that circle might cost the individual their job.

            However, there are ways to solve procrastinating when you work from home. The solution starts with knowing why you procrastinate in the first place and we’ve outlined some of reasons in this guide.

            Why do People Procrastinate While Working

            No Clear Goal

            A wise man once said – ” Procrastination is the grave in which opportunities are buried”. We couldn’t agree less but sometimes procrastination goes beyond self-control and willpower. Experts have proposed that one of the reasons people procrastinate is when there’s no clear goal in mind.

            Trying to Move Mountains

            People are likely to focus more when they have concrete goals in mind. For instance, it’s easier to procrastinate when we set goals such as “I want to write a book” or “I want to earn more money”. Having realistic options such as “I want to make $100k in August” or “I want to write 1000 words daily for the next 30 days” forces us to take actionable steps to make that a reality

            No Shortage of Time

            There are other reasons people are likely to procrastinate when they work for home and a few of these people have clear goals. And it happens when we feel there’s enough time to complete the task. For example, it’s easier to put off a task whose deadline is in a month than those that have to be submitted in a week.

            Advertising

            Accordingly, such people always have a thought of “I have enough time” hence they never get started. The problem with this approach is that the deadline slowly creeps in and they suddenly realize that they haven’t gotten started.

            This is more reason why it’s better to handle tasks as they come rather than waiting till you’re motivated to take action.

            Dangers of Procrastination at Work

            Unfortunately, the habit of procrastination doesn’t go unpunished. You could have more tasks piled up which results in stress. This could have been avoided if the tasks were attended to as soon as they came.

            Most bosses have labelled freelancers who procrastinate as “incompetent” which results in job loss and a long time search in finding a new one. If you own an online business, procrastination might affect your profit and a lot of opportunities pass by due to your inability to act immediately.

            If you want to take control of your time, the tips mentioned here will help you do so. You will begin to priorities your goals more and act accordingly. Let’s jump right in

            15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working From Home

            1. Create Daily Goals

            A survey conducted reported that people who set daily goals are likely to be more productive than those who don’t. For instance, rather than taking each day as it comes, it pays to write down the task you want to accomplish the minute you rise from bed.

            There are several benefits of doing this. First, it’s registered in the brain and secondly, you will be willing to push yourself to achieve what you’ve written down on paper.

            2. Break Tasks into Tiny Bits

            Taking things one step at a time reduces procrastination. For instance, if you dream of writing 10,000 words eBook, putting down 1,000 pieces of words on paper for the next 10 days will bring the book to life. When you do this daily, you realize that the task doesn’t feel overwhelming and you can break free from procrastination.

            3. Take Breaks in Between Tasks

            Breaks are a way to keep you energized. It’s difficult to work 10 hours daily on a stretch without feeling overwhelmed. Breaks allow your brain to refresh and come back stronger. If you plan on working for 6 hours daily, it pays to take a short break after every 3 hours interval.

            Advertising

            There are times when a break can improve the quality of your thinking and speeds up the creative process.

            4. Create a Home Office

            Start by limiting the comforts of home[2] by turning a spare room into a small office. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. Just use a corner of the living or bedroom that has enough light during the day. In case you are a night owl, make sure to have appropriate lighting so that you don’t fatigue your eyes.

            Before heading into your home office for the day, imagine what you may need for the next couple of hours. For example, put a bottle of water and a small snack on the desk so you won’t have to get up when you get hungry. Also, make sure you have a charger for both your computer and cell phone so you won’t have to go searching for them later. These can all cause distractions that can set you on a path toward procrastination.

            You can also take a look at these 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

            5. Use Productivity Software Apps

            Since most work done from home involves using a computer or other piece of technology, getting distracted by unrelated sites throughout the day can be a huge barrier to productivity. There are now several extensions and apps you can use to limit time spent on specific websites, so if you find you often get distracted by YouTube, for example, put a limit of 30 minutes to keep yourself focused.

            Also, consider creating a user account on your computer that’s going to be used only for work and delegate a specific browser for when you’re working in order to see all job-related bookmarks and tabs.

            If you still have trouble staying on track, try to use time-tracking tools, such as Toggl, Tick and RescueTime. Many of them will generate a report so that you can easily track your work and how you use your time. If these don’t work, take a look at this article to find some other time management tools that may work for you.

            6. Prioritize Your Tasks

            Prioritization is essential when fighting procrastination. Most freelance work won’t have deadlines, so staying on task can be even more difficult. Therefore, figuring out which things are most important throughout the day is key.

            Prioritization looks different for everyone. It can include a board with notes and stickers, a timetable in Excel, or a list in one of the various productivity apps out there. Once you’re able to prioritize your tasks, you’ll see how effectively things get done.

            Advertising

            7. Stop Comparing Your Results

            Most often, when people work from home, it’s easy to compare your result to others. When your results don’t match up, it’s easy to feel disappointed and put off a lot of work. This is very common in sales.

            Well, if you suffer from this, it’s important to appreciate every little step you take daily and stop beating yourself over other people’s results. This will limit your ability to get things done.

            8. Read Books on Time Management

            When you feel like every second is slipping away, it pays to read books on time management and habit formation. Books such as eat that frog, atomic habits, and the 5-seconds rule will arm you with strategies on how to eliminate procrastination and live a productive lifestyle. If those options feel out of reach, we have a number of useful tips that will help you with goal setting.

            All the books were hand-picked because they contain actionable plans that can transform your life by a whole 360. The most successful people read 20 pages of a book daily and you can also do the same.

            9. Turn off Social Media Notification

            If you are like most people, a little beep sound from your smartphone can catch your attention and force you to look at notifications. When you set out to work, ensure your smartphone is set to “do not disturb” mode so those distracting beeps don’t steal your attention when you’re engrossed in your task.

            Even better, you can keep your cell phone distances away when you’re working

            10. Block out Nearby Noise

            The notification sound from your mobile phone isn’t the only distraction to fight against. Distraction might come in the form of noises such as traffic sounds, the sound of running water, or loud laughter from your living room.

            You can block out this noise by using noise-cancellation earbuds or cell phones.

            11. Learn to Eat Your Frog

            The first few hours you rise from bed are your “hour of power”. It’s easier to get things done during the early hours of the day. As we’ve found out, the hardest tasks are the most difficult to get started with.

            Advertising

            During your ” hour of power” ensure you address the difficult tasks first before moving to the simplest ones.

            12. Learn to Forgive Yourself

            It’s difficult to let go of the hurts and pain the habit of procrastination has caused. Do not expect perfection from yourself, rather try to be a better version of yourself.

            13. Reward Yourself

            Reward and punishment is an essential part of human psychology when it comes to motivation.[3] Rewards play an important role in forming good habits. Different rewards will work for different people, so identifying what you want as a reward is the first step. Are you motivated by money? Recognition? Free time? Snacks? Write these down and assign a reward to each task.

            14. Avoid Multi-Tasking

            Doing several things at the same time might result to a shift in attention. Hence, learn to finish up one task before jumping to another

            15. Apply Consistency

            Making positive changes is difficult, there’s always a temptation to go back to the old way things were done. It’s important to employ these tips for several days to see how it changes your productivity level. We recommend sticking to this routine for at least 30 days, to stand a chance of killing off procrastination

            Final Thoughts

            As you can see, you are in charge! Going from working in an office to work from home is a big change, and adjusting won’t happen overnight. It’s important to get started with some of these tips to keep you on track, and after a bit of time, you’ll find that you’re able to be more productive.

            More Tips on Working From Home

            Featured photo credit: Progressive Insurance via unsplash.com

            Reference

            Read Next