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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

5 Tips for Overcoming Procrastination and Feeling Overwhelmed

5 Tips for Overcoming Procrastination and Feeling Overwhelmed

Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, according to a 2007 American Psychological Association study, between 80% and 95% of college students procrastinate when it comes to completing their assignments and coursework.[1]

And, from my experience as a life coach, I’ve come to believe that this percentage range continues beyond college and into working life.

You may be surprised to hear, but… I was a super-procrastinator when I was young!

At the time, it felt good and normal to put things off to the very last minute, such as studying for my exams or preparing for an interview.

However, while a procrastination mindset ‘might’ get you through college — it won’t work when it comes to your career.

That’s because the vast majority of jobs involve teamwork; and if you continually promise things but fail to deliver them (such as a project plan or briefing notes for a meeting), your colleagues will quickly notice. And, they’ll quickly become frustrated and annoyed by your lack of actions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a time and place for procrastination. For example, if you’re given a high-priority task to complete, you’ll probably need to delay working on a lower-priority task (this is actually a good time management technique). However, if you procrastinate with all your tasks — then you’ll need to find a way to break free from this productivity-killing habit.

But, let’s pause for a moment, and ask the question: Why do most people procrastinate?

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Well, according to Alexander Rozental, a procrastination researcher and a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden:[2]

“People procrastinate because of a lack of value associated with the task; because they expect that they’re not going to achieve the value they’re trying to achieve; because the value is too far from you in terms of time; or because you’re very impulsive as a person.”

Do you recognize yourself in any of those points? If you do, don’t worry, as help is at hand.

Check out my 5 tips for defeating procrastination and getting your life back on track:

1. Get Started

Whether you’re cleaning a closet or planning your team’s next quarterly goals — getting started is half the battle towards completion.

Many writers have learned this the hard way. They often suffer from something called “writer’s block,” a psychological condition which causes them to be unable to produce any new material. There are numerous opinions on how to overcome this, but the best way by far, is for the writer to simply start writing! 

You’ve probably noticed something similar in your own life. When you finally get started on something, you get it done much more easily or quickly than you initially planned. In other words, it wasn’t as hard as you thought.

As Laotzu once declared: 

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

So don’t hesitate. Take that first step. And put yourself above and beyond procrastination.

2. Don’t Be Dramatic 

Are you putting off something that would honestly take you 15 minutes to complete?

If so, my advice to you is… just do it!

This will ensure the task is done and that you also stop wasting time fretting and stressing about it.

Personally, I believe that people spend more time procrastinating than they do on completing their tasks. It’s true. Just think of how long you put off washing your car or preparing your tax returns. If you’re like most people, I guarantee that you think for days and weeks about doing these or similar tasks, before actually doing them.

It’s easy to dramatize the things you need to do — but it’s much better to just do them.

3. Schedule Your Time 

Are you in control of your time?

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Whether you answered yes or no to this question, try this test:

You’ve just finished your dinner, and you’re enjoying browsing the latest posts on your favorite social media channel. Suddenly, your partner calls over to you and asks you to help clear up the kitchen.

Do you…

  1. Say you’ll do it in 10 minutes or so.
  2. Put your phone down and get into the cleaning straightaway.
  3. Pull a face and say, “I’m not doing it!”

Hopefully, you didn’t choose option 3! Option 1 is better (at least you’ll get the task done). But, option 2 is the one you should be aiming for if you want to be productive and successful in life.

That’s because it neatly illustrates the power of prioritizing your time. Sure, you want to check your social media feed, but that’s not as important as making sure your kitchen is clean and tidy after your meal.

If you have something you’re procrastinating with, my recommendation is to schedule an hour or so within your calendar to complete it. Google calendar works well for this, as you can set up reminders. Then — when the time comes — dedicate your focus solely to completing your task.  

4. Break It Down 

Often we feel overwhelmed because a task is just too overbearing. In this case, break the task into small, bite-sized chunks that can easily be checked off.

For example, if you have to create a newsletter for your company, don’t be defeated by the scope of the work. Instead break it down:

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  • Decide on table of contents
  • Research on topics
  • Draft the copy
  • Put the copy into layout software
  • Print
  • Distribute

And, here’s the best part of breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones: As you check off each task, you’ll build a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you progressively chip away at your end goal.

Breaking down your tasks can save YOU from breaking down!

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Don’t dwell on the past and how much time you’ve already used up. You won’t get it back; so it’s pointless to despair. Instead, focus on moving forward and doing better next time.

Nobody is perfect, so it’s unfair and unproductive to put yourself down each time you fail. And, remember, you’re not going to defeat your procrastination habit overnight. But, by starting now, you can begin turning the tide in your favor.

Take the tips I’ve shared with you today, and put them into action in your life.

When you do this, you’ll begin to muster up the motivation to tackle the tasks you need to do. And before long, you’ll be caught up with everything, and ready to take on the world!

One final warning about putting off tasks…

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”  — Christopher Parker

Learn more tips about beating procrastination: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Nordwood Themes via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

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3. Still No Action

More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

4. Flicker of Hope Left

You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

5. Fading Quickly

Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

6. Vow to Yourself

Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

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How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

2. Plan

Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

3. Resistance

Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

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What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

4. Confront Those Feelings

Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

5. Put Results Before Comfort

You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

6. Repeat

Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

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Final Thoughts

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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