Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 10, 2020

5 Tips To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed And Overcome Procrastination

5 Tips To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed And Overcome Procrastination

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?

Advertising

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 ending overwhelm, 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: 

Advertising

“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?

Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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

More on Beating Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Nordwood Themes via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success Having Trouble Reaching Goals? This Could Be Why How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow 2 Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 3 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life 4 How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough 5 9 Daily Habits That Will Change Your Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

Advertising

Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

Advertising

Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

Advertising

It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

Advertising

Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

    Read Next