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Published on August 5, 2019

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

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 December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

More to Boost Your Motivation

Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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