You have a crucial task to get done, and the deadline is quickly approaching. Yet somehow, you haven’t even started yet. Now you’re completely overwhelmed — which causes you to delay the task even further.
If you’ve ever experienced procrastination, you know how challenging it can be to get past your own brain’s hurdles and get stuff done.
Procrastination can have a huge impact on your life and career, especially for tasks you need to do over a long period. If you want to stop procrastinating, but have no idea how to fight against your own self, here are eight steps to help you conquer the problem and become more productive.
Procrastination happens when you postpone tasks that you should be doing right now. Part of you knows that you should be working on a specific task, but procrastination causes you to act against your own better judgment.
If you've felt this, you're not alone. In fact, 25% of adults say that procrastination is one of their defining personality traits.
In the workplace, this can take various forms, including:
However, putting something off is only considered procrastination when you don’t benefit from doing so. For example, if you’re putting off a crucial task because you need to talk to your manager about something important, this isn’t necessarily procrastination.
According to a study, 94% of people say procrastination has a negative impact on their happiness. So, why do we do it?
Procrastination typically comes from feeling overwhelmed or anxious about the task you’re avoiding. When the timing causes procrastination, it usually means that the consequences for completing this task won’t happen until much later in the future.
Some demotivating factors include:
Want to take steps to stop procrastinating? Here are eight ways you can start reducing your procrastination habits, whether you deal with chronic procrastination or simply tend to push things back from time to time.
You can change things around in your life to avoid future procrastination. It’s all about understanding when you typically procrastinate. When you design your life so that it doesn’t invite procrastination, it will be more difficult to fall into the habit automatically.
Note the moments where you tend to procrastinate the most. Then brainstorm ways in which you could stop yourself from putting off these tasks. For example, let’s say you tend to look at your phone when notifications ring at work. Suppose this turns into several minutes of mindlessly scrolling through your notifications instead of continuing your task. In that case, you can try turning off notifications on your phone during moments where you want to focus.
You can also use a browser tool, like Procrastinator, that allows you to block specific websites or social media platforms during set times. This can be effective if you reflexively open up Facebook while you’re doing research online.
It’s easier to get work done if you’re organized and aware of all your to-dos.
One way to get more work done is to use a planning app on your phone. You could also start using a paper planner if that’s what you prefer. With your planning medium of choice, you can start keeping track of all your tasks and due dates in a to-do list.
In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed when it’s time to tackle large tasks, break down these daunting tasks into smaller, bite-sized to-dos that seem less intimidating.
Next, you can plan out a schedule for how you’ll get these smaller tasks done in the next hour or two. For example, if you have to write up your resume, you can break it down into the following small tasks:
If the rewards or negative outcomes of completing (or not completing) the task are far in the future, you can make changes to create short-term, immediate consequences instead.
That’s because you’re less likely to want to do the task right away if the consequences aren’t as immediate. You can reward yourself while doing a task by pairing it with something you love. This only works if you don’t reward yourself with these fun activities outside of doing the unwanted tasks.
For example, you can reward yourself with some takeout, but only when you’ve applied to the huge list of jobs you’ve bookmarked. Or, you can decide that you’ll only listen to your favorite podcast when you’re finally catching up on a mundane task at work, like weekly data entry.
Avoid feeling too overwhelmed or exhausted by taking proactive breaks while you’re working on a task.
At least once every hour, take some time to walk around, drink some water, and stretch it out. This will reinvigorate your body and make sure that you’re better able to focus when you come back to the task after the break.
The amount of time you allow for your break should depend on your situation. Even if you’re not tired yet, take those breaks so that you can avoid exhaustion and keep your mental health in check.
If you control your daily schedule at work, tackle the task you are dreading first thing in the morning. People call this "eating the frog."
You’re still full of motivation in the morning and haven’t been drained by other tasks yet. That is why this is the perfect time to get it over with. Your frog should be deep work that requires you to focus all your attention. Because you’re still fresh in the morning, it will be easier to focus than if you were to push this task out into the late afternoon.
If you’re tempted to skip this task and leave it for later, think from the point of view of your future self. You know your future self will likely be more tired than you are now toward the end of the day. Your future self won’t be more motivated to eat the frog than you are now.
Do yourself a favor and get your important tasks done while you are at your best.
The Pomodoro technique works well because it creates short increments of work and protects you from distractions.
Here’s how to do it:
You must take that long break so that you feel refreshed to go again afterward. Don’t skip it!
Let someone know when you have a big, important task you need to complete. This person can hold you accountable to complete the task.
Instead of arguing only against yourself, you’ll have another person reminding you that you need to get this done. When you’re arguing against yourself, you can twist your own words and convince yourself that you’re wrong, but this will be harder to pull off when arguing against your accountability partner.
This is especially important if you’re procrastinating while working from home because no one sees you working. You don’t have the possible consequence of your boss looking over your shoulder and seeing you looking at cat videos on Youtube.
Get someone else from work to check in with you during the day via the communication tool used at your job. You can set this up every hour at first if you need more reminders, but you can ease up and check in less often as time goes by.
If you have a task that you have to complete, but no outside forces are pressuring you to finish at a certain time, give yourself a deadline. Add consequences so that the deadline has some weight. Otherwise, it’s not a real deadline.
For example, tell yourself that you need to look at job boards daily before 10 AM or you can’t watch your favorite tv show that day. You can also add deadlines to smaller milestones in a big project. This is important if you’re in charge of a bigger task at work that has a deadline, but without smaller deadlines throughout the process.
If you don’t give yourself deadlines to complete important milestones, you’ll be stuck doing everything last minute. You may end up turning in a project late or completing it at sub-par quality.
The more focused you can be while you work, the more you’ll be able to get done without procrastinating. Remember not to do this alone if procrastination is a big problem for you.
You can connect with other like-minded people in the Jobcase community to help you reach new heights in your work life. Join in on the conversation today!