Procrastination is not the same as choosing to begin something at a later time or prioritizing another task, but putting off starting or completing a task that we’ve consciously agreed to do. It doesn’t relate to how capable or smart we are because smart people tend to procrastinate as well. Procrastination is actually a pattern that can be changed by focusing on a positive habit change.
To kick the habit of procrastination and increase your productivity, you need to define certain times in your work day when you must do work, and times when you need to give yourself a break.
Why do people procrastinate?
Take, for example, someone who works a repetitive job they don’t like. They may procrastinate to alleviate boredom or reduce task-related anxiety by taking a break and indulging their impulses to do things that they find more interesting. However, the effect is only temporary and, in the long term, procrastinators tend to perform less well on tasks than they would have otherwise, creating even more problems down the road.
The most common reasons for procrastination are anxiety, fear of failure, fear of success (when we’re unconsciously or consciously conflicted about achieving a goal), lack of confidence that we actually have the ability to complete the task, and having difficulties with breaking the main goal into smaller tasks.
How to break the cycle of procrastination?
1. Grab a planner
We commit to doing something when we write it down, so you’d better start writing. Write down your assignments, work commitments, and even plans with friends, which will allow you to know what you need to and when you have time to get things done. If you prefer electronics to paper, a smartphone app will work fine too.
2. Organize better
Organization is crucial to success and, luckily, it’s a learned skill rather than something you’re born with. Start by decluttering your workspace and going paperless (which is a major source of clutter). You can use gadgets, like the Dymo LabelWriter 450 Turbo (click here for our AU readers!), for cutting down on paper by using the label writer to print address labels or postage. Take your daily habits into account and work with them, because your failed organizing attempts may be the result of meeting too much resistance from yourself.
3. Schedule appointments and assign due dates for each task.
It’s always harder to assign a due date once you’re in charge, so always keep that in mind when deciding when each goal is due. In order to figure out how much time you have available to finish each task, work your way backwards. Schedule regular appointments to work on your tasks and assign deadlines to complete each one. As you wouldn’t want to cancel the meeting with your boss or your child’s teacher, treat the appointments with yourself with the same urgency.
4. Larger goals should be broken into smaller tasks
This point is more important than you may think because the path towards your goal is less overwhelming when we break things into smaller, manageable parts. Also, this provides opportunities for small victories, and each one of them brings us the acknowledgment that we’re capable of doing things ourselves. So instead of writing “Develop an app,” try writing “Sketch out an app,” “Create a storyboard,” “Define app backend,” “Test prototype,” etc. It’s easier to wrap our brains around tackling smaller issues and it helps stem the overwhelm.
5. Play some music
Every rhythm has a structure, and we need structure to get things done. Music can help you anticipate, initiate, plan, but also regulate and soothe the brain. Create a 60-minute playlist of music you love, and play it every time you sit down to work. This will get your brain in the work mindset by signaling that whenever this music plays, it’s time to work!
6. Limit computer time
There are computer apps that can help you block distracting websites for a set amount of time. If you can’t resist surfing on the web or social media when it’s time to work, this will help you limit your computer time to remain focused. If you treat your leisure computer time as a reward, you’ll have something to look forward to when your tasks are accomplished.
7. Reward and forgive yourself
Speaking of rewards, when a task is completed, you should have a small celebration. Reward yourself with a smoothie, a magazine, or whatever is on your reward list. Also, if you feel angry with yourself when you procrastinate, learn to forgive yourself. The problem can only be made worse with all the negativity, so stop beating yourself up.
Procrastination happens to all of us. We’ve said many times, “I’ll get to it when I get the chance,” but the chance never arrives. However, we can all override this tendency with a few positive habits. Do your best to improve your organizational skills, write your goals down, break them down into smaller chunks, and limit the time you spend on Facebook. Also, stop being too hard on yourself and don’t let perfectionism get in your way. Start applying yourself the right away and you’ll kick procrastination to the curb.
What are you going to do THIS WEEK to kick procrastination to the curb? Tell us in the comments!
About the Author:
Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor to highstylife.com.