Whether it’s a particularly dreaded task or a recurring issue, procrastination can be emotionally draining. It’s something we rarely do it without guilt. We punish ourselves for procrastinating and stress over the looming tasks, which only makes the obstacle appear even more unsurmountable.
Procrastination is usually born of fear. There’s an instinctual drive to protect yourself from discomfort and hurt. We fear failure and rejection. The more important the task, the greater the risk.
You can tell yourself that if you put it off, maybe one day it’ll get easier or eventually it’ll go away but that’s so very rarely the case. Procrastination is just putting off the inevitable. If you can overcome your tendency to procrastinate, you’ll find a sense of satisfaction and peace of mind on the other side.
DON’T STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
When you get hung up on being perfect, nothing is ever good enough. You may begin something over and over again but never reach your idea of perfection and, thus, never reach the end. Perfection can make a task grow so large that the mere thought of it becomes overwhelming. You’re now intimidated at the idea of working on it so you procrastinate. They’re a challenging duo, perfectionism and procrastination, but can be overcome if you focus on changing your standards. Decide what is good enough for you, without being perfect. Try to keep your inner critic on silent. You can fine-tune things later — the goal right now is just to make progress and, hopefully, get something done.
CREATE A PLAN
When life gets hectic, there are some people that charge forward and take control. But for many of us, the stress of it feels overwhelming. We don’t know where to start so we don’t start anything. If this kind of procrastination sounds familiar, begin just by getting organized. Don’t just create a big long to-do list — it’ll just keep you feeling stressed. Instead, use categories like “career”, “self”, “family” or “school”. You can be as broad or specific as you need to be. Then, write out what you need to do under each heading. After that, consider your priorities. Which of these to-do’s is most timely? What has to be done now and what can wait? Can anything be delegated to someone else or eliminated if unnecessary? Now, re-order your lists in priority sequence and add in some deadlines. It’s all too easy to put off tasks without deadlines, even if those due dates are self-imposed. With your prioritized to-do list and deadlines, you can build yourself a schedule. Put it in a planner or on a calendar — somewhere visible and easy to access — and start taking things one day at a time.
TAKE SMALL STEPS
If some big task is looming before us, it can be hard to dive right in. If you want to clean your entire house, you have to start with one room. Similarly, if you’ve got a project you’re procrastinating on, breaking it down into smaller parts can make it easier to approach. Say your basement is a mess and you’ve been putting off plans to de-clutter and organize, you can’t expect yourself to just jump in and do it all in one go. Instead, divide the basement up into sections and make a plan for how and when you’ll deal with each one. Still overwhelmed? Break those small steps up even smaller!
SET A TIME LIMIT
So, there’s a super important thing you have to do but you can’t seem to stop procrastinating over it. If breaking into smaller steps isn’t helping, try setting a time limit. Tell yourself that you only have to work on it for 15 minutes. Set a timer and take a break after 15 minutes, even if you’re on a roll. Don’t overdo and lose steam. If 15 minutes is too long, start with five or 10. Once 15 minutes starts to feel easier, increase it to a half hour.
Once you’re crossing things off your to-do list, chances are you’ll start to feel that awesome sense of accomplishment. Yet, that satisfaction might not be quite enough to keep your motivation going. If you need an extra push, attach a reward to completing particular tasks. When you get something done, buy yourself a treat or simply allow yourself to enjoy a favorite activity, guilt-free. Make the scope of the task match the reward — a small reward for short, simple tasks and bigger rewards for your big goals. Instead of putting off whatever it is, focus on the reward that awaits you at the finish line.
Don’t make it easy to procrastinate. For instance, you’re sitting at home, in front of your computer, trying to update your resume. Sounds simple enough but if you’ve also got the TV on, are texting with a friend, and reading the news online, that update is going to take hours. It’s not exactly an enjoyable task and those distractions only further our procrastination. Turn off the TV, disconnect your Wi-Fi and put away your cell phone. If that doesn’t work, try a change in your environment. A new venue can also help you avoid those procrastination pit-stops. Bring your laptop to the library or a café, grab a notebook at sit outside in nature, or designate a room in your home as a distraction-free workspace.