5 Ways to Break the Procrastination Habit

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Procrastination is a habit that is counter-productive and often difficult to break. Once you get into a pattern of procrastination, it becomes the default way to respond to things that you don’t want to do. Procrastination can also be a learned habit. You put off doing something one time, and it becomes easier to do the next. Soon, you do it without even thinking about it. Fortunately, it’s also a habit you can break.

Get a Better Handle on Why You Procrastinate

The first step toward kicking the procrastination habit is to understand when you are doing it. Identify where and when you procrastinate. Is it at work or at home? Are there certain times of day that you’re more likely to procrastinate? Try to get a better handle on why you’re procrastinating too.

Often, people procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed by a project or don’t feel they’re equipped to handle it. You might have also reached a point in a project that you don’t have the know how or confidence to complete. That’s a sign you need to ask for help. If you’re stuck, think about who you can talk to or what you can do to get unstuck.

Break the Task Down into Smaller Steps

Projects always seem intimidating if you look at them as a whole. Take projects that cause you to procrastinate and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps.

Commit to doing one small step every day until the project is done. Instead of working on the entire thing at once, choose one small task that will lead to another, and then another until your whole project is done. When you do each step, reward yourself by taking a break or treat yourself to a trip to Starbucks. Small steps are always more manageable, and they’re definitely less overwhelming.

Think about the Long-Term Effects of Procrastinating

Procrastinating almost always has consequences, but when you don’t want to do something, you try to push those consequences out of your mind. Instead, face them and write down what could happen if you don’t do something on time. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious about a project at work, putting off that task might make you feel better in the moment. However, it won’t solve the problem and will only lead to more stress later.

Give Yourself an Earlier Deadline

Another way to trick your mind into doing something without procrastinating is to give yourself an earlier deadline. If a project is due in 14 days, give yourself a 1-week deadline. Write that earlier deadline down and hold it in your mind. That way, even if you procrastinate a bit, you’ll still get it finished in time.

Also, make sure you’ve got the right environment for doing your project. Ditch the clutter. If you have a cluttered, disorganized desk, your mind will be cluttered too, and that project will be harder to tackle. Clutter is the enemy of calm and productivity. Get organized!

Check Your Expectations

Another common reason people procrastinate is because their expectations are unrealistically high. You might be a perfectionist who keeps putting off doing something because you must do it perfectly. If you expect everything to be perfect, then it’s probably going to take forever to get started on your task. Give yourself permission to do an “okay” job. You can always improve upon it over time, but you’ll have nothing to work with unless you get started. Know that the most successful people are focused on action rather than perfection.

The Bottom Line

Procrastination is an enemy of performance, productivity, success, and happiness.  It can drain you of time, energy, and motivation, and can even cost your job or business. If you’re a procrastinator, use these steps to face the problem head on. You’ll find that when you don’t procrastinate, you feel better about yourself, and you’re one step closer to breaking the procrastination habit.

References:

  1. “Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination | McGraw ….” mcgraw.princeton.edu/understanding-and-overcoming-procrastination.
  2. “Procrastination | Psychology Today.” psychologytoday.com/us/basics/procrastination.
  3. Svartdal F, Granmo S, Færevaag FS. On the Behavioral Side of Procrastination: Exploring Behavioral Delay in Real-Life Settings. Front Psychol. 2018 May 16;9:746. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00746. PMID: 29867696; PMCID: PMC5964561.

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