How to Stop Procrastinating

Anna Leszczynska, Lead Talent Development Specialist, shares her personal powerful strategies to alter your mindset to remain focused and stop procrastinating.

What is procrastination?

Most of us procrastinate. No, ALL of us procrastinate. You have a deadline looming, however, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs, and forums.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines "procrastination" as "the act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring." You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier. Sounds familiar?

One of the fundamental aspects of overcoming procrastination is recognizing and acknowledging that it is a habit that can be changed. It's crucial to understand that procrastination is not an inherent trait but rather a behavior we acquire over time. To delve into the topic of habits further, I highly recommend reading the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear. To better understand procrastination, watch this TED talk by Tim Urban.

Why do people procrastinate?

Procrastination often becomes a habitual response to situations or tasks that trigger discomfort, uncertainty, or anxiety. We find ourselves repeatedly putting off important responsibilities, opting for short-term gratification over long-term goals, or engaging in avoidance behaviors. In such cases, it is critical to be brutally honest with ourselves and ask, "Why am I not tackling this task right now?"

Self-reflection is the key to discovering the reasons behind our procrastination tendencies. Take the time to examine your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors when faced with tasks or responsibilities.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Fear of failure or perfectionism: Do you hesitate to start a task because you fear not meeting high standards, whether your own or others'? Are you constantly striving for perfection, feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to deliver flawless results?
  • Lack of motivation or interest: Are you genuinely interested in the task at hand? Do you struggle to find the intrinsic motivation necessary to get started?
  • Task aversion or overwhelm: Do certain tasks trigger feelings of boredom, monotony, or overwhelm? Are you unsure where to begin or how to approach complex or large projects?
  • Time management or planning difficulties: Do you struggle with organizing your time effectively? Are you prone to underestimating the time required for tasks or tend to procrastinate due to poor planning?
  • Distractions or lack of focus: Are external distractions, such as social media or environmental factors, hindering your ability to concentrate? Do you find it challenging to maintain focus for extended periods?

By honestly assessing these factors, you can gain valuable insight into your specific reasons for procrastination. Armed with this knowledge, you can choose the most efficient strategies for yourself.

10 techniques to stop procrastinating

Now, considering the reasons described above, let's explore some techniques that have consistently worked wonders for me:

Fear of failure or perfectionism

  • Set realistic expectations: Understand that perfection is unattainable and focus on progress rather than flawless outcomes.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Divide larger tasks into manageable chunks to make them less overwhelming and easier to approach.
  • Embrace imperfections: Recognize that mistakes are part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth.

Lack of motivation or interest

  • Find intrinsic motivation: Identify the underlying purpose or value of the task and connect it to your personal goals or values.
  • Set rewards and incentives: Establish small rewards for completing specific milestones or tasks to enhance motivation and create a sense of achievement.

Task aversion or overwhelm

  • Prioritize and plan: Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable components and prioritize them based on importance and urgency.
  • Use time blocking: Allocate dedicated time slots in your schedule for specific tasks to ensure focused attention and prevent overwhelm.

Time management or planning difficulties

  • Use productivity techniques: Implement time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique or timeboxing to structure your work and allocate time effectively.
  • Create a schedule or to-do list: Plan your tasks and set specific deadlines to keep track of your progress and stay organized. Transfer your to-do list to your calendar.

Distractions or lack of focus

  • Minimize distractions: Identify and eliminate or reduce distractions in your environment, such as turning off notifications or finding a quiet workspace.

Remember, these strategies may not work the same for everyone, so it's essential to experiment and find what works best for you. Adapt and customize these techniques to suit your specific needs and circumstances.

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