Delay or postpone action; put off doing something.
“The temptation will be to procrastinate until the power struggle plays itself out”
– Dictionary definition
Do you ever dwell over the idea of doing a task you don’t enjoy?
Do you then start to prioritise other tasks and put those first?
If so, you may be a procrastinator. Don’t worry it’s not as horrible as the word sounds, but it’s a bad habit that you need to break.
I had a friend who was a terrible procrastinator. He wouldn’t ever admit to it, but he used to push all tasks back to the last minute.
He would come up with any excuse he could find to avoid doing them. Even becoming ill, and not being able to do the tasks.
But was he really ill, or was it all psychological? I think it was the latter.
Every time he had an assignment to do for his college work he would leave it to the last minute. Often later than the last minute, filing for an extension.
This created a massive amount of pressure, and the work and his mental state suffered as a result. Yet, when given another task he did the same thing.
We all know someone, or many people like this I bet. It’s not uncommon.
In contract, we all know those super organised people too, right?
Assignments are done ahead of schedule. Additional research is done, and the assignments receive high marks.
What separates these two types of people, and how can someone who puts off tasks to the last minute change?
If you’re the procrastinator, the good news is that you can change.
By using a series of habit breaking methods, and applying a positive mind-set and some targeted techniques.
What Is Procrastinating?
In a nutshell, procrastinating is the act of putting a task off until another time.
This might not sound like a big deal, but it can be an incredibly bad habit for some. Causing all kinds of disruption and negative impacts on their lives.
In today’s society there is less time than ever. Along with more tasks to be completed than ever before.
With mobile messages, emails, and people rarely being off the ‘grid’. We have very little time to ourselves, so procrastinating over tasks is becoming a problem for many.
For some, procrastination is a huge hurdle they have to overcome. Some invariably will not be able to do it.
For me it comes under the umbrella of productivity and habits. You need to break the habit of procrastinating. You will become more productive be doing so, and by being more productive you can procrastinate less.
3 Effective Ways to Stop Procrastinating
Break down the Task In-Hand
I big sticking point for people is the feeling of fear and being overwhelmed by an impending task. We can often manifest the idea that the task is impossible, at least to complete in the required time.
Even if it is, is putting it off the right thing to do? You can do some remarkable and surprising things when you hit them head on.
Numerous times I have seen people complete what seemed impossible. You never know what’s going to happen until you start trying.
Who’s to say that once you start the task you won’t discover something else. Something that makes everything possible, or more fun. You’ll never know unless you try.
So the technique here is to break down the task you’re facing into smaller, sub-tasks.
By seeing a series of smaller tasks in front of you, it’s easier to pick at the pieces and start getting some work done. It’s a good idea to make a to-do list too, with each smaller task listed.
You should have a much cleared picture of what work is involved. Any fear of the unknown should disappear, and with clarity and understanding comes confidence.
So jump in and start getting on with the sub-tasks.
Find the Easiest, Smallest Step First
Most people procrastinate because they feel like they cannot complete the task. This is a massive de-motivating factor, we’ve all felt it from time-to-time.
Couple this with the first step being the hardest by far, and you’re stuck in the starting blocks. Once you make that first step however, you will find each subsequent step a little easier.
So how can you make that first step? By finding the smallest and quickest step of the overall task.
For example, if I have a large writing task in front of me and I’m feeling overwhelmed. I will write the sub headings down the page. Then I find the smallest category, or the one I know I can write quickest.
I write that one category up. Next thing I know I’m looking at the page and there’s a chunk of writing completed. Feels great.
Next I pick the next shortest or easiest sub heading to write under. There another piece of the task complete, then the next, and the next.
You get the idea. I’m certain that almost any task can be can be broken down into steps. You have to start somewhere, right?
Reward Yourself with Some Fun
This technique takes some self-control. But I have used it and helped friends to use it, and the results were very effective. It leans on reverse-psychology, so take a moment to think it through.
If you’re procrastinating because you’re upset at all the fun you will be missing out on, how about having some fun? That’s right, why not have the fun first.
If you leave yourself enough time to get the work done properly afterwards, what’s the harm. You need to be honest with yourself, and leave plenty of time to do the task though.
If you need five hours to complete a task for example. Give yourself a five hour time block after you have had your fun. Turn off all distractions, remind yourself you have had your fun, and knuckle down.
You can use this as a massive motivator when done responsibly. Not only are you doing things the way you want, you should be pumped with good energy.
This article only touched on the reasons people procrastinate. There are some other reasons that run a little deeper, such as perfectionism, fear of judgment, fear of success, etc
But the real lesson here is using these techniques to break the fear. If you’re putting tasks off and buying time you’re just cheating yourself.
Grab life by the horns today. Not just today, but now. Face fear in the face and deal with whatever is holding you back.
Remember – it starts with the first, and hardest step. Each step is easier therein.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.