How Do You Stop Procrastinating?

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“How do you stop procrastinating?” or “What should you do to overcome this bad habit permanently?” These are some of the questions I have been asked this past week. Many of us have experienced that familiar sensation: a mountain of tasks looms before us, yet we find ourselves drawn to anything but the work at hand.

But what prompts this tendency to procrastinate? Is it simply a matter of laziness? And more importantly, how can we overcome this inclination to evade our responsibilities?

On that note, I would like to write about how to quit procrastinating. There are obvious enemies and subtle ones. Sadly, many people do not even know that procrastinating is an enemy. So, how do you stop procrastinating before it becomes a habit that ruins you?

The approach of an obvious enemy coming against you will likely differ from that of a subtle one. For instance, an obvious enemy attack typically involves direct and overt actions that are easily identifiable. I would like you to take note of the words “easily identifiable.” On the other hand, a subtle enemy may employ more covert tactics that are harder to detect or attribute.

In summary, while obvious enemy attacks are more overt and easier to recognise, subtle enemy attacks can be more insidious and difficult to confront because they operate under the surface, often causing damage over time without immediate detection. That said, where would you place procrastination after reading that second paragraph? And are you a procrastinator?

What Is Procrastination?

Before I answer the question, “How do you stop procrastinating?” let’s take an in-depth look at what procrastination is.

First of all, procrastination is not a feeling. However, it is an active process. It is a behavioural tendency or pattern characterised by delaying or postponing tasks.

However, the emotions associated with procrastination can vary widely, including anxiety, guilt, frustration, boredom, or even temporary relief from avoiding a task. So, while procrastination is not a feeling, the emotions surrounding it can certainly influence our habits.

According to research, a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes about 66 days for a behaviour to become automatic or habitual, but this can vary widely among individuals and habits. So, if you have been procrastinating longer than 66 days, it is safe to conclude that it’s a part of your habit. I suppose you know what it means when they say, “Old habits die hard”?

Well, the good news is that we will give you some detailed steps on how to combat procrastination. It may not be easy to overcome in the twinkle of an eye, but you can with intentionality.

So, in summary, procrastination is simply delaying or postponing tasks or activities, especially those perceived as unpleasant, challenging, or less rewarding, in favour of more enjoyable or more manageable tasks. It involves putting off important tasks until later, often leading to last-minute rushes, increased stress, and lower productivity.

Lastly, procrastination is so subtle that it can take many forms, such as lack of motivation, avoidance, distractions, excuses, perfectionism, and fear of failure.

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Why Do People Procrastinate?

I felt it was necessary to include this because understanding the underlying reasons for procrastination can help individuals develop strategies to overcome it and improve their productivity and well-being.

People procrastinate for various reasons, which can also be influenced by individual differences, situational factors, and psychological tendencies. So, here are some common reasons for procrastination.

• Perfectionism

Some individuals procrastinate because they have excessively high standards and fear that they won’t be able to meet them. They may delay starting a task until conditions are perfect or until they feel they can produce flawless work. Unfortunately, most of the time, they end up not doing the work. So this is one of the reasons why people cannot quit procrastinating.

• Fear of Failure

This is another huge reason people procrastinate, which might sound noble on the outside. The fear of not meeting expectations or making mistakes can be a significant barrier to starting or completing tasks. Procrastination may serve as a way to protect oneself from the perceived negative consequences of failure.

The bottom line is that you will continue procrastinating if you are scared of failure. So, if you are wondering how to solve procrastination, overcome your fear of failure.

• Lack of Motivation

Low motivation or interest in a task can contribute to procrastination. People who don’t feel excited or engaged with a task may struggle to find the energy or drive to start or complete it. But frankly, who hasn’t felt this way before?

This is where self-discipline must come into play. Otherwise, there are many things in this life that we won’t feel like doing but should be done. Self-motivation is essential and should be used at all times.

• Task Aversion

People may procrastinate on tasks that they find boring, unpleasant, or intimidating. The anticipation of discomfort or failure can lead to avoidance behaviour. This is why I mentioned earlier how vital self-motivation is. Furthermore, being accountable is another option we could use to tackle this. Anyway, that will be discussed later under methods to stop procrastinating.

• Poor Time Management

This is another common reason people procrastinate. Difficulty prioritising tasks, setting goals, or managing time effectively can lead to procrastination. Without a clear plan or structure, people may struggle to initiate and complete tasks promptly. Interestingly, in my article 10 Tips To Boost Your Productivity Daily, I discussed various techniques people could use to get the most out of their daily time.

• Distractions

Distractions are inevitable and come in different ways, but letting them take the wheel can be stopped. For instance, smartphones can be turned off if they are a distraction. So, instead of going through your social media or other forms of entertainment, you are more likely to focus and not procrastinate once your phone is off. This is how to avoid procrastination.

• Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed by a large workload or complex tasks can lead to paralysis and avoidance. Breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable steps can help alleviate this overwhelming feeling.

• Impulsivity

Some people have a tendency to act on immediate desires and impulses rather than considering long-term goals or consequences. This impulsivity can lead to procrastination as individuals prioritise short-term gratification over long-term goals. Again, I would strongly advise that we imbibe the habit of being self-disciplined.

Also, avoidance of discomfort is closely linked to this. So, for such people, procrastination can be a coping mechanism to avoid uncomfortable emotions associated with specific tasks, such as stress, boredom, or frustration.

• Low Self-Efficacy

A belief in one’s ability to succeed in a task can impact motivation and productivity. If someone doubts their capabilities, they may procrastinate as a form of self-protection.

• Lack of Structure

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Lastly, without a clear plan or structure, individuals may procrastinate due to uncertainty about how to proceed with a task. So, to deal with procrastination, a structure should be put in place before starting a task.

Effects of procrastination

As you already know, procrastination is a widespread phenomenon. Research indicates that approximately 15% to 20% of adults struggle with it chronically. However, this issue has become even more prevalent among students, where an overwhelming 80%- 90% procrastinate to varying degrees. So, what, then, are the effects of procrastinating?

• Damaged Reputation

I couldn’t think of anything worse than a damaged reputation. Your reputation is who people perceive you to be. In other words, it also means the general opinion or belief different people have about you. Have you heard the phrase, “Your reputation precedes you”? It means that people have already heard of you and formed an opinion about you, whether good or bad.

So, that means if you have the habit of procrastinating and people you have failed in the past get to meet you again, what do you think they will say to others about you? In summary, consistently procrastinating and failing to meet deadlines can damage your personal and professional reputation, leading to strained relationships and lost trust. If you want to be taken seriously, stop procrastinating.

• Missed Opportunites

Another prominent effect of procrastinating is that you will undoubtedly miss opportunities. How? Delaying essential tasks can lead to missed opportunities, whether a job opportunity, a chance to learn something new or a pursue personal goals. So, you never know when your next great opportunity may come, so to get the good results you have always wanted, show up every time. In essence, don’t procrastinate.

• Increased Stress

I know you are probably asking how. Well, you are bound to be stressed seeing that procrastination is a behavioural tendency or pattern characterised by delaying or postponing tasks. So, what do you think will happen when the deadline gets closer?

The truth is that putting off tasks can lead to increased stress and anxiety as deadlines approach, causing a cycle of worry and avoidance. So, to avoid putting yourself under unnecessary stress, do this on time.

• Decreased Productivity

Undoubtedly, if a person is a procrastinator, your level of productivity will reduce because procrastination often results in rushed work or missed deadlines, leading to lower-quality outcomes and decreased productivity in the long run. So, to be more productive, you have to quit procrastinating. For more insight, please read my article, 10 Tips To Boost Your Productivity Daily.

• Financial Consequences

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As I mentioned earlier, procrastination can lead to financial problems, such as late fees for bills or missed opportunities for financial planning and investments. This is worth repeating: How do you expect to pay your bills or have a better financial life?

• Perpetuating Cycles

Procrastination often becomes a habit, creating a cycle where you continually put off tasks, leading to further negative consequences and reinforcing the behaviour. And once people notice this about you, very few will trust you. That also means your relationship will suffer.

• Regret And Unfulfilled Potential

Often, those who love to procrastinate never maximise their potential, and that is the sad reality. Over time, chronic procrastination can lead to feelings of regret and unfulfilled potential, as you may look back and realise the opportunities missed due to putting things off. If you do not want to look back and feel sad, the best thing to do is admit that you have a problem and work towards overcoming it

  • Decreased Creativity

For me, I function best when I am not under pressure. I get very creative when I am at peace. This is one of the reasons I dislike procrastinating. I have learned by experience that procrastination can hinder creativity as the pressure of looming deadlines may stifle creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

  • Negative Impact On Mental Health

Chronic procrastination can contribute to feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and depression, as well as exacerbate symptoms of existing mental health conditions. In such situations, very little good can be produced.

  • Physical Health Consequence; “Health is wealth” is a phrase many of us are familiar with. The stress caused by procrastination can also have physical consequences, such as headaches, insomnia, and weakened immune function.

Having read about procrastination’s effects on an individual, do you still think it is a habit worth having?

How Do You Stop Procrastinating?

If you have been asking, “How do I stop procrastinating?” let’s help you answer that question with practical steps that have proven efficient over time.

1.  Create A Productive Environment

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The wrong environment can dampen the power of productivity, and this is something I have experienced. You shouldn’t expect to be at your best or anywhere close to your best in an environment that says otherwise. There is a reason why offices don’t look like our homes. Have you ever thought about that?

We see this in nature, but we just haven’t taken the time to think in that direction. For instance, if you take a hippo to the top of a mountain and give it a task, chances are the task will never be done. Why? The environment has already defeated the hippo, thereby defeating the task.

In as much as our homes aren’t exactly like our typical offices, there are reasons why there are similarities. The goal is still to get you to be comfortable but with a different mindset so that you can do what is required of you. The human mind has a way of conditioning itself, depending on the kind of environment it finds itself.

So, how do you stop procrastinating? Change your environment to something more productive. Something that will speak to your mind, telling it this task must be done. Creating a productive environment can significantly help you overcome procrastination by minimising distractions, promoting focus, and fostering a mindset conducive to productivity.

So, the next reasonable question is, how should I create a productive environment? You could designate a dedicated workplace. This could be a specific area in your home (seeing that many work from home these days) or an office where you can work without distractions.

Ideally, this space should be separate from areas associated with relaxation or leisure activities. Remember what we talked about: conditioning the mind. If possible, set up a desk or table with comfortable seating and good lighting to support productivity.

Furthermore, organise your materials, control noise levels, and cultivate a positive mindset. By implementing these strategies and creating a supportive environment that fosters focus, motivation, and well-being, you can maximise your productivity and achieve your goals more effectively.

Also, try Experimenting with different approaches to find what works best for you, and be willing to adapt and iterate as needed to optimise your productivity environment over time. This is how to overcome procrastination.

2.  Use Rewards And Incentives

If someone were to ask you, “How do you stop procrastinating?” Would you ever think of telling them to use rewards and incentives? This is another effective way to quit procrastinating. We all want something regardless of our age.

Do you remember when you were younger, when a family member would reward you if you successfully completed a task? Or they would say, “I will get this for you if you…” Sadly, as adults, we feel we are grown and no longer need that method.

If you are struggling with procrastination, why not try this out? Establish rewards for completing tasks or reaching milestones to reinforce positive behaviour. Those rewards will serve as your motivation to get your tasks completed.

So, choose rewards that are meaningful to you and help motivate you to stay on track. Just as some cars need fuel to move, think of your incentives or rewards as your fuel. This is how to get over procrastination quicker than you expected.

3.  Seek Accountability

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How do you stop procrastinating? Seeking accountability can be a powerful strategy for overcoming procrastination because it adds an external motivator and increases your commitment to completing tasks. Many may feel embarrassed, but what’s the harm since the benefits outweigh whatever negative things you think of?

One benefit is that it can increase your commitment to your goals. So, by involving others in your goals, you typically increase your commitment to achieving them.

When you publicly declare your intentions or share your progress with someone else, you’re likelier to follow through because you don’t want to disappoint them or appear unreliable.

Other times, we do this for support. Accountability partners can provide support and encouragement when you feel stuck or unmotivated. We all go through this phase, but they can offer helpful advice, cheer you on when you make progress, and hold you accountable when you’re tempted to procrastinate. This support can boost your confidence and help you overcome obstacles more effectively.

So the next time someone asks you how do you stop procrastinating, refer them to this article.

4.  Start With The Hardest Task

How do you stop procrastinating? Simply start with the most challenging task first. Knowing that the most complicated task is out of the way gives you peace. Who doesn’t like that feeling?

Overall, starting with the most complex task is an effective strategy for overcoming procrastination because it builds momentum, provides psychological satisfaction, clears mental space, focuses on priorities, builds resilience, avoids procrastination traps, and increases productivity.

By confronting complex tasks head-on and embracing challenges with a proactive mindset, you can overcome procrastination and succeed tremendously in your personal and professional endeavours.

Seeing that procrastination is an enemy of success, we must not take it lightly when confronting such matters. So, whatever it takes to overcome procrastination should be employed.

5.  Make A Plan

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How do you stop procrastinating? Make a plan or, better yet, organise your tasks. It is most helpful to do that because it helps give you some sense of direction and purpose. On the other hand, we often procrastinate because we fail to prepare before the tasks.

Another advantage of organizing your tasks is that it helps you establish a structure. This gives you an idea of how to navigate challenges should they arise. So, instead of procrastinating, you find another better alternative. Once more, I ask, how do you stop procrastinating? Make a plan!

In summary, planning provides structure and clarity, which are essential for overcoming procrastination and staying productive. By breaking tasks into smaller steps, setting deadlines, and allocating time effectively, you can reduce procrastination and achieve your goals more efficiently. As your captain, I ask again, how do you stop procrastinating? Make a plan!

6.  Focus Your Attention

There is nothing that we set our hearts to do that we cannot do. That’s the power of focus. Will we encounter challenges on the journey? Yes. In fact, they are a part of it all. However, by using the power of focus, there will be no task that we cannot complete.

Focusing your attention aside from completing the tasks helps you start. Focusing your attention on getting started can help you build momentum and overcome the inertia associated with procrastination.

Once you begin working on a task and experience a sense of progress, it becomes easier to continue and stay motivated to complete the task—all thanks to the power of focus. So, how do you stop procrastinating? You can by using the power of focus.

This is something some of us still struggle with. However, that doesn’t make you less of a person. Can you beat it? Of course, you can if you put your heart into it. When you next feel the urge to procrastinate, remember the adverse effects it will have on you and your relationships, and then do what’s required.

Your well-being is vital to us, which is why we wrote this article. Do you need more like this? Quickly click here to get them. Also, you can follow us on all our social media platforms for more content, and we promise to follow back. Kindly click here for that.

Finally, Christopher Parker once said, “Procrastination is like a credit card: it is a lot of fun until you get the bill.

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Author: Relationship And Life

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