Procrastination defines as:
“the act or habit of putting off or delaying, especially something that must be done or something that requires immediate attention.”
I often heard people say their habit to procrastinate has caused issues or delayed their progress in life. As much as they are aware of this, they still find it hard to overcome this challenge. Have you ever said to yourself, “why can’t I stop procrastinating and just get it done??”
Why do you procrastinate?
According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of Psychology at DePaul University, “everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator. Around 20% of US adults are chronic procrastinators.” Before we come up with the strategies to overcome procrastination, let’s first identify some possible causes behind it.
1. Fear, period!
Consciously or subconsciously, are you fearful of failures, criticisms or the unknowns? Fear is the #1 cause for most people I meet, and it functions as a protective mechanism from potential risks and failures at the cost of advancing in life at all, let along succeeding in what is desired.
For some, it’s hard to make a move forward because they expect all conditions, resources and timing to be aligned perfectly in order to achieve the perfect outcome. A study done by University of Sheffield in 2017 shows that perfectionists and procrastinations go well together most of the times.
3. Lack of motivation or self-control
Motivation gives you energy to engage with your dreams, and self-control gives your orders to follow through. You can read more about motivation on my old blogpost “how motivation helps in achieving goals.”
4. Lack of instant gratification, reward or enjoyment
These days, everything in this world seems to drive us to be less patient and expect the outcome of efforts to be quick or instant. Quite a contrary, success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal. Without an on-going commitment to the future success with a renewed mindset and daily effort, nothing worthwhile will come our way.
5. Insufficient skills and resources
If you don’t have the needed skills to complete tasks at hand, you most likely will put them off to avoid an unavoidable failure.
6. Analysis paralysis
Overanalyzing or overthinking sometimes can become a comfort zone that you don’t want to step out of, which slowly makes you feel overwhelmed resulting in procrastination.
7. Physical and mental health condition
Your physical and mental conditions, whether it is low energy, fatigue, depression or anxiety, certainly have a lot to do with your activity or inactivity.
8. Unclear or unrealistic goals and deadlines
If your goals and deadlines aren’t clear, specific, or realistic, there would be less to no motivation for you to even get started. Ultimately, you will leave tasks untouched and unfinished.
9. Time management
Distractions, underestimate time needed for tasks, or the inability to prioritize tasks are some of the reasons you put things off. When you realize you don’t have as much time as you thought, it can also cause you to scramble resulting in giving up all together.
10. Simply being… lazy
Do I need to say more?
How to overcome your procrastination?
Below are my 10 recommended strategies for overcoming procrastination.
1. Self-examination and self-assessment
Be honest with yourself, acknowledge it when procrastination takes place, and figure out the reasons that cause the delay of your action.
2. Focus on your why
Your why is a key element behind motivation and action. When you commit to your why, you are speaking directly to the part of the brain that controls your behavior and helps you get into actions.
3. Set clear and realistic goals and deadlines
Asking too much of yourself or being unrealistically aggressive can lead you to procrastination. Break down the big tasks into smaller, achievable and manageable chunks. Start small, and set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals, which will help you prioritize and measure your success along the way.
4. Determine Urgency vs Importance
When you have a long daunting list of tasks in hand, Eisenhower’s urgent vs important matrix is a powerful tool to help you prioritize, increase production and therefore reduce the risk of procrastination. Look at your tasks, categorize them, and always tackle the important and urgent tasks first.
5. Have a plan of action and follow through
Gandhi said, “All good thoughts and ideas mean nothing without action.” I don’t think he meant having thoughts and ideas are not important; rather, I believe he emphasized the importance of taking action. Nothing comes to fruition without actions.
6. Make it fun, enjoyable, and meaningful
It could be demoralizing to some of you if you see what’s ahead of you is nothing but work and work only. Stir up some passions of yours, make it enjoyable and envision the benefits and possible outcome beyond the work itself.
7. Adjust/Manage your environment
Another way to help avoid procrastination is to remove the triggers of your procrastination; these can include anything that may distract and tempt you away from your tasks at hand. If the constant alert notifications on your phone is a big distraction, turn it on silence mode and put it in another room while you perform the needed tasks.
8. Be mindful and be gracious to yourself
It’s impossible to perform perfectly every day. As hard as you work to avoid procrastination, give yourself the needed grace when you have a setback. Be mindful of setbacks, and when they happen, allow yourself a pause, evaluate, get motivated and move forward again.
9. Reward yourself
Promise to reward yourself after committing and completing each milestone. Rewarding yourself not only marks the accomplishments, it is a great confidence booster and a great source of motivation for the future.
10. Find a partner
Find someone who will help you stay on track of your plan and check in on progress without being judgmental or creating unnecessary stress. Your regular check-ins with your partner will motivate, encourage and keep you focused and on track for your success.
Everyone procrastinates from time to time. According to Dr. Piers Steel, as a matter of fact, “95% of people procrastinate at some time or other.” It’s definitely a more widespread problem than you may think. However, procrastination is the thief of your time and dreams. So, when you find that procrastination is affecting your productivity, relationships and/or mental health, remember to apply the above strategies. It’s my sincere wish that this blogpost will help you overcome your procrastination and take actions toward the list of tasks you’ve been contemplating for some time.
About Faye Weng
Your Online Life and Career Coach
Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.