Overcoming procrastination: Are you a procrastinator? 20 tips to stop postponing your tasks
Can’t stop postponing important projects or delaying tasks? In this article we explain what is procrastination, causes, consequences, advantages and disadvantages and overcoming procrastination. Don’t miss the 20 tips to overcoming procrastination.
Overcoming Procrastination: What does it mean to procrastinate?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, to procrastinating is delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring. Who doesn’t like postponing a task when you are not in the mood? It doesn’t matter if you have to fix the garage door, write a paper, answer an email, clear up a misunderstanding or any other task that you’re not looking forward to doing. Distractions are around every corner. When is the last time you stopped what you were doing to answer a text, have a snack, or check in on social media?
These situations may sound familiar (you might even be procrastinating right now!). Most of us have wished, one time or another, that we hadn’t given in into the procrastination, but instead finished the project and slept soundly the night before the deadline. Discover how to avoid regrets and overcome procrastination.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” -Benjamin Franklin
Overcoming Procrastination: Procrastination Causes
The causes for procrastination spend a representative part of our life procrastinating are various and inherent to human nature. There is a lot of variability between people when it comes to the frequency they procrastinate, but working without interruptions is almost impossible.
Some people are more people prone to procrastination than others. For some people, this is a small, momentary occurrence (these are called false procrastinators), while others end up wasting hours procrastinating. Luckily, we’ll teach you about overcoming procrastination.
The causes for procrastinating may vary. However, the most common causes for procrastination are boredom, difficulty concentrating, tiredness, lack of motivation, fear of failure, or a number of others.
Have you ever met anyone who has never procrastinated? The answer is, probably not. It’s easier to watch videos on YouTube or check your Facebook than it is to do something that you don’t want to do. Sometimes, we might even have great motivation to start a new task, but postponed it because we don’t know where to start or out of fear of disappointing ourselves with the result.
Even though we know that dividing tasks into smaller tasks is a great strategy or starting projects calmly, sometimes you get too worked up about the project itself and can’t even get through the first part.
We usually think of technology as a time-saver. The computer has made it possible to type clearer and quicker than a typewriter, and the internet has given us access to millions of websites and information that earlier generations never had. However, even though the idea of technology is mainly to save time, it has ended up often times leading to or helping procrastination. The readily-available access to the latest viral video or keeping in touch with friends has never been easier.
- Guilt: It’s common to have thoughts such as “I shouldn’t have wasted this much time”.
- Stress: When facing the pile of tasks we have left behind because of procrastination, signs and symptoms of stress start showing to remind us the urgency to start the tasks.
- Lower efficiency: If most of the hours are spent online or procrastinating, valuable time from the task at hand will be wasted. Less efficiency produces lower attention span and lower motivation.
- Angry coworkers or superiors: People don’t like other people messing with their productivity or work. This usually generates criticism and disapproval. In the worst cases, it can even lead to a suspension at work or losing your job.
- Shame: Peer judgment can cause people to be ashamed. This negative self-evaluation and the desire to hide can cause the interruption of different tasks and can lead to mental health issues.
- Procrastination Spiral: Not receiving incentives at work, even while not being productive, can cause procrastination to become a habit. This can lead to a spiral of self-reprimands, self-hate, low self-esteem and low self-efficacy.
Procrastination doesn’t only happen at work. It also common in our daily lives. We can procrastinate when taking a step forward in our personal relationships or even joining a gym to improve our health. Let’s evaluate the two main areas where it’s common to procrastinate.
Procrastination in the workplace is a common habit and can become a serious problem. Using corporate e-mail for non-work-related topics, making personal phone calls during work hours, and dedicating time to irrelevant task can take us further away from our work objectives. The company may start losing money and you may have a hard time advancing at the company.
It has been shown that taking a short break every one in a while can actually improve productivity. It’s fine to let yourself have a few minutes of dedicate time to disconnect, but it’s important always keep it under control so that these short pauses don’t become a habit in the workplace.
How does procrastination affect school? Many times the subjects we have to learn in school are not appealing or are hard to understand. Sometimes we hear people saying “I studied all night for the exam, but still got an ‘F’”. It’s probably because they sit through class distracted and not concentrating, and then try to learn all of the material in one night. Procrastinating until last minute usually leads to forgetting what we studied and no significant knowledge is retained. (Need some tips on how to improve your memory?)
Good study habits are part of the keys to success for any student and future professional. Academic procrastination can hinder the student progress and give the wrong impression that studying is not the path. The student can have many negative feelings that slow motivation and their academic development.
In this video, Tim Urban, author of Wait But Why, gives a fun Ted Talk lecture on procrastination, its causes, and consequences.
20 tips for Overcoming Procrastination
We are amazed when people finish all their tasks and still have time to do several different activities (gym, dance lessons, etc). How are these people so organized? Are they better than us?
Given that they don’t have superpowers, it’s possible that they manage to overcome procrastination.
You can also become one of these superheroes today! Below you’ll see some of tips and advice on overcoming procrastination and avoiding unnecessary distractions.
1. Remember: without effort, nothing is possible
There are no special tricks that will allow us to finish the task in less time. However, we can choose our attitude towards our responsibilities and how we act when faced with them. One tip is to stop viewing our tasks as obligations and take them on as challenges This way, you’ll be more motivated and satisfied once they’re completed.
2. Write down your priorities
If we start off our day thinking we need to do laundry, clean the dishes, write your 20-page paper, and make it to the gym, it would be quite stressful and you might end up not knowing where to start. However, if we lay out all our tasks and prioritize them it’s easier to tackle them and reach our goals.
3. Be a realist
It’s less probable to become a fluent Spanish speaker in two weeks when you are just a beginner, and it’s hard to do something to the best of your ability if you don’t have clearly defined goals. This is why it’s very important to not only know your goals, but also establish tasks that are attainable. It’s also paramount to know how to delegate tasks to others if convenient.
4. Remember what are your motivations
It’s absolutely necessary to know what we wish to accomplish. It’s important to lay out the steps to your goals so there’s no room for ambiguity. You can write these steps down on post-its or on your phone- the important thing is that it doesn’t remain a fantasy in your head, but that it actually becomes a reality.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail
Overcome your fear of failure. Many goals are reached by trial and error. In problem-solving it’s important to try different paths to find the best outcome. Failure allows us to come up with creative solutions and challenges us to be better.
On the other hand, if you don’t feel satisfied with a task or it doesn’t make you happy, it’s fine to abandon it. The important thing is to make that decision calmly and not out of frustration or fear.
6. Plan your tasks
It’s not only about planning and not starting the task. We need to ask ourselves questions such as, what are the relevant tasks, how difficult is it, how much time will it take, etc. It’s important to divide each task into smaller tasks in order to not miss anything and tackle the objective with precision.
For example: If you want to get a driver’s license, it’s not enough to think “someday I will pass the test” or “I would love to go for a spin in my new car”. In order to overcome procrastination, you have to take your driver’s ed class, go to and participate in class, study around a specific time, etc. Set small goals that serve as guidance to an ultimate objective.
7. Set a time frame
This is a complicated task for a professional procrastinator. However, we can try to trick our minds with different deadlines ahead of schedule, allowing for a grace period to correct mistakes.
8. Reflect on your acts and emotions
If you stop for a moment after each day to reflect what you have accomplished and what is still pending, then you will have an overview of what task you have for the next day. Meditating on our emotions can help you deal with them accordingly, elevate your self-control and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Procrastinators tend to postpone tasks and not realize all the work they have accumulated. Therefore, reflecting can be a great tool to understanding and optimize our work habits.
9. Reward yourself for a job well done
After taking a look at all that you’ve gotten done, you’ll feel good (and maybe even surprised!). Give yourself a reward; an ice-cream, tickets to a concert, a trip, or whatever it is that you enjoy. Awareness of our positive outcomes raises our self-esteem and our self-efficacy.
10. Try to have fun with your job
We don’t always have our dream job or like everything in our school curriculum. However, making a “pros” list of the perks of working there, adapting the work environment to our liking and focusing on the positive aspects of the job are key aspects to overcome procrastination. Even starting tasks that seem difficult may sometimes surprise you and turn out to be better than you thought.
11. Make time to rest
Working while exhausted is counterproductive because it encourages procrastination. It’s important to sleep enough and at appropriate times of the night. Take into account that sleeping well improves your memory.
12. Take breaks
Even if we have a short deadline it’s important to take a few minutes away from the task at hand. This allows us to see our mistakes more clearly or find creative solutions to the problem. Nevertheless, it’s important to establish a concrete amount of time for our breaks, because if we don’t it can lead to endless procrastination time.
13. Keep a constant time for meals
Work or study schedules can vary enough for us to eat at different times each day, but it’s important to try to keep our meals at a constant hour of the day each day. Overcoming procrastination means keeping snack breaks under control.
14. Keep your desk clean
If we have our car keys, postcards from a friend in Cancun, notes, new socks, colorful markers and a mix of miscellaneous objects on your desk, it’s more likely you will procrastinate or spend more time looking for things you need.
Making tidying up a habit is complicated for those who are not used to it, yet it’s never late to learn to organize your belongings. Overcoming procrastination starts with organizing our workspace to make it more comfortable for us.
15. Remove distractions from your view
It’s not enough to work in a tidy space that allows us to concentrate. You also have to know what elements are more prone to distract us and remove them from our view. For example, close unnecessary tabs from your computer put your phone on the other side of the room. Not seeing these elements help overcome procrastination by not allowing us to divide our attention.
16. Don’t get distracted speaking to others
It’s important to have social interactions, but it’s also imperative to concentrate at work. Therefore, when speaking to coworkers try to keep it short and to the point. Due to the fact that social support is fundamental for task accomplishment, your friends and family will understand if you keep to yourself while you’re working. Posting your work objectives on social media will help you overcome procrastination since others will not interrupt until work time is over.
17. Silence your phone
Phones are the most frequent distractions nowadays. When our attention is spent reviewing our personal social media or watching videos on Snapchat, our levels of procrastination increase. It’s important to distance ourselves from our phone or put it on airplane mode in order to overcome procrastination.
18. Find your own method
You can combine the techniques and tips we have given you and even discard those that are not suited for you. The main idea behind overcoming procrastination is adapting each strategy to our personalities. Trying different tips will help you create your personal plan for overcoming procrastination.
19. Don’t excessively punish yourself for procrastinating
In order for overcoming procrastination to become a reality, it’s important to not focus on past procrastination but instead in the future. If we spend all of our time online shopping rather than working, the main thing is not to punish ourselves for it, but instead focus on the task at hand and dedicate a bit more time to finishing it. Deciding how to face future tasks differently and our attitude towards the future is part of overcoming procrastination.
20. Consult with a professional of you need extra help
Procrastination can be a sign of avoidance due to other psychological problems such as depression or anxiety. If you consider you have been procrastinating too much and start to notice it’s taking a toll on your life, we suggest that you see someone who can help give you advice and tips to overcome your procrastination.
If procrastinating has become an obstacle for your professional and personal development and growth, a psychologist may help identify and work on the underlying problem, therefore helping overcome procrastination.
Advantages of procrastination
We have now focused on the disadvantages of procrastination and how it makes our life more difficult. Nonetheless, we don’t want to leave you entirely thinking negatively about this habit. Procrastination can have its benefits.
- It’s necessary to feel pressured: When the deadline is on top of us it’s usually when we give it our best.
- Procrastination can give us time to think: Interrupting a task can help us realize the path we took was not the correct one or not the right one for us. Distancing from the job is important to view it from a different perspective.
- Encourages creativity: Drawing a doodle may help us associate a new idea with our task and review our standpoint.
- Allows amusement: Dedicating time to activities that make us happy allows us to be more productive. The idea is for this not to be excessive and to create a balanced with our responsibilities.
Definitely, the main idea is that controlled procrastination does not impact our lives negatively.
Thanks for reading. Do you feel you need to start overcoming procrastination today or realized you have procrastination under control? Feel free to comment below.
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.