How to Stop Procrastinating (Finally)
We’ve all been there. Again and again. If we could just learn how to stop procrastinating, our lives would be so much easier.
We wouldn’t be pulling an all-nighter before hitting the submit button at precisely 11:59 pm, before crashing on the bed fully clothed until the horrible alarm goes off, causing us to jolt out of bed and hurry breathlessly back to the office with one shoe on, only to realize, of course, that we have missed the first 20 minutes of that super important team meeting.
This happens to the best of us. But you know what? It’s very likely that you might find yourself in similar situations in the future. Why? Because of human nature. And, because, all things considered, it wasn’t all that bad after all. Because you survived it all. You might seem stressed out, tired, dizzy, sick, out of breath, impatient, cursing yourself, or sweating, but just for a short period of time. Yet despite the unpleasantness, here you are, still standing. Storm weathered. Which is the reason breaking the habit of procrastination is so incredibly difficult. How to stop procrastinating seems nearly impossible. So, how to stop it once and for all? Only you know the answer. But exploring the following causes and possible solutions might help you resolve it.
I still have plenty of time to do it. The deadline is months away. It’s not a priority. I don’t have time for this right now. Sounds familiar? Lack of time is a brilliant excuse because no one can argue with it, hence its popularity. There will always be something more pressing, urgent, or important to come up. It’s up to you to decide if this is worth delayed attention.
It is such a huge undertaking. I’m so overwhelmed by all the things required to get this thing done. It’ll never end. Or the opposite. It can wait because it won’t take that long. It’s as if I’m almost done. Sounds familiar? This is also another great excuse not to start because exaggerating the level of difficulty or pain or annoyance involved in doing the task at hand gives us solace and power over what we want to ignore. But this procrastination strategy is ineffective as it quickly wears off. You are still reminded of the unfinished state of the unfinished task at hand.
What a chore. What a bore. It’s so uninteresting. I don’t understand it. It’s too complicated. I’ll lose my patience doing this. I’d rather be doing something else. I won’t like it. Sounds familiar? We tend to use this procrastination tactic because it is an easy choice to reject when the task at hand has been stamped in our opinion as unpleasant. Between a good choice and a bad choice, why would we want to choose a bad choice? The task at hand does have to be labeled as such. It doesn’t have to have any labels at all! How to stop procrastinating? Remove all the negative associations to it and start treating it like the other areas in your life that you have no opinion over.
How to stop procrastinating: some solutions
Reject labels and opinions.
Don’t let your mind have an opinion on how you spend your time. Don’t let this thought go through your brain or your heart: “Nah, I don’t feel like it.” This thought is a useless opinion, counterproductive, and does not serve you, because you know you’ll have to get around it eventually.
No room for procrastination
Are there areas in your life that are usually not affected by your procrastination? Make note of them and see what they have in common. It could be things you care deeply about, or lessons learned from unfortunate experiences. Examples: I don’t wait until the tank is empty before stopping at a gas station because running out of gas in the middle of nowhere happened once and this unnecessary danger could have been easily avoided. I help the kids with their homework as soon as they finish their lessons because I consider their learning a priority. Once the commonalities are identified, look at how the tasks that keep getting put off for later can fit into these commonalities. Example: I realize that I don’t want my colleagues to think that I would show up unprepared at our team meeting. The importance for me to leave a good impression helps me remove my task at hand – working on my PowerPoint presentation, out of the procrastination zone.
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s human to not want to do something right away or to wait until it’s too late. Most times, we just need the external push to get us moving, and that’s ok. To some, procrastination has served them rather well over time, and don’t see any problem with it, or rather enjoy it. So, go ahead and procrastinate. Give yourself permission to not know how to stop procrastinating.
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.