If you have never procrastinated, even on something relatively minor, you must not be human. Everyone has procrastinated, or put off completing a specific task, at one point or another. We do it even when we don’t realize that’s what it is, which is why it is such a destructive habit to fall prey to.
Figuring out how to combat this kind of habit is not easy, but it is possible. Like any other habit, procrastination can be conquered and replaced with a much healthier habit and methodology for getting things done as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Learn how to overcome procrastination with three easy steps. Not only will you be able to figure out why you were procrastinating in the first place, but you will also learn how to prioritize your tasks and set up a personal reward system that will motivate you to keep working even when you’d rather not.
Step 1: Admit to yourself that you are procrastinating and figure out why
This first step seems simple enough, but procrastination comes in many forms. You can be fairly productive and realize too late that you are actually procrastinating and didn’t even realize it. When we procrastinate, sometimes we have a tendency to put off high-priority tasks and focus on lower priority ones, which might seem fine on the surface, but underneath, it’s a problem.
The first step to overcoming procrastination is, literally, to admit you are procrastinating. Be honest with yourself. When you have already refreshed your Twitter feed three times in the past five minutes, unless that specific task is at the top of your to-do list for some reason, you’re stalling. Admit it. Then try to figure out why you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing instead.
Why do we procrastinate? It isn’t because we are not able to manage our own time. It can be for a number of reasons, anything from stress and anxiety to just simply dreading the task in front of us. Once you identify your reason for procrastinating, the next step is to get your priorities in order and start tackling them one by one.
Step 2: Separate your tasks based on priority
There is an item on your to-do list right now that is more important than all the others, and if you’re a frequent procrastinator, it’s likely that’s the one item you have been putting off for far too long.
Because trying to complete tasks out of order of importance is a classic procrastination symptom, it is important to learn how to effectively prioritize your to-do list if you want to overcome your procrastination habit. Creating a to-do list won’t actually help you get anything done, but learning how to order your tasks properly and focus on the most important first will help you kick procrastination into oblivion.
Look at your to-do list in full and start by breaking your tasks out into days. Separate what has to be done today, tomorrow and continue on through the rest of the week or month and only focus on exactly what needs to get done by the end of today. Do your best not to carry anything over to the following day so tasks don’t suddenly pile up.
Make sure anything that has a deadline comes first, before any other task. So if you have an assignment due on Friday, don’t add that to Friday’s list just because the dates match. Add it to Monday or Tuesday, so you can start working on it early without the last-minute pressure eating away at you.
If there’s something you’re really dreading, whether it’s big or small, put it as high up on your prioritized task list as possible. The best way to get rid of that sinking feeling is to sit down and get that task done, whether you’re looking forward to it or not. The longer you put it off, the worse you will feel. Just do it. It won’t be as bad as you think.
Step 3: Come up with personal rewards for finishing priority tasks
Once you have identified that you are indeed procrastinating, have pinpointed why you are procrastinating and have taken the time to prioritize your tasks, it’s time to actually get to work. Everyone needs a little extra motivation every now and then, and it’s completely acceptable to use personal rewards to get you through the work.
It is much easier to get things done, especially those things you really don’t want to do, if you have something waiting for you at the finish line. Promising yourself a particular reward, and following through on it, can help keep you focused and motivated even as you work your way through your most unpleasant responsibilities.
Reward yourself for a job (finally) completed, but do it strategically. Don’t promise yourself a mini vacation at the end of the month if you can’t afford one, for example, and don’t reward yourself with something you were already planning on doing or buying anyway. Make it truly special, but feasible, such as letting yourself sleep in on Sunday morning when you don’t usually allow yourself that luxury.
Follow through on whatever promise you make to yourself, too: if you get your work done without procrastinating, don’t just give yourself a pat on the back and keep working. Celebrate!
Most importantly, don’t “punish” yourself for not getting something done on time or if you do end up procrastinating on it. This will only discourage you. Stick to positive reinforcement and stay optimistic. With any goal, there are going to be setbacks. Procrastination is a habit, and it will take some time to break that habit. Focus on the rewards of success, not the negative consequences of failure.
Learning how to overcome procrastination will improve your life. You will be able to get your work done at much higher quality without having to rush through it just for the sake of getting it done on time. You will be able to produce work you are proud of, which is essential for optimal mental health.
Follow these three steps, and you will be able to say goodbye to your procrastination habits in no time at all.