If you want to stop procrastinating then you first need to understand why you procrastinate. Because the reason why you can’t stop procrastinating is that you don’t know why you’re actually procrastinating, and without finding out the underlying cause for your habits then you’re going to have a very difficult time stopping.
But first, let’s get clear on what procrastination actually is. Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished or starting and finishing a task late despite the negative consequences. So basically, procrastination is when you delay work, study or a task that you had the intention of doing sooner.
As soon as you can start to see procrastination for what it really is, it will be much easier to stop doing it.
The real reason why you procrastinate
So why do you procrastinate? The answer might seem obvious, because you don’t want to do it and because you would rather watch Netflix or do anything else other than what you need to do! And on some level, this might be true, your procrastinating because you don’t want to do it, and you can think of a million other things you would rather be doing. But if you find that you are procrastinating most of the important and necessary things you need to do, then there may be another reason.
Safe from judgement
When we procrastinate we are withholding effort, and when we withhold effort we are avoiding judgement from others. You see, if you work hard on a project or study hard for an exam but then you fail or don’t get the results you were working towards, then you can feel vulnerable to judgement from others against your skills and abilities. However, if you procrastinate then you cannot be judged for trying your best and your best not being good enough, instead, you can tell yourself (or others) that you would have done better if you had put in the effort.
Avoid negative feelings
Another reason why you might procrastinate is to avoid negative feelings such as boredom, stress, overwhelm, confusion, self-doubt and anxiety. And when you procrastinate you can avoid negative feelings and instead do something which you enjoy and which makes you feel good. Procrastination might be fun at the moment but it only leads to feelings of guilt. So to avoid feelings of negativity such as anxiety confusion and boredom, you choose temporary enjoyment followed by feelings of guilt.
How to stop procrastinating
Use the 80/20 rule
One of the negative feelings you’re avoiding by procrastinating is the feeling of being overwhelmed. And so you keep your to-do list long, unfocused and not prioritised, so you never know where to start and because you don’t know where to start, you have an excuse not to start and to do nothing.
The good thing is, your to-do list doesn’t need to be as long as it currently is. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, suggests roughly 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results. Look at your to-do lists and ask yourself, what are the 20% of my tasks which create 80% of my results? Then change your behaviour by spending more time on the tasks which bring the most value.
Create a plan
My second tip for procrastinators is to create a plan and then stick to it. Many procrastinators love making plans but then never follow through. But the reason why many procrastinators fail to follow through with their plans is that their plans are too ambitious and not doable, which means we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
When you sit down to create your plan, be prepared to feel some resistance. When you make plans you have to make decisions which is something procrastinators tend to avoid because it means if we fail, it will be more obvious, but if we’re not failing then we’re not trying anything new.
Stop waiting for motivation
If you want to stop procrastinating then you need to stop waiting to feel motivated. You don’t need to be motivated to follow through with your plans, instead you need to expect that there are going to be times when you’re not motivated and know that, that feeling is normal.
When I make plans to work on my blog, to exercise or even just to cook dinner, I know that I’m not always going to feel like it, even if it’s something which I usually enjoy doing, such as writing a new blog post. Because if you always wait until you’re motivated then you’re going to waiting a long time.
So instead of going through the mental drama and the inevitable negation in your mind, just plan to not feel like doing it, and then do it anyway.
Giving into what you feel like doing at the moment will never get you to where you want to be, so know that most of the time you won’t feel like it and that is completely normal. If you feel that you’re always struggling to find motivation, then check out this blog post about why you’re not motivated and how to get that motivation back!
Create a time limit
My final tip for procrastinators is to create a time limit. There are times when you need to focus, stop scrolling and get to work and then there are times when we need to sit back, slow down and relax. By setting boundaries you can make sure you’re allowing yourself enough time to work as well as plenty of time to rest. Because doing both works and watching Netflix or scrolling through your phone at the same time is neither productive nor relaxing. So make sure you set a time limit when it times to focus and for when it’s time to chill!
Did you know that a task expands to fill the time you have to complete it? If you give yourself a week to clean your home, it will take you a week to clean your home. But if you have just one day to clean your home, guess what – it will take just one day to clean your home. Silly example, but you get my drift.
When you set boundaries and create a time limit, you are forced to stop procrastinating and be productive. It’s like how your home will suddenly get cleaned when you realise you have guests coming around!
P.S I kept procrastinating when writing this blog post and turning on Netflix! But as soon as I realised I needed to publish this blog post tomorrow morning, I managed to write 1000+ words the night before!
I hope you have found this post to be incredibly helpful and I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on how to stop procrastinating.