Have you ever found yourself rushing to complete your to-do list at the last minute? Or found yourself cramming for a test the night before? Has this happened more often than you’d like to admit? If so, you’re a procrastinator, and you’re not alone.
Many people struggle with this issue every day. Whether stress from work or personal issues is causing us to delay important tasks, we can end up stuck in a routine of putting things off instead of focusing on what needs to be done.
If you struggle with procrastination, you know how debilitating it can be—the guilt after putting off an important task or constantly switching from one project to another without progress.
The good news is that there are steps you can take today to begin breaking through this cycle of procrastination and set yourself up for success.
So, what is procrastination exactly?
Procrastination is a common term that many people are familiar with, yet it’s a habit that can be difficult to overcome. At its simplest, procrastination is putting off tasks or responsibilities that must be completed. Around 20% of adults procrastinate chronically. But where does this tendency to procrastinate come from?
There can be many reasons, ranging from fear of failure to difficulty prioritizing tasks. Additionally, some people may procrastinate because they enjoy the rush of a deadline or struggle with self-discipline.
Regardless of the reason, procrastination can hold us back from reaching our full potential and achieving our goals. Recognizing and addressing this habit is essential to living a more productive and fulfilling life.
Know your procrastination triggers
With anything, knowing what causes you to fall into particular behavior patterns is important. Correcting a procrastination habit requires understanding what triggers or distracts you from your goals.
Some common triggers are:
- Underlying conditions: Struggling with mental health conditions can affect your focus and attention span.
- Time Management: Not having excellent time-management skills makes it harder to complete tasks on time.
- Low energy: Not getting enough sleep affects productivity.
- Anxiety or Fear: Being afraid of being criticized or fearing failure may prevent you from starting tasks.
- Environment: Being in an environment with a lot of distractions is not helpful.
- Avoiding tasks: Having an aversion to certain tasks because they seem tedious or frustrating.
- Being overwhelmed: If you have too many tasks or are unsure where to start on a task, it may make you less likely to begin.
- Perfectionism: Not wanting to make mistakes or have flaws in your work can delay starting tasks.
- Abstract Goals: Having clear and concise goals is helpful when tackling tasks.
Setting SMART Goals
SMART goals are a great way to combat procrastination. SMART goals are:
Eating healthier sounds like a good idea, but what does it really mean? Aim for specific goals instead, such as eliminating soda, eating five servings of vegetables a day, or limiting your daily sugar intake to 30 grams of added sugar.
Make the goal one you can measure. A goal of walking more is not so easily measured, so change it to walking three days a week so you can monitor your progress.
Avoid aiming too high or too low. Think like Goldilocks and find a goal that feels just right.
Losing 10 pounds a week sounds great. But it’s an impossible goal that will leave you discouraged and more likely to give up on your efforts. Choosing realistic goals you can meet will reinforce your efforts and keep you moving forward. Losing 1 pound per week is a realistic and sustainable goal.
Choosing specific, measurable goals means you can keep data that helps you track your improvement over time. Write your efforts down in a journal or track them on an app so you can see how far you’ve come.
Develop a routine
Creating a routine is an excellent way to remedy the problem of procrastination. It’s all about creating a plan that works for you and your lifestyle. You can start by breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Your routine could consist of setting aside a specific time or day to complete work. An example might be choosing 9 A.M. every morning as your time to work out or Friday afternoons to review weekly reports at work. Time blocking your calendar this way can help you tackle some of those daily, weekly, or monthly projects you’ve been avoiding.
Schedule your “scary hour”
Ever heard of the “scary hour” trick? It’s a strategy that can help you kick procrastination to the curb and boost your productivity. Here’s how it works: you schedule a specific hour or chunk of time on your calendar to tackle those dreaded tasks you’ve been avoiding. (You know the ones—they make you cringe and want to hide under a blanket.) By setting aside this dedicated period, you’re giving yourself a chance to face those challenges head-on. It’s like saying, “Alright, bring it on!” This approach breaks the cycle of avoidance and helps you build some serious momentum toward crushing your goals.
Effective time management
Time management can be complex—there always seem to be more tasks than hours in the day. When you’re learning how to stop procrastinating, creating and sticking to a schedule is important.
A helpful tip is to prioritize your tasks by their level of urgency. When your to-do list is piling up, it can be hard to determine what task to do first, which can be overwhelming. Organize your list according to what needs to be done first and start there, then work your way down the list. If you have a project at work that has a short turnaround and you also need to call a friend back, the work project comes first.
Also, make sure to give yourself deadlines to help you stay on task. If you have a deadline for Friday, providing a soft deadline before that day is beneficial to ensure you’re not waiting until the last minute. Rewarding yourself once you’ve completed everything may provide the incentive to stay on track.
A great way to make progress toward overcoming procrastination is by holding yourself accountable. Accountability is necessary because it can be the driving force behind moving forward with your goals and aspirations. It creates an environment where you’re responsible for your actions and the outcome of those actions.
It’s also helpful to have a support system in place. When you have people to turn to for help and guidance, you’re more likely to stay on track and push through the difficulties that come with changing such a long-standing habit. Your support system reminds you of your goals and speaks up when they see you veering off track. Whether it’s a friend who checks in on your progress or a mentor who offers guidance, having people who understand the struggle of procrastination can make a big difference.
The takeaway: how to stop procrastinating today
Procrastinating does not have to be your reality. With all of the tools and resources available to help stop procrastination, you can take control of your life and start accomplishing more. Time management and smart goal setting can help you maximize your efficiency and productivity so that you get closer to reaching goals without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. Having someone to hold you accountable, such as a counselor from Holistic Wellness Practice, can give you an extra boost of motivation.
Remember that it is never too late to start making positive changes in your life. All it takes is one small step forward toward your goals. So next time you feel the urge to procrastinate, take a deep breath, assess your priorities, and get to work. Your future self will thank you for it.
Gleyce Almeida-Farrell is a psychotherapist and the founder of Holistic Wellness Practice in Alpharetta, GA. She specializes in helping adults manage stress and overcome symptoms of anxiety utilizing a holistic and integrative approach to mental wellness.
We offer in-person and virtual services – contact us today to learn more!