Are you a chronic procrastinator? Do you often have thoughts like “Oh, it’ll be fine if I save this for tomorrow” or “That’s so far away, I don’t have to worry about it yet”?
If you find yourself procrastinating regularly, you’re probably stuck in a habit of procrastination. Eliminating your procrastination will mean eliminating your habit. But completely eliminating a habit is a difficult thing to do. Instead, it’s much easier to replace an existing habit with a new one.
Of course, the best way to do this is to replace your procrastination habit with a “get things done!” habit. That way, everytime you would have gone to procrastinate, you now do something else instead – your work!
Here are a few different strategies you can use to replace the procrastination habit with a “get things done” habit and finally kick the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
Recognize WHY you procrastinate
There may be a variety of reasons you procrastinate, but understanding the underlying emotions causing your procrastination is the first step to changing your habits.
Ask yourself: Why is this particular assignment, project, or task making me procrastinate? Do I have high expectations for myself that I’m not sure I can meet? Do I feel like I need to live up to previous work I’ve done in the past?
One of the most common reasons for procrastination is actually fear. We avoid doing the work we know we’re supposed to do because we fear failure and want to avoid that possible outcome as much as possible.
If that sounds like you, you probably deeply care about doing your best work. This is a good thing! The difficulty arises when you develop imposter syndrome because you don’t believe you can live up to your own expectations.
So take a moment to dive deep into your own thoughts and feelings about your work – are you procrastinating because you hate doing it? Or is it actually because you want to do well so badly you’re afraid to start?
Re-evaluate Your Goals
Sometimes, our procrastination comes from feeling overwhelmed by the daunting goals and tasks ahead.
Instead of trying to bully yourself into not procrastinating, take a moment to reflect on whether your goals are even realistic. You may have overextended yourself.
Remember, it’s better to have a small goal you can accomplish than a big goal you can’t even get started on because it’s so intimidating. Holding on to goals that are too big will only serve to discourage you.
Forgive Your Past Self
The next step to eliminating procrastination is to let go of the anxiety and stress you may have built up from past procrastination.
Sometimes, we store a lot of guilt due to missed deadlines, bad test scores, or unhappy bosses and teachers. These guilty feelings crowd our heads and make focusing difficult.
If you’re a chronic procrastinator and you want to change, forgive yourself for past procrastination and let go of old mistakes. The only thing you have power over now is what you do in the moment – so use your moment to change your habits.
Set Up a Rewards System
To begin eliminating your procrastination habit and implementing a “getting things done” habit, you’ll want to start by setting up a reward system.
Your reward system can really be anything you want – but it should get you excited and motivated to accomplish your tasks. For example, you could reward yourself with a new coffee mug, a fun hike, or a night out with friends.
Beginning with frequent rewards will give you extra motivation during the start when changing your habits is the most difficult. Then as you get better and better at focusing on your work, you’ll need less frequent rewards, until finally you can keep up with your tasks without needing the incentive.
In fact, eventually the incentive to not procrastinate should become the joy you get from doing your best and accomplishing things on time, which will keep you motivated forever!
Stop Your Habit in its Tracks
Inevitably, even if you set up a reward system, you’ll find yourself wanting to procrastinate.
A new project deadline or test will come up on the horizon, and you’ll end up putting the tasks off day after day because “it’ll be fine…right?”
Simply realizing you are procrastinating in the first place is half the battle. If you can recognize that you’ve started procrastinating again, you can take a deep breath, reevaluate your situation, and put yourself back on the right track.
And as soon as you’ve noticed this procrastination, use that moment to work on whatever it is you need to do right away. Take action immediately to stop the habit cycle.
Take Baby Steps
Taking the first step to work on a project is almost always the most difficult part. But once you get going, it’s much easier to keep going.
Since taking the first step is so difficult, make sure you entice yourself to do it. If you have an essay to write, give yourself a reward for writing just one sentence. If you need to clean your house, give yourself a reward for putting a single load of laundry away.
After taking the first step, you’ll probably build up enough momentum to take the next, and the next, and the next.
Continue splitting up your goal, project, or task into its smallest parts so you only have to think of one thing at a time. This will help minimize feelings of overwhelm because you only have to do that one small thing – not the whole thing at once.
Distractions are one of the greatest productivity killers. If our phones and email notifications are always dinging at us, asking for attention, it gives our brain an excuse to stop working on the task at hand and instead indulge in something more interesting.
This is counter-productive to ending your procrastination habit because when you let yourself get distracted by your devices you essentially reward yourself for the distraction.
To keep working on your new “getting things done” habit, put your phone away or turn it off, silence notifications on your computer, and make sure you’re somewhere people won’t try to interrupt you.
And remember – don’t let yourself get rewarded for procrastinating because you’ll just reaffirm your old habit!
Change Your Environment
If you’re having a hard time concentrating on your work, try changing up your environment.
Going to a new library or coffee shop, or even just a different room in your house or apartment, can trick your brain into feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your work.
Plus, environments like a library or a coffee shop are usually filled with other people working hard on their own projects. When you surround yourself with others who aren’t procrastinating, it’s much easier to focus and feel energized about your work.
Ditch the Perfectionism
If you procrastinate because you have such high standards for yourself – recognize that. Then realize that there’s no such thing as perfect.
You have to ditch perfectionism in order to move forward. Let go of trying to be your best, and focus on doing one thing at a time.
You also need to ditch perfectionism when it comes to your ability to kick your procrastination habit. You probably won’t be able to stop procrastinating like turning off a light switch. It will take hard work and maybe several weeks or even months to change. If one thing goes wrong, don’t beat yourself up. Just move on and keep trying.
Remember, perfection is the enemy of excellence.
Improve Your Lifestyle
You might find that the reason for your procrastination stems from lifestyle choices that rob you of energy and keep you from feeling motivated. If you procrastinate because you’re drained, tired, or would rather just watch TV all day, you may need to fix other things in your life before you can focus on a “getting things done” habit.
Try going outside, getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, taking vitamins, and generally being a good steward of your body to make sure you have the mental capacity to take on your tasks.
Procrastination is an easy habit to fall into. It’s so easy because we have a hard time looking ahead at what the consequences will be of our procrastination.
But causing yourself unnecessary stress has long term negative effects. And just imagine all the things you could accomplish if you didn’t procrastinate anymore and got everything done ahead of time? You’d have so much more time to do fun, interesting things!
Try out some of these methods to break your procrastination habit, and replace it with a new one: a “getting things done!” habit, so you can stop feeling so much pressure and finally start enjoying your time, for good.