We all know how it goes. The pile of work that needs to be done is getting bigger and bigger with all the deadlines looming ahead and as much as we so desperately want to just sit down and get it done, our brains and bodies just can’t seem to engage, You just can’t quit procrastinating!
It can be exhausting and in some cases, seriously affect our quality of life, motivation, self-esteem and time management. So here’s a breakdown of what exactly procrastination is and how to quit procrastinating for good.
What is procrastination linked to?
Often, procrastination and laziness seem to get mixed up when in reality they’re two completely different things. Laziness is apathy towards the work you are supposed to be doing whereas procrastination is knowing and wanting to get things done however just being unable to do so.
There are 2 main types of procrastination: Acute Procrastination and Chronic Procrastination.
Acute procrastination is the simpler one. It can be triggered by mood swings or just day to day occurrence such as a bad day, feeling fatigued or just general unwillingness to complete your work.
Chronic procrastination on the other hand is more complicated and is usually linked to various different types of psychological conditions that affect you and your productivity long term. This is usually more difficult to deal with and required a lot of hard work, resilience and patience. Typically lifestyle changes are also involved – however, luckily if you put in the work, the changes can be permanent.
The tips discussed in this article can not only help you with acute procrastination but by implementing these practices into your lifestyle, you can see drastic changes in your productivity to help you quit procrastinating forever! – Even if you’re a chronic procrastinator.
Why do YOU Procrastinate?
So why do people procrastinate? Procrastination isn’t as simple or black and white as it is often seen to be in our societies today and usually the causes for procrastination come from some underlying psychological issue.
Read our in-depth article highlighting some of the common reasons you might be procrastinating.
There are some of the most common reasons for procrastination and to help solve any problem you need to get to its cause. So it is important to sit down with yourself and have an honest think about why is it that you procrastinate? If you’re not sure what your reason for procrastinating is, we recommend you have a look at the article mentioned earlier before continuing with this article.
This is especially important to do because if you are going to reshape yourself to quit procrastinating, it is vital to know why it came about in the first place.
Pt 1: Immediate ways to stop procrastination
Here are some things you can do to immediately stop procrastinating and are especially helpful when you have tasks that have deadlines.
1. Setting goals (the right ones)
Setting the right goals is so important when it comes to achieving just about any kind of goal in life. If it is too vague and abstract that leaves too much room for things like procrastination and allows you too much leeway to trick yourself out of putting in the work. It is important to make sure goals are precise, direct, focused and realistic.
Read our detailed article on how to set goals that you will always achieve you give you some in-depth help so that you can set yourself the right goals and quit procrastinating for good!
2. Schedule your day
For some fellow procrastinators out there, finding the right time to do something is a big part of the schedule. That is why I implore you to try and schedule your day before it begins. The night before, sit down and ask yourself what things do you (realistically) want to achieve tomorrow. If you followed our guide on setting the right goals this should be a little easier.
The best part about scheduling your day is that you don’t have to do it in one specific way. You can schedule only for the times that you will be working on your task or you can schedule everything, from your meal times to your entertainment times. Do whatever works best for you and whatever is easiest to follow through with.
3. Figure out when in the day you are the most productive
Most of us are familiar with the terms “night owl” and “early bird”. Human beings are very different from one another especially in terms of productivity. Some of us like to laze around all day and by the time the sun sets, become powerhouses of ideas and energy. Whereas others wake up bright and early already bustling with energy to take on the day as soon as their eyes open.
Whether you work best at night, in the early morning or any time frame in between, it is important that you not only recognize your own “productivity powerhouse window” but also utilize it. If you work best from between 6 pm to 9 pm for whatever reason, when you’re scheduling your day, make sure to put in all the tasks you’re procrastinating within that time. This way not only will you find it easier to get things done but it can also help to build healthy habits long term.
4. Trick your brain into starting
A very common technique that many people who work out regularly like to use to motivate themselves is to trick their brains into starting- and you can use the same trick to quit procrastinating! For example, you know you have to write a paper on something for school and you have to finish at least 50% of it today. Instead of sitting down with the intention to finish 50%, tell yourself “I only have to write the intro”.
By tricking yourself into at least starting, you’re massively cutting down the workload and therefore the expectation, that alleviates any of the stress that comes with the work. For example, if you don’t want to go on that run you’re supposed to go on, tell yourself “I only have to put on my running shoes and step outside.”
By reducing the expectations you set for yourself, you’re more likely to at least start. And starting is, as we all know, the hardest part – even when you’re trying to quit procrastinating. After you start and get your gears working and engaged, pretty quickly you’ll find yourself out of that procrastination pit and into productivity paradise.
5. Start with the easy stuff
If you can’t quit procrastinating because it comes from a place of fear of failure or being unable to understand or complete your task up to your standards, start with the easy stuff. Whether it is a work project or an artistic piece you’re working on or even a day at the gym, don’t go right for the bull’s eye, beat around the bush with the easy stuff.
Because the easy stuff is well, easy, you’ll be able to complete it according to your own standard and this is a great self-confidence boost to really help motivate you to get onto the harder stuff.
6. Study smarter, not harder
All of us have been students and all of us know how tedious and mundane the task of studying can be. Just thinking about it is enough to have some people panicked and anxious. Especially with the workload of studying and how many hours we feel we need to put into studying to get any sort of favourable outcome. It’s a huge commitment!
That is why, it is important to study smarter, not harder. By finding the right techniques to help optimise your study sessions, you’ll quickly realise that you don’t have to invest hours upon hours of your precious time to get the results you want. What better way to quit procrastinating than to feel your time is being utilized properly?
Read our article on how to study smarter not harder, to go through our list of scientifically proven effective methods of study to help save your time and your energy.
7. Switch off all distractions
This is a pretty generic one but to have it be effective you need to really be honest with yourself and recognise your preexisting levels of self-control. If putting your phone on do not disturb mode isn’t enough for you to stop constantly checking it, again and again, turn your phone off completely. If even that isn’t enough to get you focused and away from distractions, leave your phone at the far end of your room or even in another room so that it is out of your reach.
And if your self-control needs considerable amounts of work and even that can’t stop you, give your phone to someone you live with and ask them to keep it until you’re done with whatever you’re supposed to do. The same goes for any and all other distractions that might stop you from getting things done. Unplug the TV, lock away your books, switch off all your digital devices. Do whatever it is you need to do and get rid of all of your distractions so that nothing can entice you into your old habits and make it harder to quit procrastinating.
8. Use timers to turn it into a game
The truth is, some of us just work better under pressure. So utilize that! If you have a task that needs to be complete, set a timer for yourself to complete that task in that time frame. This is especially good to use if you’re someone competitive. By turning it into some kind of game where you have to beat the clock to get your work done, this really gets you hyperfocused.
Whether it’s writing a number of paragraphs for an essay, finishing a specific part of a project or just about anything at all, set a timer for yourself to finish your task before the clock hits 0 and you might end up amazed by how easy it is to quit procrastinating when you’re under pressure.
9. Reward yourself
This is especially useful if one of your reasons for procrastination is being unable to see a quick reward that isn’t too long term. The reward doesn’t have to be something huge, like a brand new car. You can reward yourself with your favourite snacks or by doing activities that you love. By using small rewards to get through small goals you’ll very quickly see yourself finishing up what you thought to be big tasks.
For example, reward yourself with a piece of chocolate for every paragraph you complete for the paper you’re writing. Or if you worked out all the days you wanted to, reward yourself at the end of the week with a nice long bubble bath. Give yourself a reason to be excited to finish the things you need to get done. Reward yourself so much you have no choice but to quit procrastinating!
10. Take breaks when you need to
If you’re not resting at appropriate times, it can often cause you to feel tremendous anxiety and stress when it comes to doing the things you need to. For example, if you try to get yourself to study for 4 hours straight but that is too much for your brain to handle, next time you’re going to procrastinate studying because who would want to experience something negative twice?
So take breaks when you need to. Of course, this doesn’t mean 15 minutes of working and 4 hours of rest. Use timers on your phone to keep yourself on top of things and remember to take short breaks in between long periods of work. You can rehydrate, grab some snacks to fuel up, maybe even take a quick nap! If you know you’re not overexhasting yourself it will be easier to quit procrastinating for good.
11. Fuel yourself with the right snacks
It is very important to fuel yourself with the right kinds of foods for your activities. Sometimes procrastination can be a result of fatigue and exhaustion and it might be because you’re not eating the right foods. So during your breaks, consider snacking on the following things.
For tasks that require a lot of brainpower, consider the following foods to boost your brain and memory: fatty fish, coffee, blueberries, turmeric, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, nuts (almonds), oranges, eggs and green tea.
For tasks that require more physical energy, consider the following foods to give you that energy boost: bananas, fatty fish, coffee, apples, eggs, oatmeal, yoghurt, lentils, avocados, seeds, beans, berries, nuts and leafy greens.
12. Find the right music
Music is a great way to help you get in the zone. Whether you’re working out of studying it is important to find the right music to give you the focus that you need. When working out, try to go for more upbeat music to help get you pumped up and active.
When studying or working, or simply doing tasks that require a lot of focus, go for instrumental music. Music with lyrics can tend to be distracting as your brain is constantly occupied with picking up all the words of the songs. Besides, if you’re going to quit procrastinating you should have a killer playlist to go with it!
Here is a great Spotify playlist for focus music:
Pt 2: Long term ways to stop procrastinating
These are things that you can practice consciously and continuously to see a difference in your productivity levels long term. By doing these not only will you see a decrease in your procrastination levels but it will be easier to manage and overcome any periods of procrastination you do Have.
1. Exercise frequently to stop procrastinating
Exercising is an amazing way to take care of your mental health, fitness, release those endorphins and also keep that blood pumping up to your brain. Exercise also majorly improves your cognitive function and helps you focus more easily – both things that will help you battle procrastination. There are many different ways you can make sure you’re getting enough exercise.
You can go to the gym, work out at home, opt for running, play a team sport or even just go hiking frequently. Pick something that you genuinely enjoy so that it doesn’t become tedious to do.
2. Meditate to stop procrastinating
Meditating is a great way to calm your mind and your thoughts that will help you improve your focus and your emotional management long term. It also doesn’t have to be a major commitment at all!
Take out 10-15 minutes of your day (you can set a timer) everyday follow these steps:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place with no distractions. (You can turn off the lights to help minimalize your distractions and help calm you.)
- You can sit or lay down for this – whatever you do make sure you’re comfortable. (If you notice you tend to drift off to sleep when you lay down, try to sit up instead)
- After being completely comfortable, slowly relax all parts of your body. (An easy way to do this is to start with your toes. Conciouslessly relax your toes before moving up to the rest of your foot, then your ankles, then your calves, knees, thighs etc. Keep moving all the way up and consciously relax all the muscles as you go. When you get to your face make sure to relax your eyebrows and your forehead as you tend to hold a lot of tension there without knowing)
- Take long, deep and slow breaths and bring your attention to your breathing. (Notice the way the air feels going through your nostrils, down your windpipe and into your lungs. Notice the rise and the fall of your chest and the way the air feels when you exhale)
- If your thoughts wander during your meditation – release them and redirect your focus to your breathing. (One great way to overcome wandering thoughts is to imagine yourself sitting somewhere where you feel completely relaxed. For example, sitting on a beach right in front of the waves. Everytime you have a lingering thought, imagine that thought being dropped into the water and being pulled into the ocean by the waves to disappear into the horizon.)
The key is to focus on nothing but your breathing. For these 10-15 minutes your sole purpose is to breathe and that is it. Over time it gets easier to redirect your thoughts and stop them from lingering all together and you might even find yourself wanting to extend those 10 minutes.
3. Re-evaluate how you define yourself (and redefine yourself)
Because very often, procrastination is a symptom of an underlying perception we have of ourselves, it is important to reevaluate how we are defining ourselves. For example, if we think of ourselves as “lazy, unmotivated, a failure, a procrastinator”, we are affirming those beliefs subconsciously which is why our consciousness simply reflects those beliefs. This is why you start acting lazy and unmotivated.
For this, you have to sit down with yourself and really get honest and ask yourself what do you think of yourself. You can write down a list on a piece of paper, highlighting your traits and characteristics. Then when the list is done, ask yourself whether you are happy with the traits you have assigned yourself. Ultimately any of us can embody any trait which is why it is so important to not talk down negatively to ourselves because you begin to embody what you believe you are.
So when you’re thinking something like: “I’m going to fail this test, I’m so stupid, I won’t understand any of the material, this is way too hard for me.” – How are you defining yourself? Is that how you want to be? Probably not.
So instead by changing the narrative to something like: “I’m gonna pass this test easily, I’m so smart, all of the material is so easy to understand, this will be a piece of cake.” – You’re redefining the narrative into something you will eventually embody over time.
If you want some more structured and step by step advice on how to redefine yourself, read our article on 3 easy steps to transform into the person you want to be!
Pt 3: Final note on Chronic Procrastination
We went over some great ways to help you battle immediately and acute procrastination and all of those you can use if you have chronic procrastination as well. However, these things might not be the permanent solution for everyone.
Chronic procrastination can often be a symptom of an underlying mental health issue. It is possibly a symptom of depression, adhd, ocd, anxiety, eating disorders or perfectionism. Procrastination is essentially an avoidance strategy.
If you are suffering with chronic procrastination and you suspect that it might be because of a mental illness, please seek professional help.
While the different ways in this article will help you with managing procrastination, as mentioned earlier, it is essential to find the root cause of your procrastination and for some people, it might be a mental illness.
If that is the case, dealing with it on your own will be very difficult and seeking professional help will not only help with your procrastination but also with other areas of your life to teach you more about yourself and how you can cope with mental illness so you can see improvements in the future.
A final note to any procrastinators that didn’t find any of the advice in this article very helpful. If you’re looking for a more straightforward, easy fix to your procrastination that is personalized enough to deal with your own specific individual situation, I would highly recommend the Find Your Focus Programme. It is a practical and unique programme that helps individuals deal with their procrastination with new and different techniques to help them gain more confidence and achieve all their goals.