Do you find yourself putting things off until the last minute a lot? Here are five things you can do right now to combat procrastination.
Who among us has not put off a task because, you know, we can just do it tomorrow. Funnily enough, the word “procrastination” actually comes from the latin prefix pro-, meaning forward, and the latin word crastinus, meaning belonging to tomorrow. You put things off, forward, to the future, in order to complete them tomorrow. But do you actually complete them tomorrow? Or the next day, or the day after that? Or are you stuck in a loop of putting-off-until-tomorrow in which tomorrow just won’t come? Here are five foolproof tips to help you combat procrastination.
Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Combat Procrastination
1. Figure Out What You’re Afraid of, and Overcome It
Because you need to hear it: you’re not lazy. Procrastination is a symptom of other underlying problems, and, in addressing them, you can begin to kick this unhealthy habit.
According to psychologists, the number one factor behind procrastination is anxiety, both generalized and specific. Fears that cause people to procrastinate mainly include the fear of failure and the fear of negative judgement, but generalized anxiety (or even just other negative emotions) can also lead you to putting off a task.
You already know that procrastination makes you feel worse in the long-term. What you might not know, however, is that it makes bad feelings worse in the short-term as well. The cycle goes: fear or anxiety; procrastination; worsened fear or anxiety because of encroaching deadlines or perceived failure at completing a task; procrastination; even more heightened fear or anxiety; procrastination. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s time to break it. Identify what your underlying problem is and address it directly instead of responding to it by avoiding it altogether.
2. Make a To-Do List
A to-do list? Really?
Yes, really. So very much really, you have no idea. Since the beginning of civilization, human beings have thrived on structured time. “This is when we eat; this is when we work; this is when we relax; this is when we sleep.” Without structure, nothing would get done; forget the stuff that you are procrastinating – society itself would come to a halt!
Maybe you just need set times to start and stop working, but, depending on who you are, it might even be helpful to write down what you need to do by the hour. With cases of executive dysfunction (brought on by factors like depression or ADHD), it can even be helpful to write down things like “wake up,” “eat breakfast,” or “brush teeth”–and then add a slot for your current project once you’ve taken care of yourself. Yes, making a to-do list is one way to help combat procrastination
3. Throw Perfectionism out the Window
“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
-Voltaire, French philosopher (1694-1778)
You’d imagine that as famous as he was (and is), Voltaire was constantly working on more than one great work at once… which was probably why this proverb, attributed to him, still resonates so deeply. If he had focused on perfecting a single work of genius to a T, he would have just been some French guy called Francois-Marie Arouet, not the internationally renowned philosopher with the pen name (or nom de plume, in his native French) of Voltaire.
Similarly, most perfectionists are notorious procrastinators. If you keep editing and re-editing the first paragraph of your novel, or erasing and re-drawing and agonizing over the rough sketch of your eventual oil painting, you will never get past that step… and then you’ll start putting it off because you believe you’ll be stuck on that step forever. So stop that! Take a look at your imperfect rough draft and recognize that it’s just that–a rough draft. It will bring your work into existence, so you can shape it into the work you want to see as a final product.
4. Do the Easy Part First
Say, for example, you’ve been meaning to clean your room. Like, really, definitely meaning to! You’ve been meaning to clean your room… for the past month and a half. But, ugh, there are clothes everywhere, and you just can’t bring yourself to start sorting through them. You think some of them are probably even still clean! (Key word: probably.)
Well, isn’t it a good thing then that you don’t have to start by sorting through your accumulating laundry, then? In retrospect, this seems obvious. In the moment, on the other hand, you’re overwhelmed with a task that seems like an unclimbable mountain–even if that mountain is actually more of a molehill, if you look a little more closely.
Maybe don’t spend hours sorting through piles of mostly-dirty clothes. Maybe instead, take the empty water bottles from your nightstand and put them in the recycling. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Or take just the clothes that fell off of their hangers at the bottom of the closet and put them back where they belong. That doesn’t seem so hard, either. After a little while of doing the easiest possible task, you don’t even have to clean your room anymore–you just have to move some clothes from your floor to the laundry hamper.
This naturally applies to more than just cleaning your room. You can write your essay conclusion before the body paragraphs. You can skip around to the equations you already know how to answer on your math homework. There are fewer rules than you think.
5. Take it One Step at a Time
This is related to that last part, but they’re not quite the same. Unfortunately sometimes a task simply must be completed sequentially. These tasks are often daunting, whether it’s sending a professional email or going to get your car fixed.
Let’s take the example of sending an email. This is a source of anxiety for a surprisingly high number of people. So, let’s not make this the task of sending an email. How exactly can we do that? Well, see, most “tasks” are not themselves actually tasks, but rather a series of smaller tasks that are completed for the purpose of reaching a larger goal, and you can put them all on your to-do list.
Let’s see one way that this can go. Task one: open computer. Task two: open internet browser. Task three: sign into email account. Task four: click “send email,” “compose,” etc. Task five: type out the message you need to send. Task six: click “send.” Step seven: celebrate! You did it! You can divide these into even smaller tasks if you feel the need to. You can also take breaks if you need to; anxiety and executive dysfunction are incredibly challenging, and there’s no need to judge yourself for either.
As you can see, procrastination is absolutely a curable ailment. You are not trapped on an endless work-cycle roller coaster of doing things at the last minute, nor are you doomed to never finish a project. You just need the skills and self-discipline to help jumpstart your motivation, combat procrastination or totally stop procrastination before it starts. Good luck!
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Am also did some these already , but need more info .
You have to share really a nice piece of info with us .
Thank you so much for sharing these with us .
i love these. i need to forward this to my boyfriend as he is the king of procrastination. as is my daughter.
I will definitely try to follow these steps! 🙂
It’s strange that even after having a to do list and a schedule, I end up procrastinating.
Procrastination is a killer of joy. The tips you shared here are great for helping people do what needs to be done.
That’s a helpful post. You covered all the important tips.
This is a really good list. I sometimes feel like I do wait until the last minute.
I swear I am the queen of procrastination. This is all great advice. I need to start following it.
This is such a great topic to discuss and an eye opener, too. I will keep them in mind and share with my friends. too.
Wow, What a lovely tips I totally need this right because I feel demotivated this few days. your tips would help a lot. Thanks to this!
I usually do it backwards and do the hard part first. I know that if I get too tired, I won’t want to tackle the hard part, so I get it out of the way and am more likely to tackle the easier stuff that way.
This is something I really struggled with growing up. I love staying organized and getting things done, but I would always wait until the last minute.
These are really helpful tips for preventing procrastination! I guess there are some phases in life when we do feel procrastinating things and at that time, your tips are useful for fighting that feeling!
I always Make a To-Do List ! Also, I make sure I check everything and organize them. I set a specific time for each activity.
I can be SO bad about procrastinating! Honestly, if I will just start something, then I’m good to go and will get it done. But sometimes it’s so hard to start!
Oh, these are great tips and I have been procrastinating. Well, I should make a to-do list to be more organized.
I would always just force myself to do something, no matter how small or large. Usually once I get moving, I am okay to get things done. I love your idea of do the easier things first.
I wish I had seen this earlier. I was having the hardest time getting to work today.
I am such a terrible procrastinator and I have passed this on to my 5 kids! Ugh! I will try to use your tips and see if it might help us this year.
These are all great tips! I know I have had issues with procrastination in. the past!
Lists help me so much! I know many people don’t like them but they really give you a tangible look at where your time went.
I tend to do the hard part first, but I might be more successful doing the easy part first.
I think you wrote this post just for me! LOL Making lists is definitely a great way to get goals on paper and hold yourself accountable.
I am a huge procrastinator. If I don’t have a to-do list, I would get nothing done. These are great tips to help me be a better person and to be more motivated.
I am a list maker. I find that writing it down helps me to get things done
thanks for the suggestions. i love your voltaire quote. that totally makes sense that perfect is an enemy of good.
I tend to do the whole to do list and doing the easy ones first. It makes me feel that I am accomplishing things even when I’m really not.
These are really amazing list! Really helpful! Thanks for sharing.
This is going to help me a lot! I try not to procrastinate, but I still tend to put things off more than I should.
Thanks for posting.Love this post! And I love these tips.
Love this post! And I love these tips. So useful for an everyday life!
I am a big time procrastinator and that’s what I do – make lots of lists.
Taking one step at a time always does the job for me. This week, I had an assignment that bugged me for so long till when I took the first step. It all fell into place, thereafter!
I admit I also procrastinate a lot when I’m too lazy to do something, so it was really nice to read all these tips! Thanks for sharing all these with us!
I definitely needed this today! I’ve been procrastinating a ton, and I need to get my butt in gear. Thanks for the motivation!
These are really amazing list! Really timely and helpful!
I always prefer to make a to do list this really helps me a lot. And I too agree with you on taking it one step at a time. Thanks for sharing this amazing and helpful article with us
Lists help a lot! There’s this sheer satisfying feeling after ticking items off your list and making you feel more empowered and inspired to move to the next task.
I just hope it’s easy to do. I’m a procrastinator and I swear, I did the tip make a to do list but after some days I still procrastinate. But I tried doing it one at a time and I think I’m improving thanks to this.
I do agree with you, snd taking one step at a time is the best advice I have received in recent time! Lovely post
Great tips. I’m going to share this with my teens. With school starting soon it’s time to get them in track. Sometimes they love waiting til last minute.
My teens are the same way haha. Thanks for stopping by!
I agree on taking it one step at a time. Something my wife would probably need to know since she sometimes end up trying to think of lots of things to do but we all know you can’t do it all at the same time.
I need to show this to my husband. He is like the king of procrastination.
I think i’ll read this tomorrow.
Aren’t I funny? But really, a fabulous list.
Haha now that’s funny!:D
Yes, lists! I am a huge fan or making to-do lists. They always help me with my procrastination. Sometimes, I like to do the hardest thing first and then it is smooth sailing from there, but most of the time, I do the easy stuff, so I can check them off that list sooner, haha.
I am guilty of procrastinating! What I did to overcome it was to write to do lists and most importantly and as you rightfully said, i stopped prioritizing perfection!!!!
These are such great tips, I always make a to do list. I make a new one everyday so that i get stuff done. So many great tips
I need to give these a try. I generally get my stuff done eventually, but I have a tendency to put it off too long.
I really need this post right now, I am absolutely awful at procrastinating and could do with some ideas to stop and work!
TO-DO lists are my all time favorite. I have a million of them around the house!!
A to do list is my go to thing to do. I’m not a procrastinator, I just forget the things I need to do. Hence, writing them down.
I do some of these already, but I need to do them ALL. I’ve gotten better about it over the years, but I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator. Just awful.
These are all great tips. I’ve sort of always done these automatically, as I’ve never had a problem with procrastination. I’ve always told people to do these things, essentially.
One of my problems with procrastination is I want it to be perfect. Of course, that’s not going to happen so I don’t want to start. I need to get rid of that habit.