There have probably been many times in your life where you have a deadline for a task but wait until the last minute to get started. Maybe you put off items on your to-do list over and over again. It might even come down to you avoiding your essential tasks by keeping yourself busy with distractions. Research has shown that people who procrastinate may struggle with time management, have a fear of failure, or may have difficulty with self-regulation and decision making.
The habit of procrastination shows up in many different ways in our lives. Sometimes it might feel like you’ll never be able to break the cycle. But when you understand the behavior, you can change it.
If you’ve been an avid procrastinator and want to break the pattern, keep reading. Here’s a guide on how to break the habit of procrastination.
How to Overcome the Habit of Procrastination
Procrastination might seem like a quick fix for somebody looking from the outside. But honestly, it takes a few steps and consistent work to break the habit of procrastination.
If you genuinely want to change this behavior, you’ll have to be committed and follow the proper steps. Read on to learn more about how you can overcome procrastination.
Recognize That You’re Procrastinating
Sometimes in life, we get stuck on autopilot and tend to engage in behaviors without noticing. If you want to stop procrastinating, you’ll have to make it your mission to see when you’re acting out the behavior.
For instance, think about the last time you got assigned a task at work that might not be your favorite. What were the exact steps you took after that? Did you put the job to the side and set a reminder for when to start (which might have been right before the deadline)? Did you start working on other things before it while convincing yourself that those were more important (but they may have just been distractions)?
Become aware of what you do when you get a task that you would typically procrastinate with. From then on, minimize these behaviors as much as possible by interrupting the patterns. Instead of putting the task to the side, start on it immediately.
Work Out WHY You’re Procrastinating
If you want to start breaking the habit of procrastination, you have first to understand how behavioral patterns work. Typically, you have a belief system that is programmed into your subconscious mind. These beliefs tend to play out in your behaviors daily.
When you aren’t aware of the beliefs that might be hindering you, they could be damaging to your life. So one of the first steps for how to get out of the habit of procrastination is to figure out why you might be putting things off in the first place.
Studies have shown that people procrastinate for different reasons. Here are a few reasons why:
- Fear of failure
- Task lacks value
- Fear of criticism
- Issue with focus
- Depression (or other mental condition)
Once you’ve gotten to the root cause, you can start to reposition the belief around the task in your mind. For instance, let’s say you’re procrastinating on starting a book you want to write because you think you’re a horrible writer. Search for evidence of this belief─ has anyone ever said you didn’t write well or disliked your work?
Many times we’ll search for evidence for the myth that we make up and find that there isn’t any. If you were in the example scenario, you might even find evidence in favor of the exact opposite, like people expressing their love for your writing. No matter what the actual reason is, it’s best to address it so that you can work on breaking the habit of procrastination without worrying about it coming back.
Overcoming the Habit of Delaying Important Tasks
Besides the psychological aspect, there are practical steps you’ll have to follow through with to address procrastination. Firstly, if you notice you’re putting off essential tasks, then you’ll have to put routines and systems in place to repel the poor behavior.
Start by breaking down large tasks into smaller ones. Chunking down goals, large tasks, or projects and seeing them in steps can help you feel less overwhelmed and intimidated by the project. Create a to-do list out of the smaller tasks and check them off as you go.
Another key to dealing with important tasks right away is to make sure you are prioritizing correctly. Sometimes we might not feel like a task is as valuable as others simply because we don’t want to do it. Be honest with yourself about the urgency of a task and possibly develop a system to determine the level of importance.
Is Procrastination the Same as Being Lazy?
Procrastination tends to get confused with laziness, but they aren’t the same. Laziness is predominantly characterized by an unwillingness to do tasks. Procrastinating is putting something off while distracted by other things, usually for an underlying reason.
The difference between the two seems to come down to intention. Just because you’re avoiding a task doesn’t mean you don’t intend to do it.
Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies
You can learn how to get out of the procrastination cycle by implementing preventative strategies. We’ve mentioned a few here already, including becoming aware of the behavior and chunking down large tasks. But there are other methods and tools to help fight against procrastination.
Here are a few:
- Reward yourself
- Use timers (try the Pomodoro technique)
- Find an accountability buddy
- Decrease distractions
- Work at opportune times
- Take breaks
You may need to mix some of these strategies until you find your perfect routine.
How to Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination is the acting of putting off tasks until a later time. Of course, it might seem like the most simple solution to this would be to do the task right away. But that’s not how you fix procrastination habits for people who do this regularly.
You need to take steps to make sure you’re addressing the issue appropriately. If you’re interested in more ways to improve productivity, check out this article.