Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. When you procrastinate, you have problems talking yourself into doing things that you have to do or should do. In the end, when you procrastinate, you waste time. Time is a precious commodity for many people. We are all on tight schedules, frequently down to the minute.
While researching this article, I read that more people regret not doing the things they wanted to in life than regret doing the things they have done. That was a very eye-opening statement for me. Procrastination can cost you a lot in life, experiences, careers, relationships, and more. It’ s often coupled with fear and anxiety and is one of the main barriers for people not getting further in life.
Today it is easier than ever to get caught up in procrastination. Social media is at our fingertips every minute of the day. The time that we used to spend talking to each other now is spent staring at our phones. I was recently at a Broadway show, and at intermission, before the lights even came back on, the majority of the theater was on their phones. As I looked around, I was amazed at how many people were blindly staring at their screens.
It lead me to think and research the concept of procrastination, what it is, and how to avoid it.
Why do people procrastinate?
There are a few reasons why people generally procrastinate.
Lack of motivation
Motivation tends to be the most popular thought as to why we waste time. If you were more motivated on your goals and fixated on the end prize, then nothing would get in your way or stop you.
No concept or value of time
I recently discovered David Goggins. He likes to talk about how there are 168 hours in a week. Each second, minute, or hour we waste procrastinating is one hour less of productivity in our day and puts us one hour further away from our goals. You must realize what your time is worth, and that time is, in fact, money. If you’re in sales, each minute you aren’t on the phone, sending an email or talking with a client is wasted time. Life is not forever, and you will not get back the time you lost. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Lack of self-discipline
If you lack the self-discipline or control to stay off social media while you are supposed to be doing something more important then you will forever be a victim of procrastination. To have self-discipline, you must be motivated and persevere when necessary.
It is important to remember that procrastination is not laziness. People who procrastinate just put doing something off, or wait until the very last minute. They aren’t lazy. Lazy people don’t want to do anything, where procrastinators wish to do something but can’t always get themselves to start. Procrastination should also not be confused with relaxing. Relaxation is necessary to recharge your body and mind. Procrastination, on the other hand, causes stress and anxiety and drains the body and mind. Procrastinating will make you tired and uneasy.
Segment what needs to be done
It is always easier to tackle a project if you break down what you need to do in smaller steps. Once you’ve completed a few smaller tasks, you begin to gain momentum and gain confidence. As you complete each task, you feel motivated to continue. Make the segments you work on small and achievable. Small steps lead to success and positive outcomes.
The same way you get your dog to learn to sit or go outside, learn to treat yourself when you accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Those treats can be something like a good sandwich if I can finish this list of 3 tasks before lunch or maybe a nice dinner with friends if you complete the entire project. If the task at hand is something you are not excited about, then a reward may be just the enticement you need for motivation to start.
Set a deadline
Words like later, tomorrow, and someday need to be eliminated from your vocabulary. Think now, not later, to avoid procrastination. Set a specific deadline and do everything you can to work towards that deadline. Early is always better than late.
Get rid of temptations
If you don’t want to be interrupted and get caught with disruptions that can lead to procrastination, then eliminate the temptations. If you find yourself wasting time on social media or always looking at your phone then delete the apps, turn your phone off or place it in another room.
Distractions that lead to procrastination can also include talking in the office with co-workers, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc. Try changing up your environment from time to time if you need to.
Surround yourself with like people
If you want to avoid procrastination truly, then you must avoid others that procrastinate. Do you have that one guy or girl in your office who likes to talk you rear off for 30 minutes every time you walk past their desk to go to the bathroom? Everybody has someone like this in their life. As someone who works from home (and it’s going to sound terrible to say this) I have to avoid calls from my mother during the day.
I love her to death, but she seems to think that because I am home, I can chat for an hour on the phone. I have to either not pick up the phone when she calls, which is scary because she may need me, or I have to set boundaries when I answer. “I’m busy with a deadline mom, can I call you tonight”?
Distance yourself from people who waste your time and drag you into gossip and small talk when trying to stay focused.
Get organized and be ready
If you are unorganized, you will find it challenging to avoid procrastination. When you can’t find what you’re looking for, it becomes easier to get caught in other distractions. You rifle through your desk drawer looking for a file and stumble onto an old photo album. Twenty minutes later, you realize you’ve gotten nothing accomplished and have now wasted precious minutes of your day. Stay organized at all times and be ready to hit the ground running each day.
Tell others about your goals
One way to remain focused and moving forward towards your goals and avoiding procrastination is to let others know your goals. When you let someone else know your goals or what you need to get done, you have another person holding you accountable. You can’t avoid a goal or task if someone else is there to keep you responsible.
Let’s use working out and losing 10 pounds in 2 months as an example. If you were to go at that on your own, you’d have a much harder time than if you enlisted the help of someone else to hold you accountable as you keep them accountable. If you don’t feel like getting up early to go to the gym, you have a friend to push you as well. When you succeed, that person who helped will be the first person to congratulate you.
Do the hard things first
One of the easiest ways to avoid procrastination is to take care of any hard tasks or to-dos first. Think of how hard it can be at times to do something you don’t want to do. It becomes easy for you to procrastinate and push this back further and further. Get it done first and out of the way. That way, everything else will seem so much easier to accomplish, and you won’t be overwhelmed with the thought of doing what you don’t want to.
The other school of thought of many is to get the easy things done first. That way, you can build that momentum I mentioned earlier. Whatever works best for you, though, I still believe you should tackle the hardest things first when you are more alert.
Rest is not procrastination, and to remain focussed throughout the day; it is essential to take a few breaks. I’ve discussed this before in previous articles, but you need to get up and step away from a project or task now and then to clear your head and recharge. Sometimes trying to solve a problem or figure out and the answer is easier when you take a minute, step away, and come back to it.
Improve your workspace
No one can be motivated in a dreary workspace. Spruce up the area you are working to the best of your ability. This is easier to do if you work from home, but many corporate offices are okay with you making your workspace a bit more appealing.
Something as simple as removing the clutter from your desk will help to prevent unnecessary distractions. Make your workspace yours, and you will be more productive.
Procrastination is a tough problem to solve, and it won’t happen overnight. We all procrastinate from time to time, so try your best using the tips above and creating a plan to follow daily. Most important is to start today because if you procrastinate on stopping your procrastination, well, then you may be doomed.
How do you avoid procrastination? Comment below.