5 Ways to Overcome Procrastination

Learn how to do the tasks at hand and achieve goals.

Finishing a task.

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Everyone deserves to live their best life and reach their fullest potential. That means doing everything you can to make that happen!

But, sometimes procrastination can get in the way of getting things done. If you struggle with this, not to worry! When you understand what leads to procrastination in the first place, you can develop strategies to overcome it and live up to your potential. 

According to Psychology Today, nearly 20 percent of the population struggle with procrastination. While everyone puts off things now and again, procrastinators postpone important tasks chronically. Rather than handle urgent priorities, they focus on less important, easier tasks instead.

From an outsider’s perspective, it might just sound like laziness or lack of planning. Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, told the New York Times,“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” 

A 2013 study published in the APS Observer supports this view of procrastination as a type of self-sabotage. Difficult, demotivating emotions, like fear of failure or anxiety, get in the way and prevent someone from getting things done. 

That’s because people who procrastinate develop unpleasant emotions around a task, and so they avoid doing it to protect themselves. It’s like a coping mechanism. Here are five  strategies to overcome procrastination. These tips can help work through some of the difficult emotions that hold you back from getting things done. 

Observe patterns of procrastination
Like any type of coping mechanism, procrastination happens subconsciously, and you may not even realize that you are doing it. So, how will you break the cycle of procrastination if you don’t know that it’s happening in the first place? That’s why simple awareness has the power to help overcome procrastination. 

A study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that mindfulness, awareness of the present moment, reduces habits of procrastination. To practice mindfulness, try to notice moments when you avoid getting something done. Observe the emotions and thoughts that come up. You’re likely to procrastinate less just by noticing when and how you feel when you do it.

Break down goals into smaller tasks
Whether you want to learn a new language, pay off debt, or write a book, any big goal in life takes time and hard work to achieve. It can seem overwhelming to know where to even begin! 

Creating a schedule, with goals broken down into smaller tasks, will help you commit to getting things down without feeling so overwhelmed. Behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely told CNBC“Break down your big goals into small daily tasks. For example, if you wanted to write a book by the end of 2017, figure out how many pages you’d have to write each day to get there. Schedule time to do those daily tasks. For example, you could block one hour of time. every night for writing.” 

Try the Pomodoro Technique
Many procrastinators wait until the last minute to do something, claiming that they work better under pressure. But rushing to get something done often leads to poor performance. Delaying in work doesn’t account for potential mishaps and errors that can (and often do) happen.

You can trick your brain into getting things done on time with the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Franceso Cirillo, the method breaks down tasks into time intervals. As a university student, Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian). He would set the timer for about 25 minutes. Then he removed all distractions and focused on that task completely until the timer went off. Focusing on tasks this way, in shorter time periods, helps maintain focus, avoid distractions, and makes large projects feel less overwhelming. 

Let go of perfection
Procrastination is really perfectionism,  according to Psych Central. At first, it may sound great; perfectionists demand high standards for themselves. In reality, nobody's perfect, and perfection is impossible. When you try to attain the unattainable, you’ll always fall short and feel disappointed in yourself. 

What if you could let go of being perfect, or even good at something? What if you just try something for the sake of trying? The saying goes, trying and failing is better than not trying at all. Start making attempts at being imperfect. Once you’ve made a few of these easy attempts, you may feel more and more comfortable handling tasks or trying something new.

Practice self-compassion
A 2012 study published in Self and Identity found that people who procrastinate tend to have lower levels of self-compassion. Self-compassion means forgiving yourself when you make a mistake, fail, or feel inadequate. You don’t ignore how you feel. Instead, you treat yourself with grace and understanding, like you would a friend. Practice forgiving yourself, even when you make mistakes. Remind yourself of your strengths and celebrate small wins. 

If you want to overcome procrastination, and feel better about yourself overall, remember to be nice to yourself! It’s okay to make mistakes, to feel embarrassed, or even to fail. Give yourself a break. Life is about learning, and the only way to learn is to make mistakes and grow from them. With a flexible, open mindset, you’ll find it easier to handle tasks, even when difficult emotions come up.

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