Do you remember the last time you rushed to complete a task on time, then chalked it up to being a “procrastinator”? It is the excuse we tell ourselves and others all the time, and everyone does it. Despite knowing in that moment that it would be better if we were to not procrastinate, we make a choice to do it anyway. Deep down, most of us know that we need and want to stop procrastinating, but we just do not know how to stop procrastinating.
Procrastination does not only apply to the seemingly smaller decisions such as postponing a work deadline or a school assignment; procrastination can characterize and dictate how our lives pan out, as we continue to put off making bigger decisions whether it involves a career, a relationship, or some other big life decision. It is vital to understand how to stop procrastinating to achieve the things that you want, get unstuck, or drop the bad habit of rushing through things at the last minute.
If you want to know how to stop procrastinating, here are a few approaches you can take:
Consider your future
You focus on getting the task at hand done just in time, but rarely dedicate time, energy, efforts, or even thoughts toward your future – sound familiar? Have you ever wondered how if you really knew how to stop procrastinating then applied yourself, what it could mean for you? Chances are, if you frequently procrastinate, then you are someone who mainly lives for today or the things right in front of you, even if you delay them. While there is nothing wrong with being focused on the present, your non-essential or less urgent tasks need to be addressed too. You know, the ones you have been putting off for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.
You may have a bigger goal for yourself and a vision for your future but delay taking action because you are overwhelmed or confused about where to start. For whatever reason, you continue to put this dream aside, and it is possible that you do this because you haven’t taken the time to think about what accomplishing it would mean for your future. What would your life look like after achieving this goal? Think about the bigger picture—make a list of all the positives or even create a visual aid to help you really envision it.
Alter your inner-dialogue
If you want to know how to stop procrastinating, then you need to let go of the self-deprecating or disempowering thoughts that frame the way you feel about your tasks and yourself. If you have ever done an internet search for “how to stop procrastinating,” then it is likely you read something about how perfectionism has a good bit to do with procrastination, and it does.
Perfectionism is characterized by placing unrealistic expectations on one’s self, and as a result, failure becomes inevitable to that person. A perfectionist is likely to put off a task for as long as possible out of fear of being unable to execute a task perfectly. If you struggle with perfectionism and are wondering how to stop procrastinating, then it is essential that you overcome your negative self-talk by trying to catch yourself when you are being critical. When you do catch one of these thoughts, replace it with a more positive one.
This other issue with perfectionism and procrastination is that perfectionists tend to believe that their performance and abilities determine their self-worth. If this sounds like you, then you need to remind yourself that your achievements do not dictate your value as a human being. There are so many other things that you should attribute to your self-worth such as your relationships, values, experiences, and obstacles you have overcome.
Shift your perspective
Sometimes the tendency is for us to think about our work or tasks in terms of something that we “need” or “have” to do. But this can be a self-sabotaging thought process that will keep you further from achieving your tasks and understanding how to stop procrastinating. If you really want to feel more empowered and motivated, use phrases like “I choose to do this” instead. When you actively acknowledge that you technically do have a choice, even if it does not always feel that way, you are telling your mind that you are in control.
Not only are you in control of your future tasks and the way you think about them, but you are in control of shifting the way you think about your past as well. Self-forgiveness for the ways and times you have procrastinated in the past is an effective tool for ending procrastination.
Get over your fear of rejection
Fear of rejection often has a big role to play in procrastination, even if people don’t realize it. Have you been putting off applying for that job or starting that creative project you’ve always talked about? There are other potential reasons for it but a lot of people avoid starting things because they ultimately mean they have to put themselves out there and there is a chance that they will be rejected.
What if you don’t get the job or people don’t like your project? Subconsciously, you decide that it’s easier to not start in the first place because then you won’t get rejected, and this leads to procrastination. If you want to procrastinate less, getting over the fear of rejection is so important.
Understanding where it comes from is the best place to start, so consider whether it’s something that you learned in childhood or whether other past rejections have left you feeling afraid. Once you understand it, you can start changing the way that you respond to rejection in all areas of your life, and this will help you procrastinate less and put yourself out there.
Tackle tasks as you go
If you have been presented with a new task and have some free time to get started on it, then just go ahead and start. What is the worst thing that could happen? You free up some more free time for later? Your worst-case scenario is maybe you aren’t feeling quite up for the challenge at that moment, so you struggle a bit with it, and maybe you have to step back and reset for a few; but if you merely begin, you are one step further than you were before. And speaking of steps, there is also nothing wrong with baby steps.
Breaking down your goals or larger tasks into bite-sized goals is another effective technique for stopping procrastination. Tackle your tasks as soon as they arrive, and rather than letting them build up throughout the day, think about breaking them down.
Tackle the biggest task first
Your hesitation in doing a task is often a sign that that task is the most important thing. Try to move in the direction of what you are afraid of. It is also possible that this important task is the one you find the least pleasant, and if you get it out of the way first thing, you can concentrate the rest of your day on the tasks that you enjoy more and that do not feel so challenging or defeating.
If you have read through all this and feel like you have a better idea of how to stop procrastinating but still feel afraid or hesitant, remember that you don’t have to apply all of these techniques at once; nor do you ever have to complete all your tasks at once. Maybe what works best for you is to just do one thing toward your biggest goal or task every day and allow your efforts, no matter how big or small, to cumulatively add up.