I don’t know about you but I have lived through the motions.
The constant lines in my thoughts and mind.
The excuses that drive me insane but I can’t seem to let go.
“You’ll have your creative juices running by tomorrow. You’ll do it then.” I tell myself time and again all the while pushing my work for another day.
When that line doesn’t cut it, I tell myself. “You’re too tired today. Do it in the morning. Your energy levels are highest at that time.”
Procrastinating is a constant battle that 20% of the human population struggles with. If you have read this far, I’m thinking that you struggle with it too. You want to know why you procrastinate despite every effort you have pulled out and how to finally overcome it.
It’s a hard life to live if you keep pushing your tasks to tomorrow and the next day after that. It’s even harder to live with self-blame, stress, and anxiety each time you procrastinate.
Luckily, there some things you can do to overcome procrastination.
But before that, let’s look at the types of procrastinators. Before overpowering procrastination, you’ve got to know which type of procrastinator you are.
The different types of procrastinators.
You keep pushing a task to tomorrow or the next day. You want to do it now but the said task scares you. It drives you nuts just thinking about starting it.
“It’s too hard and complicated,” is your favorite escape line.
And on most occasions, you find that you’re doing a task at the last minute. Say a couple of hours before the deadline.
Dr. Fuschia Sirois affirms that the reason we engage in chronic procrastination is because we’d rather not deal and manage with the negative emotions associated with the task we are procrastinating.
Perfectionist procrastinators daydream of how perfect a goal will look like when completed instead of getting right to it.
You want the last result to be perfect in detail, in writing, and even aesthetically.
EX. Instead of starting on your school essay, you spend countless hours researching for a particular subtopic in the excuse of fine-tuning all the details. The result is not perfect at all.
The fun perfectionist.
You’d rather scroll through your Facebook feeds instead of completing a project due in two days.
The essay will be completed later, right now, what matters is seeing how my favorite influencer on Instagram is fairing.
It’s easier to follow a trending thread on Twitter than get into boring details of your assignments/work.
‘Plenty of time’ Procrastinator.
The essay is due in a months. That’s plenty of time to complete it!
In your mind, there’s plenty of time to work on your goals and ambitions. You’re young. You still have two more years before graduating. You’ve got two whole weeks before school break ends.
The ‘plenty of time’ possibilities are endless. And so does procrastination get harder to overcome.
I hope you’ve identified the type of procrastinator you tend to be. Actually, I think you can fall in between the overlaps. (I’m a perfectionist and fun procrastinator.)
Why do we procrastinate?
Emotional Management issues
Procrastination is not a question of lack of time management but a lack of proper emotional management. Most procrastinators including myself will have a well but vague plan for tomorrow or next week. Following through is the hard part.
For the anxious procrastinator, they want to put off the undesirable task for later thinking that they’ll be better equipped to do it then. The fun procrastinator will choose entertainment or pleasure over doing something they had planned for.
As you can see, the biggest reason why we procrastinate is because we’re not able to manage our emotions. To drill them down and find the root cause of why we’re avoiding a certain task by procrastinating.
When we put something off until tomorrow and the day after that, we predict and believe that we’ll have more energy, oomph or the creativity to complete it. Plus, when we plan to complete a task tomorrow, we feel good about ourselves for making such a healthy decision.
Chance are, if you are not motivated today, you will not be motivated tomorrow.
You’re too tired.
This is a no brainer. Research has shown that you are less likely to work on your goals if you are dead tired. This gives you the perfect opportunity to opt-out of doing a task and schedule it for tomorrow. (Truth is, you may not do it for months to come.)
You’ve got a readily available Pleasure Substitute.
Just think about it. Instead of completing your assignment, why not finish The Good Doctor series or binge read the latest of Francine Rivers’ novels.
It’s the 21st century and technology has made it easy, so easy to have the latest entertainment apps on our phones, making it harder to overcome procrastination. After all, the substitute is more pleasurable and fun.
How do you overcome Procrastination?
1. Set time aside for entertainment.
Instead of planning entertainment as the last resort, how about planning around the time set aside for entertainment.
Look at it this way, if you had to work all day with no entertainment breaks, (I’m not talking about the mandatory rest breaks), you would crave entertainment and as a result: You’ll put off a task and spend hours gratifying your entertainment hunger.
But, what if you had time set aside strictly for an entertainment break. It could be a thirty minutes scroll through your Facebook updates, a 30 minutes series episode or a two chapter novel read. (The latter is my form of strictly entertainment break.)
Most procrastinators know how to plan. Executing the plan is the hard part.
What if, you unscheduled your whole schedule and planned for what should be done in the next hour. See, I think what puts us on the receiving end of procrastination is our shortcomings when it comes to how we plan.
We plan for a week or month and ignore the detailed actions that will lead us to the final game plan. As an INFJ, I build fantasy castles of what my ultimate goal will look like, go through the giant steps that will get me there but forget to plan and outline the small actionable steps that are needed.
Take one huge chunk of your goal and turn it into two actionable steps. One step should be completed within a day and the other step within the next hour.
Here’s an example of how turning large tasks into smaller detailed steps can help you overcome procrastination.
3. Get in motion
A task once started is easier to execute than one not started.
The five minute rule makes overcoming procrastination easier. Instead of setting a lot of time aside to work on a goal, why don’t you set a timer for only 5 minutes and stop working when it goes off. (There’s an 80% chance you won’t stop.)
The 5-minute rule makes you feel and think that 5 minutes is such a short time. It will elapse quickly and save you the trouble of working.
When I find myself putting off working on my novels and assignments, I set the timer for five minutes and promise to work until the timer goes off. By the time it does, I’m so in my element and end up writing for thirty more minutes or an hour.
This is a tried and proven practice to overcome procrastination and you can do it too.
4. Accountability Partner
There’s a 30% chance that you’ll complete a task if you have an accountability partner. Just imagine how you feel when you let someone get a glimpse of your inner dreams and goals. It can trigger emotions like fear of not achieving those dreams or it could trigger a kind of responsibility to work on your dreams.
An accountability partner should be a person who understands your personality, your values, and who knows that you are trying to overcome procrastination. This way, it would be easier to communicate your struggles to them even as you try to reach your end goal.
Actionable tip: Write down a list of three people who understand you in the three ways stated above. Then choose one out of the three who is willing as your accountability partner.
One of the top reasons why you might be procrastinating is fatigue. But this can be quickly alleviated by a ten minute workout.
If gym exercising does not cut it for you, try Zumba, hip-hop dancing, or fun Cardio workout. It’s simple, quick, and fun. Hitting a bird with three stones if you ask me. Plus, you get the oomph to get down and work.
What you stand to lose by procrastinating.
Continuous procrastination can lead to chronic stress, anxiety and depression. You will experience self-blame and your productivity and finances will suffer not to mention the harm you pose for your mental health.
But hope is not yet lost. With the discussed five simple tips, you will overcome procrastination and get to your dreams and ambitions in your set time. You don’t have to do it all at once, you can choose one and start working on it immediately.
Forgive yourself when you don’t overcome procrastination immediately.
The hard truth is that you may not break your relationship with procrastination as easily. It takes time, dedication, and constant self-forgiveness. The last thing you want is self-blame on top of dealing with procrastination.
Forgive yourself for the times you failed and try a second time.
Quick Take Away.
Here’s a short exercise to get you working.
Set a timer for three minutes only. Put all you need on a work table and start working on the task you’ve been procrastinating since forever until the timer goes off.
Then let me know how it worked in the comments.