We all have days where we put off work that needs to be done or finished. Do you ever feel like you just can’t do the work? Do you work hard on other tasks, leaving that one task until the last minute? Has a colleague talked to you about procrastinating on a project?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, don’t feel bad—you’re not alone. Procrastination is a problem many of us face at some point. What causes us to leave things until the very last moment?
Reasons for Procrastination
There are many reasons people choose to put things off—let’s take a look:
- Avoiding a task you don’t like
- Unable to make a decision
- Overly tired or overworked—maybe feeling burned out
- Afraid of failure—risk averse
- Feelings of inadequacy or overwhelm
- Lost hope
- Distractions make it difficult or impossible to get things done
All of these points can cause you to procrastinate, but the problem can be caused by one or more of these reasons. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Don’t feel alone if you have this issue. We’re here to help you.
Tips to Avoid Procrastination
We’ve done the research and come with tips to help you with this problem. Let’s take a look.
1). Recognize you have a problem: the first step with any problem is to first recognize and admit you have a problem. This is the same for overeating, drinking too much alcohol, etc. You first need to own the fact that you have a problem and how it’s affecting your life. Once you truly come to realize and admit you have a problem leaving things to the last minute, at that point you’ll be able to start working on solutions to avoid this issue.
2). Understand why you’re procrastinating: once you’ve admitted you have a problem, you’ll have to understand the underlying cause of the problem. Honestly ask yourself why you have a habit of putting things off. Don’t be afraid of the reasons that might surface—it’s OK. Just as admitting the problem is the first step to fixing the issue, understanding the causes can help you avoid procrastination in the future.
Do you lack organization skills? Then to-do lists and reminders might be beneficial. If used properly and regularly, then these tools can help you stay on track and get things done. However, you have to be ready to commit to using these tools each and every day, otherwise you’ll be back to putting things off.
3). Task lists: long lists of to-dos can put you off and make your procrastinate; however, if you prioritize the tasks and organize them into smaller pieces, they’ll be more manageable. When you complete each task, you’ll have feelings of accomplishment.
The way to do this is by creating task, and then breaking it down into manageable steps. Make sure the steps are doable in a short amount of time. As you manage each step, cross it off and move to the next one until all the steps are completed and the task is finished. You’ll feel so good! Following this method at work and at home will keep you on track and positively motivated to stay on track and avoid doing things until the very last minute possible.
4). Hard, most important tasks come first: when you’re creating a task list, be sure to put the hardest and most important tasks at the top of your list. These might be things you have to get done by a certain day at a specific time, such as paying bills, a project at work, etc. It’s also helpful to plan these tasks for the time of day you have the most energy. For some people, this might be early in the morning, while others may feel more awake in the late afternoon or evening. Find what works for you and stick with it at the time of day that’s best. You’ll find you get more done and feel better about yourself overall.
5). Eliminate distractions: are there things in your work or home environment that make it difficult to concentrate and grab your attention away from tasks? Maybe it’s a favorite TV show or movie. It could be all the talking that goes on in your office. Whatever it is, find a way to minimize the distractions so you can concentrate on work and tasks.
For instance, you may need to turn off the TV when you need to be focused on bill-paying at home. Or maybe a set of noise-cancelling headphones would help cut the background noise so you can work. Also avoid checking emails every few minutes or posts on social media. These are some of the major distractions we all face. Who doesn’t want to watch the latest cat or puppy videos? Turn it all off and focus. When you’re finished, then you can enjoy your favorite show and catchup with friends and family on social media.
6). Plan ahead & set goals: one suggestion that helps many people is planning and goal setting. It can be a tedious job to make goals and plan ahead, but the rewards are tasks finished both in your professional life and your personal life. The first place to start might be planning your day. This is manageable and most of our days are predictable. So, start by planning one day.
Choose to focus on those things that need to be done first. When you’re finished with those most important tasks, then move on to other tasks that aren’t so important, but still need to be done.
Focus on what motivates you, too. Perhaps you need to get some laundry done, but you’d like to go out hiking. You could choose to do your laundry the night before and then be free to hike the next day. It can be that simple.
7). Get plenty of rest: don’t forget to make sure you get plenty of rest each day. You need time away from work and time enough to sleep. When you have enough energy, you may find that procrastination is a thing of the past. It really can be as simple as getting enough rest. Also be sure to eat a healthy diet, get enough regular exercise, etc. These are all helpful to avoid feeling overly tired and burned out. Take care of yourself, and you may find this relieves or eliminates the urge to procrastinate.
Rewards Are Important
Remember to reward yourself when you finish a task—no matter how large or small the task may be. Setting yourself a reward to work toward can keep you motivated to moving forward and finishing what you’ve started.
For smaller goals, set reasonable rewards such a cold soda or your favorite snack. For larger projects, you might set the goal of a family vacation or a solo trip. Just be sure to keep the reward proportional to the task you’ve finished.
Overcoming procrastination is matter of recognizing you have a problem, understanding the underlying cause and then looking for ways to overcome. It will take some effort on your part, but the rewards are gratifying when you overcome putting things off until the last minute.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.