Procrastination isn't just a symptom; it's a condition. It tends to develop over time and can also lead to other issues. If you procrastinate, you may want to stop and ask yourself what exactly it is that you are "putting off" and if it is even worth it.
If you accept that procrastination is more than just an annoyance, you can begin to deal with the habit and develop more effective ways to manage your time.
The biggest key to conquering procrastination is realizing what you are doing when you procrastinate. Some people ask themselves, "Why am I procrastinating?" Perhaps it's to make themselves feel like they're accomplishing something. Or maybe it's a coping mechanism, a way to divert attention from something unpleasant or painful. And sometimes procrastination is the darker underbelly of perfectionism; if you're hell-bent that things have to be done perfectly (hint: nothing is ever perfect), paralysis can lead to procrastination.
How can you reduce procrastination and regain control of your time?
1. Identify the habit. You might find that your procrastination stems from re-prioritizing your workload. A person who delays an essential task for good reasons is not procrastinating.
On the other hand, procrastination is the issue if you never get back to completing these necessary tasks or keep focusing on other functions to avoid the important ones.
You can tell that you're procrastinating if you do some of the following things: You make sure to fill your day with tasks that aren't urgent. Or you spend time reading the same emails several times a day with no decision on how to act on them.
You're also procrastinating if you begin an urgent task but then wander off to grab a cup of coffee. In that situation, you know it's procrastination when you never get back to finish it.
2. Just start. A sure way to procrastinate is to spend too much time deciding whether or not to take action. Instead of debating, take action and get the work finished. You'll only regret not doing it if you let it slide.
The reason this tip is so practical is in how it helps you take the first step. The first step is usually the hardest. Once you've taken it, the rest becomes more straightforward.
If you had to push a car, for example, you'd find that the most challenging step is getting the vehicle to move, but it gets much more manageable once you manage to do that. Apply the same principle to your work.
Even if it's small, take the first step toward what you want to get done. It doesn't have to be the most significant step you've ever taken – just get the ball rolling, and you'll gain momentum.
3. Willpower is NOT the answer. Many people assume that willpower is enough, but the temptation to procrastinate usually comes from a deeper place within you.
Willpower -- one type of motivation -- is like fuel to a car. The issue with relying on willpower is that you can only use it before you feel completely wiped out.
In addition, once your willpower runs out, it's challenging to find the motivation to start back up again. That's why it's so important to think about your goals and plan the steps you need to take to achieve those goals.
Ask yourself, “What do I need to achieve my goals?” Then make a list of the steps you need to take to achieve those goals.
Once you've figured out the steps, get started taking those steps, one step at a time. One step leads to another, and another, and soon you're moving in the direction of your goals.
If you choose goals that align with what really matters to you and your core values, you'll be less susceptible to procrastination. That's why it's always a good idea to set goals that value-driven and exciting to you.
It's also a good idea to plan; planning can reduce the need for willpower. It's already challenging to use willpower to get a task done, so planning can make it easier.
Also, remember that there's no shame in asking for help. Many people procrastinate simply because they're afraid to ask for help. Talk to your friends, family, or coworkers if you need help and get the help you need to finish the task. If procrastination is a bigger or more pervasive problem in your world, it may be useful to seek professional help!