5 Steps to Stop Procrastinating

June 24, 2022

Why do we procrastinate and what actions can we take to stop putting off complex tasks? Learn how to tackle any kind of challenge in your professional and private life.

We all know the feeling of waking up early in the morning of a busy workday, glance at the overload of topics and long list of tasks, only to immediately feel the need to turn away from the situation and forget it even exists.

The good news is that you are not alone in feeling this way and in fact, according to the author of  "The Procrastination Equation"  Piers Steel, about 95% of people admit to putting off work and the more averse you find a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate.   

And according to Alice Boyes (former clinical psychologist turned writer) and Timothy A. Pychyl (psychologist at Carleton University and director of the Procrastination Research Group), there are summarized at least three factors to procrastination:

The absence of good habits and systems (poor discipline, chaos),  
Intolerance for particular emotions (like anxiety, boredom, frustration),  
and flawed thinking patterns (intrinsically unrewarding and/or lacking in personal meaning).

Strong habits have been shown to reduce our need for self-control. They make it easier to stick to exerting behaviors and resist distractions. But the process of establishing a habit that results in such benefits usually takes a few months.

So how can we overcome these triggers and learn to be more proactive against these reoccurring procrastinate, emotional situations? And which habits are needed to be the master of your own mind?

Chris Bailey, author of Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction and The Productivity Project, rang a year-long productivity project where he conduced intensive research, as wekk as dozens of productivity exoeriments on himself, to discover how to become as productive as possible. as a result, after a long period of time working with several academic journal article and renowed researchers, such as Psychl, he came up with 5 Steps to overcome any kind of procrastination.

1. Reverse the triggers!

After considering which trigger is set off by a task you are trying to tackle, try to think about the dreaded activity from a different perspective by making it more attractive.   

For example, ask yourself, "What will I achieve by completing this task?"

2. Work within your resistance level!

If you find yourself resisting a task, ask yourself how badly you do not want to do it and make it as measurable as possible. 

Could you maybe do it for at least an hour? If not, what about 30 minutes? Measure your resistance to find an acceptable solution for that moment in time. 

3. Just get started!

Assignments that trigger procrastination are usually not as bad as we think. It is easier to get on with a task once the initial challenge of tackling it in the first place. This forces us to subconsciously re-evaluate our work and we may find that the actual task has fewer triggers than originally expected.

4. Procrastination costs!

Make a list of all the tasks you are putting off in your personal and professional life, big and small, and calculate the cost of procrastination for each task. 

How much more is it costing you mentally? What consequences will follow because of your procrastination?

5. Disconnect!

Electronic devices are the holy grail of procrastination. If you find yourself being distracted by any kind of devices or media (be it email, social media, texting, etc.), remove yourself from the situation by immediately disconnecting.

An even better way to prevent a distraction through these devices is to disable them ahead of time, allowing your mind to be in the right mindset and have choice, but to concentrate on the task at hand. 

Emotional growth is key

In addition to these five helpful strategies to overcome procrastinating, Alice Boyes speaks about emotional growth and understanding that is essential to be more sufficient in applying any of the above named or other tips and tricks regarding procrastination prevention.

By disentangling your feelings and accurately identifying your emotions, it is easier to manage tasks that create resentment or anxiety. By rating the level of the triggered emotion towards the task at hand, you are able to evaluate the situation and create genuine value towards each step taken. 

Another important emotional habit is to use self-compassion to overcome strong negative memories or thoughts regarding past failures which cause anxiety, and in thus result in procrastination. Research shows that you can heal these emotional wounds with compassionate self-talk. 

"Last time the outcome of this task was not as good as I expected, and therefore I am resenting it this time. My thoughts and feeling are understandable. But I have learned from my past mistakes and now all the better for it. This time it will be better!"  

Be kind to yourself and celebrate each step taken - no matter how big or small. by allowing oneself to take in the emotions that arise thought the strain of said tasks, breaking them down and understanding where these triggered feelings come from. Applying one or more of the practiced, creating the habit of automatically using the right coping mechanisms that suit your trigger and set task.

Our habits and emotions are all linked and by continuously regarding them and utilizing healthy coping strategies, procrastination will have less power over you in your personal and professional lives.

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