I am currently fighting the urge to procrastinate when it comes to writing this post. It is so easy to tell yourself that you will get to it later: after I check my email, after I check social media, let me just watch this quick YouTube video… I’ll have more motivation after I take a break, maybe I’ll just have a quick snack… And so on, and so on, and so on…
I know because this is literally the thought process I just went through, and that happens often when I don’t have the motivation to start a task. And the problem is that the getting started is often the hardest part, because now that I started a lot of the resistance I previously felt has lifted.
Do you struggle with knowing how to stop procrastinating? Do you find yourself leaving things to the last minute, resulting in more stress, a build-up of anxiety, and frustration within yourself?
Procrastination is a habit that many people experience. But I want you to start facing your procrastination habit by acknowledging one thing:
Why You Procrastinate
There is something to be gained from procrastination. Short-term pleasure is often quicker and easier than the long-term success of completing a task or working towards a goal.
1. Feeling Good Now Vs. Feeling Good Later
It feels good to kick back and watch your favorite show on Netflix or check out what your friends are doing on social media. It doesn’t always feel good to pay the bills, do the dishes, or write that paper you have been avoiding.
It is human nature to want to take the short cut and feel good now, instead of delaying that gratification for a goal that may take longer to get to. Delayed gratification is “the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future.”
– Encyclopedia Britannica
This is procrastination in a nutshell- taking the easy route of what you would rather be doing instead of doing the work of what might be difficult or unsatisfying at first, but will ultimately lead to a positive outcome or reward.
2. Procrastination Due To Fear And Avoidance
Procrastination is ultimately a form of avoidance, which often results from fear or from not acknowledging your emotions. Think about what you might be avoiding. Are you avoiding a bigger problem in your life? Are you fearful of failing or, on the other hand, are you fearful of being successful?
Stress is often a trigger for procrastination, and the short-term reward of doing something you enjoy is a form of stress-relief. But, the ultimate problem is the avoidance, not the task itself.
For example, you might put off studying for a test due to the fear that you will do poorly. So you spend time with friends and family, watch Netflix, work extra hours, anything you can do to avoid studying. Then, when it’s down to the wire you finally cram but you end up doing not so well on the test.
Because you spent so much time avoiding it and finding other things to do with your time, you can blame the fact that you didn’t have the time or didn’t study enough… instead of blaming what you actually fear- that you aren’t smart enough.
3. Putting Too Much Or Too Little Pressure On Yourself
Do you put too much pressure on yourself, or maybe not enough? These can both be catalysts for procrastination. Sometimes putting work into a task can threaten the identity that you have created for yourself, and this can be scary.
If you are currently working full-time at an office job and considering creating an online business, this can put pressure on you and/or also threaten the identity you have of yourself as a full-time working corporate professional.
As a result, this can make you fearful of trying something new, potentially failing, and thinking about how others will view you… which are all things that can trigger procrastination.
Putting Too Much Pressure On Yourself
Sometimes putting your expectations too high and thinking too positively can backfire. If you tell yourself, “I’m amazing and so talented, I’m going to perfect this work project,” that may be setting an unrealistic expectation and result in putting off the work because you fear you won’t meet those expectations.
Putting Too Little Pressure On Yourself
On the other hand, if you have the attitude of, “I don’t give a crap.” This can result in you not trying very hard and just continually procrastinating as well, because it “doesn’t really matter how I do.”
How To Stop Procrastinating Right Now
Did you resonate with any of these reasons for procrastinating? The cause can definitely vary depending on how serious the task is that you are avoiding… but understanding why can sometimes help you break the cycle.
Keep reading for actionable tips on how you can stop procrastinating now.
1. Create “An Environment Of Inevitability”
This is when you set things up so it is more difficult to not do the task at hand than it is to do it.
For example, you can create an environment of inevitability by registering for a race and paying the fee (let’s say it’s $100). Unless spending $100 isn’t a big deal for you, it would probably be more difficult to not train for the race because of the money you have already invested in it. Additionally, if you have told others that you will be racing it, then there is the added accountability that will make it more difficult to tell others that you won’t be running the race any longer.
Other examples could be just showing up to the library if you have been procrastinating studying, or setting aside a block of time in your schedule specifically for the task you have been avoiding.
2. Follow The “2-Minute Rule”
Make your task as easy as possible to start. Essentially, make it so that the task will take less than 2 minutes. Since the hardest part is usually starting, this will usually give you the momentum you need to continue.
Here are some examples of how large tasks can be scaled down:
You get the picture. When you can scale down a task, psychologically it becomes less daunting, harder to avoid, and easier to accomplish.
3. Write Down Your Goals And Set Deadlines
You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. (INC) When you write down what your goals are, this forces you to get clear on what you want and can motivate you to get started.
You can take it a step further by setting specific deadlines on a calendar, using a reminder on your phone, or whatever task-planning strategy you use.
For example, if you have a team presentation that is due in a week, then you can break it down into smaller steps and set sub-deadlines for each of those tasks.
This will help make things less overwhelming, and make it seem easier to complete each task individually.
4. Let Go Of The Outcome
Whether you put too much pressure on yourself, too little, or are overly concerned with what others will think… let it all go. As long as you are trying your best, that is all that you can do. The more you get bogged down in thinking, “is this good enough? What are they going to think? What if I fail?” … The easier it is to put things off.
Go into the task with the attitude of, “I’m going to try my best and forget the rest.”
Now go get started and stop procrastinating!