All of us procrastinate, some more than others. We all have times when things need to get done, but we keep putting it off for tomorrow. But there is a saying ‘Tomorrow never comes’ and it’s true. If you find yourself taking more time to come up with as many excuses as you can, each getting more inventive than the previous one, then you know you’re stuck in a procrastinating jam. Believe it or not, it affects a lot of people and if you don’t consciously try to get out of that rut, you may be stuck indefinitely. But how do you stop procrastinating?
Procrastination can affect you adversely over the long run because it can cause stress when things are not done or left to the very last minute, it can give you a bad reputation with your co-workers, and cause you to compromise on your ambitions and slowly give up.
Fortunately, here are a few helpful tools and tips for how to stop procrastinating:
The First Step is to be aware that you are keeping things on the back burner. This is the easy part because when we procrastinate, we know we are doing it but don’t want to really get down to completing the tasks at hand.
The Second Step is to identify the problem. Ask yourself certain questions.
- What task are you putting off doing?
- What part of the task is of least interest to you?
- Do you feel that it is not worth your time to complete the task?
- Do you feel that you have a long wait to get rewarded for your efforts?
- Are you impatient by nature?
Figuring out what the main problem is a good way to start tackling your problem. Here are a few tell tale signs that could indicate where your problem lies.
- When you are assigned the task or are expected to complete it, do you find yourself getting bored and distracted? When you think about the task, do you feel nervous about completing it? If you feel that the value of completing the task is not worth your time then you could be encountering the motivation problem of LOW VALUE.
- Do you feel the task is easy to complete? Are you most likely to succeed in undertaking the task? Is it within your capacity? Do you have any expectations of a reward in the end? If you feel that the answer to all these queries is in the negative then you could be facing a situation of LOW EXPECTANCY.
- If you feel that the reward expected comes after a significant time span after the completion of the task, then the problem could lie in the DELAY.
- Are you an impatient person? Is impulsiveness a big part of your character? If you are easily distracted by other things, then the problem could lie in your IMPULSIVENESS.
If you read through these questions and evaluate the task at hand, you can do one of two things. Should you do the task? Is it better to just leave it or to delegate it to others? If you feel that you should complete the task, you should move on to the next step.
The Third Step takes you into figuring out HOW to sort out that particular problem. There are various examples to show you how the above problems come into play. Take for example a person named John. He has to complete a task in office, but he knows that it is not worth his time and he won’t get paid overtime for it. This is an example of LOW VALUE.
John now has to complete the task but keeps failing at it so he keeps putting it off because now he is not confident of his abilities to complete it. This is an example of LOW EXPECTANCY.
John has to complete the task and keeps delaying it and manages to finish it at the absolute last minute. Things done at the last minute reflect the amount and effort put in. This is an example of DELAY.
Now John has decided to take a break and go for a holiday and plans everything but forgets to book a room thinking he has ample time. When the date of his vacation draws near, he suddenly remembers about his hotel room booking and finds that he has no choice but to book his accommodations in the disreputable area of town. Now his holiday would kinda suck but this is a good example of IMPULSIVENESS.
- To combat tasks of LOW VALUE, attach some value to it. Make it into a game or connect it to something you love so that the fun element comes into play. Use the concept of reward and punishment as a way of getting it done.
- To combat tasks of LOW EXPECTANCY, start off with completing small but manageable tasks that will act like a confidence booster. Read inspiring things and surround yourself with successful people. Make a note of where you are and your goals for the future. When you feel like you’re on a success spree, you will feel confident to tackle any problem.
- To combat tasks of DELAY, try to break down the task so that the task gets done one step at a time.
- To combat tasks of IMPULSIVENESS, which is the biggest factor in procrastination, set goals for yourself and cultivate useful habits that would help keep procrastination at bay. Set significant and rewarding goals and sub-goals.
The Fourth Step is to go back to Step Two if you are still procrastinating.
If you find you need help on how to stop procrastinating, here are a few tools that can help you out.
- SelfControl: Sometimes we lack self control. This means when we have assignments or work, we tend to end up wasting most of our day flipping through our Facebook page or watching amusing videos. This Mac OS X application allows you to block certain websites for a certain period of time. This means that you will not be able to access them even if you are tempted to. This will definitely keep your focus on the task at hand.
- Strict Workflow: Employing the Pomodoro technique, this allows you to work for a certain time and take a much needed break for a limited time. Click on the tiny unobtrusive tomato icon to start your timer. Certain websites can also be blacklisted or whitelisted as per your preference during this time.
- White Noise: We all love listening to music and we think this helps us be more productive, but you’d be surprised. The bass and beats in many songs can be a distraction. Try out this app which allows you to drown out the background chatter.
It is never easy to break the mold of putting things off to a later date and it takes conscious effort and practice on how to stop procrastinating. But it does get easier over time, especially if you have others who help you in the process. In conclusion to this article, I would suggest to start small, learn useful skill sets until you’re armed and prepared to tackle the problem. In the end, the completion of the task would be like a checkmark on your own personal to-do list and would give you a sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself. All these are stepping stones for how to stop procrastinating and becoming a better you.
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