First, we’ll analyze three reasons why we tend to push off important tasks. Then we’ll share seven tactics you can use to beat procrastination once and for all.
Why We Procrastinate
While some people may be classified as chronic procrastinators, we all have a tendency to procrastinate now and then — even when it comes to important tasks. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be excited to get things done and move our lives and careers forward?
There are many reasons why we procrastinate. In this section we’ll identify a few of the most common causes so that you’ll be fully equipped to beat procrastination.
1. We Dislike Certain Tasks
Let’s start with the most obvious and prevalent reason for procrastination: we simply don’t want to do the things we need to. When a task is undesirable, it’s natural to want to push it off.
For example, we can all understand why someone might procrastinate to begin a new exercise routine. Working out is hard and uncomfortable! While the reward might be worth it, toned physiques and improved health, the process is unpleasant, hence procrastination.
2. We Feel Overwhelmed
It’s happened to all of us; we procrastinate on tasks because we simply don’t know where to begin. We get overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s because the assignment is confusing. Other times its because the job is just so massive.
Feelings of overwhelm can also stem from perfectionist tendencies or a fear of failing. Think about it, you may feel like certain tasks are just “too much” because you can’t see how everything can possibly work out perfectly.
Or perhaps you have a fear of failure. The thought of starting a project and failing is completely overwhelming to you. So rather than start a task and subject yourself to any potential shortcomings, you procrastinate.
3. We’re Wired for Procrastination
Finally, we procrastinate because our brains are wired to. Recent studies show that the size of a person’s amygdala, a structure in the brain, can be linked to procrastination. The larger it is, the more likely someone is to push off important tasks.
There is also proof that some individuals may be more genetically predisposed to procrastination than others. Just like each of us is more susceptible to certain medical conditions based on our family history, researchers agree that a tendency to procrastinate can also be passed on from parents to their children.
7 Tactics to Beat Procrastination
Now that we know some of the main causes, what can we do to beat procrastination? We’ve outlined seven tactics below:
1. Discover Why You Procrastinate
The first step is to discover why you’re procrastinating. Is the task you must complete undesirable? Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed because the assignment is so big and you’re afraid you might mess it up.
It’s important to understand that procrastination and laziness are not the same thing, though the terms are often confused. To be lazy is to enter a state of inactivity, such as lounging on the couch, when other, more productive tasks could be completed instead.
Procrastination, on the other hand, is favoring one task over another. It’s when we know we need to complete a specific assignment, but for whatever reason, decide to work on something different.
To beat procrastination (not laziness), you must first discover what’s causing you to procrastinate.
2. Develop the Right Mindset
Overcoming procrastination requires a shift in mindset. Often times it’s difficult to start tasks because we’re focused on our immediate gratification. We want to satisfy our wants and desires now so we push off assignments that have future benefits.
To beat procrastination, consider the future implications of your actions. If you start a task today, how will it benefit you tomorrow, next month, next year? Conversely, how will not starting that task hurt you? Going to the gym is easier to do when you think about the weight you’ll have lost in one months time.
Procrastination due to perfectionism or a fear of failure also requires a mindset shift. You need to take to heart the old saying “done is better than perfect.” Meaning the work you complete is infinitely more valuable, mistakes and all, than the work left undone.
And failure isn’t something to fear, it’s a learning experience. Thomas Edison famously said when asked about his failed attempts to create the lightbulb, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Ultimately, Edison was successful because he learned from his mistakes rather than being debilitated by them.
These mindset shifts will help you beat procrastination.
3. Break Large Projects Down
Earlier we mentioned that a main cause of procrastination is overwhelm. When a project is big and important, it can be difficult to identify a proper starting point. But by breaking one giant task into multiple smaller ones, the job becomes much more manageable.
For example, developing a content marketing strategy is a large undertaking with a lot of moving parts. But when the entire process is broken down into small steps; conducting a content audit, developing buyer personas, choosing marketing channels, etc., the project doesn’t seem as scary.
4. Prioritize Tasks
After breaking a project down into manageable chunks, you then need to prioritize each new item on your todo list. The best way to do this is to use the Eisenhower Box, which classifies every task into one of four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither important or urgent. This graphic illustrates the principle:
Tasks that are both important and urgent should be your first priority. Important but not urgent should be scheduled next. The assignments that can be classified as urgent but not important should be delegated if at all possible. Don’t even waste your time with tasks that are neither important or urgent.
If you classify your todos in this way, and then commit to completing the ones at the top of your list first, you’ll undoubtedly beat procrastination.
5. Remove Distractions From Your Working Environment
Distraction is the archenemy of productivity. It takes the human brain roughly 23 minutes to re-concentrate once focus has been broken. If your phone or computer notifies you every thirty minutes with a new email, text, or social media alert, you’ll won’t be able to get anything done.
Distractions won’t help you beat procrastination either. Every interruption is just another chance to neglect your work and focus on something else. Rather than testing your will power, simply remove every distraction from your working environment. Log out of your email and social media accounts, turn off your phone.
If you can commit to a distraction free work environment, you’ll see your productivity increase on every level.
6. Reward Yourself
Rewards are crucial when attempting to beat procrastination. It’s easy to slip up and neglect important duties when all you have to look forward to are distant future benefits. So give yourself a small prizes for every victory, no matter how small.
Did you work for an hour straight without succumbing to any procrastination tendencies? Give yourself a reward! Did you finish one aspect of your mega-project, Yes, give yourself another reward! Celebrating every win will help you beat procrastination and keep you going when things get tough.
What you reward yourself doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you really want and doesn’t undo all the work you just completed. Love chocolate? Reward yourself with a candy bar when you complete certain tasks. Unless you’re trying to lose weight and have procrastinated on starting a new diet, a reward like candy might be the perfect thing for you.
7. Have an Accountability Partner
Finally, finding an accountability partner is a great way to beat procrastination. Knowing that you’ll have someone checking in on you is a great motivator to get work done. You don’t want to look lazy or unprofessional do you?
Most of us care what other people think. We don’t want to disappoint our peers so we tend to work especially hard when they’re viewing our progress. If you have this tendency as well, use it to your advantage and find yourself an accountability partner.
It could be someone at work, a significant other, your mentor. As long as they can be trusted to check in on you, consider asking them to be your accountability partner. And if they need it, you can keep them accountable for certain things too. It’s a win-win relationship both people can use to get closer to their goals.
Freedom From Procrastination
We all struggle with it, but it is possible to beat procrastination and become more productive! It will take some work. It may be uncomfortable — especially at first. But it will definitely be worth the struggle and commitment.
First find out why you tend to procrastinate. Are you just overwhelmed or is it something else? Once you’ve identified the reason, you need to change your mindset. Realize that your actions today shape your future.
Next, break large projects down into manageable chunks and prioritize the tasks on your todo list using the Eisenhower Box. When you sit down to work on your most important tasks, do yourself a favor and remove all distractions from your working environment.
Finally, reward yourself for every small win and find an accountability partner. These seven tactics will definitely help you succeed when attempting to beat procrastination and improve your productivity. Good luck!– Jacob Thomas