How to Avoid Procrastination in 3 Simple Steps
Why do we procrastinate?
Many procrastinators come up with a multitude of reasons for their procrastination. “It’s not really that important”, “I’ll start after…”, “I’ve got too much else to do right now”, “I’m too lazy”, “I have bad time management skills”, the list goes on. In most cases these “reasons” are actually excuses. The first step in avoiding procrastination is to get to the root of the problem and become aware of why you do it.
Typically, there are 3 types of procrastinators :
- Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
- Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case, are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
- Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
Think about it. Which of these fit you?
I am most definitely an avoider. When I got married in September was the first time I moved out of my parent’s house. Up until that point the only household cleaning I had done was tidy up my room, make my bed and load the dishwasher (my mom is a stay at home mom- don’t judge me). I quickly learned that maintaining a home is no easy job! There are toilets & bathtubs to scrub, stove-top ranges to clean and floors to mop. I remember the numerous occasions I would avoid cleaning our apartment (besides tidying up and loading the dishwasher), and find Charlie (my husband) scrubbing the bathroom down. My “reasons” to myself were always “I have more important things to do.”
It wasn’t until I had an honest conversation with Charlie and realized I was avoiding cleaning because I was afraid I wasn’t going to be good enough at it. So silly but it was a real issue for me. I would rather tell Charlie and myself that I lacked the effort to clean, rather then have to find out if I lacked the ability to do it effectively. I cannot tell you the weight that was lifted off of me when I confronted the truth of my procrastination! It was OK that I didn’t know how to clean perfectly, I didn’t have to avoid, I could just learn instead.
Can you think of a situation where you procrastinated and the reasons behind it? Why not share it on a comment?
Now that we know the reasons why we procrastinate, we need to find out how to overcome it.
How do we stop procrastinating?
Procrastination is the avoidance of a task that must be done.
Think about it for a second, what is the point of completing a task?
When we avoid a task, we are subconsciously or consciously looking at the negative precepts and outcomes that are involved with that task. In a sense, we are saying to ourselves: This is too boring or I’m afraid I won’t do this well or I’m not responsible enough to do this task, etc. Instead, what we need to focus on are the positive outcomes that come from completing a task.
Whether it is cleaning your room, writing a paper for school, or looking for a new job, there can always be positive outcome to the task at hand. For example: If cleaning your room makes no sense to you but makes your mom happy, than that is a positive outcome. Or if you are not interested in the topic of your paper, you can focus on improving your writing skills.
When you are noticing a habit of procrastination, write down the task and underneath it write down all of the positive outcomes that will come from completing the task. Let that be your motivation. Be propelled forward by the reasons you want to do something, rather than held back by the reasons why you don’t want to.
Using my example from above, when it comes to cleaning my home I am now fueled by these desires:
- I want my home to be a place of solace, warmth and rest for my family & friends.
- I function much better in a space that is tidy.
- This is the home God has given me and it is a privilege for me to get to take good care of it.
Think about a task you have been avoiding. Write down all the good that will come from completing this task. Remember these reasons while you work at the task.
How do we accomplish a HUGE task?
If the task at hand is something that can be done quickly and without much effort, it is much easier to get it done. But what if the task isn’t cleaning your home or writing a paper, but starting a business or developing a plan for a children’s ministry? There are ways to avoid procrastination when it comes to big tasks as well as smaller ones. It all starts with your outlook. For example, if you are looking at the task of starting your own business it can be flat out overwhelming. I know from personal experience. The first thing that needs to be done is a break down of the big task into many smaller bite-sized ones.
Here’s an example of how to do that:
Start a coaching business.
Smaller Tasks breakdown:
Set up my website.
-Go to godaddy.com & see if my domain name is available
-If so, purchase domain name & hosting for a year
-Record expenses in an Excel document
-Look for a theme on WordPress that is both pretty & functional
-Narrow down to 3 themes and check reviews on each one
-Record expense in Excel document
-Look up & take notes on 5 articles about writing catchy website copy
-Make an outline for my homepage
-Turn outline into actual copy
-Send my copy to 5 friends/coworkers whose opinions I trust
You get the point. The list goes on and each task gets put under a certain day to be completed. After you have your smaller tasks, you can implement the ideas from Awareness & Motivation up top.
Here are some other really helpful tips to avoid procrastination:
- Only write things on your to-do list that you are 100% going to complete that day.
- Be realistic about your procrastination. You are not going to change over night, so don’t beat yourself up if you mess up, but be sure to jump back up and get right back into it.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you have to read for school, don’t read in bed because you will be tempted to nap. How about taking a walk to the library instead?
- Race the clock. Situate yourself (mute your phone, get supplies needed, etc.) and have a 10-minute power session where you aim to accomplish as much as possible in 10 minutes. 10 minutes is so quick and easy, you may even be motivated to keep going.
- (My favorite tip of all) Restart your day at 2 pm. At 2:00 take 10 minutes to evaluate where you are, and what you still need to get done. Really make it feel as if you have a new start to your day, grab a cup of coffee & forget about the activities of the morning. You will gain a new energy and focus to be productive.
 (Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago)