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6 Steps to stop procrastinating

Updated on May 14, 2012

What is procrastination? In the most basic sense it means putting off a task or goal until a later time. Modern life is busy. Sometimes it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. That makes procrastinating even more of a problem because it eats into the small amount of time we have left at the end of the day. Spending time avoiding problems doesn't make them go away. Procrastination leads to a great deal of stress on top of everything else going on in our lives. The longer we put off tasks, for whatever reason, the more stress we experience. If you are a life-long procrastinator you may have lost all hope that this is something you can change. You may even think it is just a part of your character, or that you were simply born that way. The truth is you can change this behavior.


1 Break It Down

If you have a big project to do, break it down into easier to manage chunks. Instead of facing that one looming deadline, take a few moments to break down your large work assignment into tasks you can complete in one day. Get a calender to hang above your work area. Write your goals clearly and concisely. Mark off each of your mini tasks as you complete them. After a while seeing all those check marks will give you the confidence needed to push through until the end.

Be flexible, and don't beat yourself up too much if things do not go according to plan. Maybe you are facing a writing deadline, and allocated 1 day for research. If after that first day you decide you need more time to learn about the subject go ahead and take it. Just change your goals and deadlines accordingly then press on.


2 Find a role model


Chances are you know someone is your life who inspires you with their stellar work ethic. They make a plan and stick through with it until the end. They are dedicated, and it shows in the quality work they produce. Even if you can't think of someone in your immediate group of friends and family, they are out there. Your role model doesn't necessarily have to be famous, or even doing something in your field of work. Surround yourself with these ambitious go-getters. Let their positive attitudes and drive inspire you to over come whatever obstacles that lie in your path.

Ignore negative influences from people around you. You know the old saying misery loves company. I've found it to be true, especially from fellow procrastinators. Recognize that their pessimistic attitude is more of a reflection on them than you. They may have failed to follow through and achieve their dreams, but that doesn't have to be your fate.


3 There is no perfect time to start


If you are waiting for inspiration to strike, you may be waiting a very long time. The motivation to succeed isn't just going to fall from the sky into your lap. Successful individuals create their own drive and motivation. Many put off starting a new goal until the new year or the beginning of the week, or after a birthday. There is no reason to put off starting a project. The time of year or day won't magically make your task easier. The time to start on a new undertaking is now. Begin with baby steps if you have to. Make a simple first objective of putting a plan on paper. Make those first few objectives easy to accomplish. Take pride in the fact that you've started today, instead of next week or next month.

4 Stop obsessing about the work to be done


Instead imagine how proud you will feel when it's finished. Take a few moments to really close your eyes and envision that moment when you look back on the work you have done with pride. If you find yourself procrastinating chances are you aren't focusing on the prize. If you get stuck worrying about all the work to be done, it's too easy to throw your hands up in frustration before you even begin.

Perhaps you want to get fit and lose some weight. Obsessing over where you are right now, or how many pounds you need to lose isn't going to inspire you to make a change. Instead think of one or two things you can do right now, and just do them. Maybe you are going to take a short stroll after dinner, or forgo soda and replace it with water. Whatever you choose as that first step make it manageable and within reach. Keep making small changes, and take time to congratulate yourself for each small success.


5 Create a work environment conducive to working


Take a few moments to clear any obvious distractions before you begin your task. That means turning off the TV, closing the browser tab open to Facebook and putting away your cellphone. This also means taking a few moments to organize everything you will need.

This part can be tricky, because it's often tempting to start a side project at this point. Maybe you notice a bit of dust on the edge of your desk and decide you really must take care of it NOW. I've been guilty of this a few times myself. Resist the urge to start a side project and refocus on what you set out to do.


6 Face your biggest fear


For many procrastination stems from fear. It could be fear that you will fail. If you are afraid deep down that you don't have what it takes to succeed it's easy to become paralyzed with fear and choose to simply give up before you even start.

Strangely enough some life long procrastinators are secretly perfectionists. No one is perfect, and no one expects you to be perfect. Even the worlds most successful individuals don't get it right every time. It's a twisted bit of logic that it's better to do nothing and avoid failure. Don't get caught up in this trap. Set out each day to put your best effort into your work. When you've finished each day, give yourself the credit you deserve. We are all our own harshest critics. Imagine an old friend showing off their recently completed project. How would you respond to their work? Even if it had flaws you would surely praise them for its positive attributes. Realize you owe yourself that same consideration, and don't judge yourself too harshly.

What is Self Sabotage and how to overcome it

Self sabotage comes in many forms, and is anything we do to get in the way of own ambitions. Procrastination is just one form of Self Sabotage. Read my article on self sabotage to find out all the ways it can affect your life, and what you can do about it.

Take Charge of your Life

Procrastination doesn't have to define you. Everyone has the power within themselves to stop this awful habit. The more you resolve to stop procrastinating, and the more times you take action right way, the easier it gets. Taking immediate action to solve problems leads to less stress and a feeling of accomplishment. If you've spent years putting off the things you really need to do it's easy to start seeing yourself as a victim of fate. Start small and keep working towards your goals to take charge of your life.

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    • kate12402 profile image

      kate12402 5 years ago from Storrs, CT

      This is a different way of looking at procrastination. I didn't realize that my own procrastination does stem from that idea that I'd rather not do anything than fail. Definitely made me look at my work habits in a new light. Thanks!

    • libby101a profile image

      libby101a 5 years ago from KY

      Very good hub! I know a lot of people who need to read this including some of my employees!

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      You have some great ideas here - I will start using these ideas-maybe tomorrow! No - really you do have great ideas - I don't know why I procrastinate as much as I do, but I am bad at it...