- Mental Health
Overcome procrastination in three easy steps.
Right now, even as I write this hub, I have six other hubs that I have started and haven’t finished. Once I reached a certain point with all of them, I said the same thing “I’ll get back to this in a bit.” and then I don’t. Then, once I reach a certain point in a new hub that I’m writing, I say “I have to go back to that other one I started last week and finish it. I’ll do it after this one.” Then naturally, I don’t because if I actually did finish what I started, I wouldn’t have six unfinished hubs. I use the hubs here as an example; I do the same thing with other things in my life. There are a few things that I don’t put off, which usually are things that involve my kids or financial matters (those are too important to miss!) I procrastinate on most other stuff until I really don’t have a choice in the matter and it has to get done.
Everyone procrastinates to some extent; it only becomes a problem when it impedes normal functioning. However, 20 percent of people chronically avoid important tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Freud’s Pleasure Principle has been used as an explanation for procrastination. Basically, people don’t like negative emotions and putting off a stressful task for later on is more enjoyable. There are 3 criteria for a behavior to be called procrastinating; it has to be counterproductive, needless and enjoyable.
There are steps that you can do to overcome procrastinating.
Recognize that you’re procrastinating
It’s usually rather easy to know when you’re procrastinating.
- If you’re reading emails a few times over and over (and over!) again without starting to work on them or what you actually want to do with them, you’re procrastinating.
- If you leave an item on your to-do list that should have been done a long time ago, you’re procrastinating.
- If you say yes to little unimportant tasks that others ask you to do instead of doing that important project you keep putting off, you’re procrastinating.
- If you’re putting that project off waiting for the “right time” to do it and it never comes, you’re procrastinating.
If you find yourself putting unimportant tasks on the back burner all the time, you may not be guilty of procrastination but rather have good prioritization. Putting an important project off for a small period of time, because you’re tired or something similar isn’t bad either just as long as you don’t avoid starting the project for more than a day or so and only occasionally. Any more than that and you probably are a procrastinator.
Are you a procrastinator?
Figure out why you’re procrastinating
The reason you procrastinate depends on both you and the task. Which one is to blame is dependent on the situation at hand and it’s important to understand which one is holding you back so that you can figure out the best way to overcome whatever it is keeping you from finishing it.
There may be many reasons why you procrastinate:
- The job may be unpleasant to you and for that reason you do all you can to avoid it.
- You may be disorganized and not know where exactly to begin a project, find it overwhelming and decide to leave it for later.
- Believe it or not, it may be a fear of success that’s keeping you from finishing your task. If you start thinking that doing the job successfully will lead to more work for you to do or that you may be pushed to do things you think are beyond your skill level and you don’t want that to happen.
- If you are a perfectionist, you may think something along the lines of “I don’t have the skills to do this perfectly so I won’t do it at all.”
- Poor decision-making skills may cause you to procrastinate. If you can’t decide what to do first or what’s the most important task, you may just put it off for fear of starting things off on the wrong foot.
Procrastination is just a habit that is ingrained into your behavior. It is very hard to break a habit so you have to persistently stop procrastinating and try as many things as possible to help you break the habit.
A few things you could do to help you break the habit include:
- Set up a reward system. For example, treat yourself to lunch at your favorite restaurant but only if you complete a certain task that you would otherwise try to avoid.
- Some people work better under pressure. If that’s the case, tell someone to check up on you to see how you’re progressing with that task. That peer pressure will motivate you to finish!
- Think of the negative consequences that would happen if you didn’t complete the task. If the consequences are bad, then it is probably a good idea to deal with that task and get it over with.
- Keep a to-do list so that you always know what you need to do. It’ll keep you from being able to “forget” about projects that you don’t want to think about and complete.
- Prioritize your to-do list in order of what’s important and what is not important to complete. Be honest here; don’t put it as a low priority just because you don’t want to do it. Label it as important if it is important to finish so that you will see in writing and you won’t be able to kid yourself into thinking that you can do it later when you really can’t.
- Focus on one task at a time (meaning no multi-tasking!) and set a time-bound goal so you won’t have time to procrastinate.
Do you have a to-do list?
In the end, it took me about a week to write this hub. I know that seems like a long time; I usually only have a couple of hours in an evening to write and I didn’t write every night. Sometimes I stopped because there were important things that had to be done and couldn’t be put off (like when my kids needed me for stuff or just wanted to play) other times I would write a sentence then look at something else meaning to go back to write but never did and other times I simply said that “I have to finish this hub…but I want to check this site out first. I’ll get to writing it once that’s done.” and it just didn’t happen.
It is very, very hard to break a habit. Procrastination is something that, once you start, it becomes a part of your daily life. You do it without a second thought and you don’t think about the consequences of putting it off for just one more day until it’s too late. But with some work on your part, you’ll be able to break the habit and not stress over things that you know you have to do because you’ll have them done already!