Let’s tackle a tricky topic: procrastination. More precisely, how to stop procrastinating! Now, if anyone says to you “I’ve never procrastinated!”, we’d like to let you know that much like Pinnochio, their nose would have doubled in size later.
No matter to what extent, we’ve all dabbled in a little procrastination from time to time. Maybe there was a task you really didn’t want to do, so you did something else first. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to clean your car, but end up making excuses for why now is ‘just not the right time’. In the moment, you probably know you’re telling yourself a white lie, but you do it anyway. But a task that gets pushed once, is a task that can be delayed indefinitely, which is exceptionally unhelpful when you’re trying to meet your goals and be successful!
But the question remains…
Why do we procrastinate?
There are several potential answers to this question. But it’s important to understand that, at its core, procrastination is a form of emotional regulation, not a time management problem.
We use procrastination to:
- Soothe self doubt
- Mitigate anxiety
- Avoid imposter syndrome
- Regulate negative feelings
- Get a false sense of dopamine
Types of procrastination can look like:
- Avoidance: of the task, place, or people associated with it
- Distraction: undertaking a task we deem easier or more exciting, promising we’ll do the one we’re avoiding afterwards to get a sense of gratification and success
- Denial: masquerading avoidance as something else “I really have to do X before Y because X it’s just more important”
- Rationalizing: think of it like this – you were meant to complete a 2,000 word essay, or at least get started, but you cleaned and rearranged your room instead. When someone asks about your essay, you say you didn’t get to it BUT this is what you did achieve.
- Comparison: justifying the fact that you haven’t started, based on the fact that someone else hasn’t either
- Deflecting: using humor or self-deprecation to make light of what you’re doing
What does procrastination look or feel like?
This varies from person to person! It can feel like looking at your to-do list and knowing what takes priority, but sidetracking yourself on a random task that perhaps isn’t even on the list.
Essentially, it feels like knowing you need to do something, but purposefully putting it off – whether that’s a conscious or subconscious decision. It can lead you to stretching tasks to fit the time allowed instead of creating more time for yourself to enjoy your life and your freedom. For example, knowing that you have an assignment due in 2 weeks and waiting until the night before because you ‘work best under pressure’.
It can feel incredibly frustrating and highly stressful as a common coping mechanism is to wait until something feels super urgent to undertake it.
How can I stop procrastinating?
Some of my favorite ways to start working through this…
- If it’ll take less than 5 minutes, do it right away.
- Just start. Count yourself down from 5 and do ANY part of the task that needs to be done. Often, procrastination is simply putting a task off for perfectionist or fear-based reasons. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, even if it’s writing one sentence.
- Stuck on a writing assignment? Write ANYTHING, even if it’s what you did today and then flow into what you actually need to be writing – magic!
- Break it down into bite size chunks. A to-do list can seem super OVERWHELMING so instead of looking at a long list, take one task and break it down into very basic little steps. For example, writing an article, start with ‘make coffee’ ‘set up document’ ‘take 5 minute break’ ‘write first sentence’ – make it BASIC!
Other ways to help yourself beat the procrastination monster is to implement some hacks in your life. Automate what can be automated, set up systems for success, and save yourself some time! Ultimately, it’ll reduce the amount you need to do and, hopefully, alleviate some of that procrastination.
These hacks are tools and programs June has tried & tested herself and ones we use on a daily basis as a team – hopefully you find them as useful as we do!