By some estimates, 20 percent of people consider themselves to be chronic procrastinators and many more put things off on occasion. If procrastination is getting in between you and your life goals, try these suggestions for getting things done with less delay.
Understanding Why You Procrastinate
- Spot perfectionism. Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. You may be setting your standards so high that they intimidate you from doing your best. Determine if you’re avoiding important tasks because you’re anxious about how well you’ll perform.
- Make up your mind. You might procrastinate because you find it challenging to make decisions. You keep developing more options and telling yourself that you’re doing background research rather than buckling down to more concrete work.
- Analyze your feelings about the last minute rush. Maybe you’ve become conditioned to the euphoria you feel when working under pressure. You may need to find more productive ways to motivate and reward yourself.
Changing Your Thinking
- Examine the consequences of immediate gratification. Impulse control often lies at the heart of chronic procrastination. Try asking yourself which activities will contribute more to your wellbeing over the long term. You may enjoy watching several episodes of your favorite TV show back to back when it’s more profitable to spend that time studying.
- Drop the dread. Worrying about a project can often be more unpleasant than just doing it. Try adopting a neutral state of mind when you start listing all the reasons why you put off a project, like doing your taxes. You may be pleasantly surprised at how effectively you can reduce the stress you place on yourself.
- Hold yourself accountable. Take charge of your life by acknowledging your own abilities and making a commitment to give your best efforts to the things you care about. For example, get started today on your resolution to exercise daily rather than waiting until some hypothetical time when you’ll feel more energetic.
Developing New Habits
- Schedule your time realistically. Take an inventory of how you currently use your time. Calculate how long it really takes you to complete your typical errands compared to the overly optimistic scenarios that keep putting you behind schedule.
- Minimize distractions. If checking emails and surfing the web are eating up your time, put those distractions out of reach temporarily. See how much more you can accomplish when you focus only on the task at hand.
- Manage interruptions. Some interruptions are inevitable. Remain flexible so you can get back to work quickly rather than letting a five minute phone call turn into a wasted afternoon.
- Break tasks down into manageable chunks. Set intermediate deadlines for yourself. If your final proposal is due in a month, allot time for each section, editing, and proofreading.
- Practice with small endeavors. You can turn almost anything into an opportunity to reinforce your new habits. Wipe down the kitchen counters immediately instead of saving up all of your cleaning for the weekend.
- Reward your progress. You might procrastinate because it allows you to spend time on things you enjoy more than the things you’re trying to avoid. When you do your grocery shopping before work rather than sleeping for another hour, pay yourself back by serving up your favorite dish for dinner.
- Expect setbacks. You’re likely to experience some backsliding. Look for the temptations that pull you off course and develop strategies to overcome them. If you feel lethargic after dinner, schedule your toughest work early in the morning when you’re more alert.
Overcoming a tendency to procrastinate will help you accomplish more and feel better about yourself. By devoting your energies to meaningful activities rather than trying to avoid them, you’ll enjoy more peace of mind and a richer life.