Procrastination is one of the biggest reasons people don’t achieve their goals in life and live an “average” or an unfulfilled life. It’s so ingrained in our systems that we often don’t even realise we are procrastinating until it’s too late, and then we are too stuck and too overwhelmed to know what to do. Today I’m here to talk about why we procrastinate and to tell you exactly how to stop procrastination for good!
What is procrastination?
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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of procrastination is “the act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring”.
The word “must” used in this definition, is definitely strong but in a way it makes sense. Let me explain. There are certain things that are definitely a must; for example, eating food every day is a must or you’ll go hungry. Putting petrol in your car is a must or your tank will be empty and you won’t go anywhere. For some, these kinds of activities are boring or unpleasant (eating is definitely neither of the two for me, a self-proclaimed foodie!), so they delay doing them until they really can’t avoid it anymore.
However, there are some other things that are not a must in that sense, but if we don’t do them, we are kind of setting ourselves up for failure and limiting our life and potential of success. Setting goals and investing time in working towards them is not a must, yet many people delay doing this until it’s too late to fix it. Improving our mindset and daily habits is not a must, yet many people procrastinate on this (even though they probably know they should do something about it) and then they wonder why their life is exactly the same and they haven’t made any progress in years.
See what I mean?
We most likely don’t procrastinate on things that we love doing, because we genuinely enjoy them and it’s a pleasure. However, there are some things that are a little bit unpleasant, or uncomfortable, yet necessary for our growth and success, and those are the ones that we tend to put off more often.
Why do we procrastinate?
I think there are many reasons why we procrastinate, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down a bit and make it as simple as possible for you to understand.
I would dare to divide the reasons for procrastination into two main categories:
There are certain things that we know we should be doing, yet we don’t simply because we are lazy. Sometimes it’s actually crazy to me how lazy we as humans can be, yet I know it’s possible cause I’m guilty of this. I normally procrastinate on cleaning my house (I love a clean house but I don’t love the actual act of cleaning), I sometimes procrastinate on exercising, and these are both things that are caused by laziness.
But when it comes to mindset things, it can be a little bit more tricky. Sometimes we procrastinate on something because we have a bad feeling associated with it and so we can’t bring ourselves to doing what we are supposed to do.
From my experience – and that of quite a few people I’ve heard talking about procrastination, the mindset issues that make us procrastinate can typically be summarised in a few points:
- Perfectionism – you don’t do something until you know it will be perfect
- Fear of failure – you are afraid that if you do something you will fail, so you do nothing at all
- Self-doubt – you doubt yourself and your abilities, so you don’t even start taking action. If you need a little inspiration to lift your mood and self-confidence, check out my post where I share 15 inspirational quotes from successful women
- Overwhelm – you have so much going on that is stressing you out, that you put things off until times will be better. Spoiler alert: there’s never going to be the “right time” to get things done
- Lack of organization – you are so overwhelmed and with no idea where to start, that you keep delaying acting on your responsibilities or dreams
Examples of procrastination
To make it more practical to you, in case you are wondering what procrastination in your daily life looks like, here are a few examples.
- You have a dream or a goal to start your own business and you start planning how to make it happen. However, for one of the reasons mentioned above (it could be just one or even a few of them combined), you get stuck in the planning process. You think that you are making progress because you are doing a lot of planning, but in reality, you are just delaying your progress because you are not taking any action towards making your dream a reality.
- You have a long list of things that you need to do around the house, you say that you’ll just take a little break before starting and spend 5 minutes on Instagram, then find yourself still in the same position 5 hours later, and nothing in your list got done. In this case, you are using social media to “numb” the overwhelming feeling about your long list instead of actually tackling that list. And you fully know that you shouldn’t be on social media for that long if you have things to do, yet you trap yourself into thinking that it’s not a big deal and that you will get those things done eventually. Do you easily get overwhelmed about your to-do list? It might be that you need to start writing a better one. Check out my post to improve how you write your to-do lists.
- You want to start taking care of yourself, eat healthily, and exercise more. You buy all your workout clothes, get your healthy food, and are ready to start. However, when it’s time to start on Monday morning, you don’t feel too well or something unexpected happens and you can’t put your plan in action like you wanted to. So because you have missed your start date and Monday is now gone, you decide to wait until the following Monday to start because starting on a Tuesday just doesn’t make much sense.
These are really just a few examples, but you might resonate with one – or all of them. So you might be wondering, how do you beat procrastination? Keep reading my friend, and you will find out exactly how.
5 tips to stop procrastination
I’m now going to share with you 5 tips that you can implement in your life to avoid or stop procrastinating. If you have more tips that you’d like to share, feel free to add them in the comments!
1. Remove distractions
Distractions are a very sneaky thing because we often don’t even realise that they are stealing our time and making us procrastinate. The biggest distraction for us right now could be our phones; they are so amazing, yet so dangerous. You think that 5 minutes on social media won’t hurt anyone, but do that every 30 minutes and then think about how many hours they have actually stolen from you and your day? The same goes for television, radio, and anything else that tries to catch our attention when we are focusing on something. Very often, this is also the environment we are in. If our workspace is messy, we get distracted by it, start thinking about the mess around us, and can’t focus on our task anymore.
So my suggestion is that you silence your phone, switch off the tv, and work in a space that is tidy and neat so that you only focus on what you need to do.
2. Write a shorter to-do list
Another very common reason why you might procrastinate is that your to-do lists are too long, so you get overwhelmed, and you delay doing what you are supposed to do because you probably don’t even know where to start. The solution to this might be writing a shorter list so that you can actually get things done and stop feeling overwhelmed. But how can you do that when you have 1000 things to do and only 24 hours in a day?! (I probably just read your mind, didn’t I!). The thing is that if you have 1000 things to do but you’re not doing any of them, you are making no progress at all so you might as well not have any list at all. Whereas if you choose to write a shorter list and focus on fewer items at a time, you will get them done and then you’ll be able to move to the next thing. I like to focus on my 3 key items of the day, I tackle those 3 and tick them off my list, and then the next day I can work on 3 more items and do this until my list will finally be complete. There’s no point in stressing yourself out with a huge list if you won’t get anything done anyway.
3. Let go of perfectionism
This is hands down the biggest reason I procrastinated in my life. I’m now a recovering perfectionist, but I used to be awful at this. If something wasn’t perfect – in my opinion, then I was never going to put it out there, or keep things moving. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress and goes hand in hand with procrastination, so my advice is JUST LET IT GO! The truth is that no one will ever be able to achieve perfection, because it just doesn’t exist! You can aim to always do better than you did before, you can aim high with your goals and strive to do a great job – that is totally fine. But waiting until the perfect moment, doing something over and over again because it’s just not perfect yet, will make you miss many opportunities and ultimately leave you frustrated. I think I let go of perfectionism when I launched this blog. I knew graphic design wasn’t my thing, and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to create my site, so I just accepted the fact that if I wanted to launch this blog, it would have had to be imperfect. Had I waited to launch until the perfect time and with the perfect design, I’d probably still be dreaming about it and complaining that I felt stuck in a certain season.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of perfectionism, take imperfect action and improve along the way, but don’t let the idea of perfection stop you.
4. Go public
I have found it very helpful to go public with my goals and dreams in order to beat procrastination. I don’t mean that I share every single thing I want to do with everyone, but I care about keeping my word with others. I want them to know that I’m reliable, that I mean what I say, and that I’m determined to achieve what I set my mind to. I don’t do it to gain the approval of anyone or to please anyone, I do it because I care about my credibility. So when I find myself going back and forth with an idea, goal, dream, and I know I’m leaning towards procrastination, I talk about it with someone I trust or with a small group of people. Sometimes, I share it with my audience on social media as well, because I like to take my community behind the scenes with me. And I’ve found that every time I do that, I’m much more likely to take action, I’m determined to make things happen, and I stay consistent over time.
5. Change environments
If this sounds strange to you, I encourage you to keep reading. Sometimes, when you spend a lot of time in the same environment, you might start feeling drowsy, unproductive, and you’ll start procrastinating. So a good hack that you can try in your life is to change up the environments every now and then, even if you stay in your own house. I used to love going to work in cafes and spend a few hours there, then after a while when I noticed I was starting to get distracted and procrastinate, I knew it was time to go home. Or, sometimes I’d spend endless hours working at home, and then get tired, distracted, and not get so much done anymore, so I’d pack up my bags and go to work in a cafe nearby. It did wonders for my productivity and to help me stop procrastinating.
Final thoughts on how to stop procrastination now
I know that it’s hard to stop procrastinating, especially when you’ve been stuck in the same cycle for a while. But procrastination is the thief of time, and your dreams and a more fulfilled life are waiting for you on the other side, so stop procrastinating now and go after the life you want to live!