Do you procrastinate?
That’s a rhetorical question. We already know you do, because just about everyone procrastinates some time.
In school, we procrastinated on doing our homework. In our adult lives, we procrastinate on sending emails and writing that next blog post for our website.
Sometimes procrastination doesn’t seem like a big deal. But once it gets out of hand, it can destroy your potential.
Procrastination will stand in the way of your success if you let it. We might playfully tease ourselves about our bad work habits, but over time they can add up and become a real hindrance.
Beating procrastination isn’t easy. You already tell yourself you should be getting things done instead of watching television or seeing your friends, but you can bring yourself to actually do them. And if you don’t put your plans into action, who will?
It’s not easy overcoming procrastination, but with the right mindset and a plan for action, you can fix your work habits and significantly improve your productivity. Let’s take a look at the best ways you can stop procrastinating and start making progress on your goals.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Here’s a hint: it’s not because we’re lazy.
It’s easy to write procrastination off as laziness, but that’s not the case more millions of individuals.
Certain mental impairments like ADHD, anxiety, and depression can make it nearly impossible for some people get started on a task and stay focused until they finish it. Individuals with narcolepsy may have issues staying awake long enough to finish a project once they get started on it.
Those suffering from mental impairments will struggle with procrastination more than others. If you feel you might be procrastinating because of an underlying mental health issue, talk to your doctor about your concerns. It’s important to address these issues before you tackle your procrastination head-on, as they could play a leading role in your poor work habits.
For those of us without mental impairments taking away from our ability to start and complete a project, the underlying cause of our procrastination is fear. According to psychological findings, many people procrastinate because they are afraid of the outcome of their actions.
In the case of a college student, they might put off doing a project until the last minute because they’re not confident they’ll get a good grade. You might put off designing your Shopify store because you’re afraid your store won’t be successful.
The best way to overcome procrastination is to first overcome our fear of failure. Start embracing your tasks as opportunities to make something good happen for yourself, instead of seeing them as opportunities of failure. When you see everything as an opportunity for success, you’ll get more excited to tackle your projects, and you’ll feel less inclined to put them off until the last minute.
How to Overcome Procrastination
As difficult as it is to address procrastination head-on, there are some strategies you can use to set the odds in your favor. Let’s look at a few ways you can tackle procrastination and begin to develop better work habits.
1. Visualize Your Future
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What about 10 years?
Do you want a family? A house? A successful business?
What kind of car do you drive? What city do you live in?
It’s easier to motivate yourself when you know the outcome you’re working toward. When you’re working toward a specific destination, you’ll find it much easier to take the necessary steps to get there.
Visualize what you want your life to look like after so many years. Write down the things you’d like to have in your life, then create a plan to get them.
Once you have a vision and a set plan to get there, it’ll get easier and easier to complete your tasks and your move closer to your end goal.
2. Segment Your Goals
You probably have a few major goals you’re working toward, with a general idea of how you’re going to get there.
But having a general idea of how to achieve your goals doesn’t help you focus your attention and actually achieve them.
When you set broad goals for yourself, you might become overwhelmed. You might not know where to start, and where to go once you’ve started.
By breaking your goals down, you can create more manageable goals for yourself. Small goals will be less overwhelming and easier to achieve, making it easier for you to move in the right direction.
Start by outlining your biggest goals, then start breaking them down into smaller ones. Try to break your goals down into tasks that take less than an hour to achieve.
3. Use the Reward System
Any kind of progress toward your goal should be celebrated. No, you don’t have to spend money on an expensive night out to reward small achievements, but you should have some system in place to honor your progress.
Create a reward system for yourself to help you stay on track. Set goals for yourself each day, and if you meet those goals, reward yourself with something you enjoy.
If you enjoy playing video games, reward yourself with some time to play games after you’ve completed your tasks. If you like socializing with your friends, set aside time to see them after you’ve completed a day’s set of goals. This will help keep you working without letting you get burned out.
After you’ve established your reward system, it’s important to stick to it. Don’t reward yourself with something if you haven’t completed the tasks you’re supposed to beforehand. Once you start rewarding yourself for procrastination, you’ll start to develop more bad work habits.
4. Change Your Work Environment
Earlier this year, I moved into a new house. I set up my home office just as I wanted, and I couldn’t be more excited to buckle down and work in my new place.
After a few days, I found I couldn’t focus in my new office. Anytime I tried to start a project, I got sidetracked.
Soon enough, I started working from my laptop in my living room. I was getting more work done than I would in my office, which made me think my design choices could have played a role in my sudden procrastination.
I moved the furniture around, ordered some new decor, and put my desk right next to my window. It didn’t take long to notice an increase in my productivity.
If you work from home, try working in an unconventional room and see how it impacts your productivity. Or try moving the furniture in your office.
De-clutter your workspace as much as possible. Cluttered desks and offices can make it hard to focus on the task at hand, and clutter can also serve as a pretty effective distraction. Get rid of anything that might be considered clutter in your workspace, and see if it helps you stop procrastinating at all.
5. Surround Yourself With Positive Influences
It can be hard to admit to yourself, but some of your friends might not be good for you.
Sure, they’re fun to hang out with on weekends. You love kicking back with a beer and watching the game with them on Sunday, but their constant invites to Happy Hour can be quite the distraction throughout the week.
And you try to do the right thing. You turn down their invites because you know you need to work, but they pester you until you have no choice but to join them.
Other friends might not support your goals at all. The might tell you to stick to your day job and give up on your dreams of eCommerce entrepreneurship. Maybe they don’t think you have the means to make your dreams come to life.
Whatever the case is, you don’t want to associate with people who aren’t helping you work toward your goals. It might not seem like anyone else is holding you back, but surrounding yourself with the wrong people can have a major impact on your productivity.
Instead, surround yourself with people who are working toward similar goals. Connect with people who have already achieved your dream, so they can help you along the way.
Establish friendships with people who challenge you, not people who promote procrastinating. These relationships will prove very valuable in the long run, and can have a significant impact on where you end up in life.
6. Find a Mentor
Mentors are invaluable. They’re kind of like your own private coach, helping you better understand your goals and what you can to do make them happen.
Your mentor will also motivate you. They’ll tell you not to procrastinate, and give you reasons to get started on your goals.
Be picky when you pick a mentor. Take the time to connect with numerous potential candidates, and eventually, you’ll find someone you really work well with. By choosing the right mentor, you can give yourself a sidekick who will help you stop procrastinating and stay focused on achieving your goals.
7. Start Today and Stop the Excuses
You can always come up with an excuse not to do something. It’s that simple. If you don’t want to do it, you’ll come up with a reason not to.
The best way to beat procrastination is to stop coming up with excuses for yourself. Instead of finding a reason not to do something, find a reason to start it right away. You can always tell yourself you have more time to get it done, or it’s better if you work on it tomorrow, but if you keep doing this, you’ll never make any progress.
A few months ago, I found this method called the “Three-Second Rule” that’s really helped me stop procrastinating. Anytime I know I should start on a task, but I start to come up with excuses not to do it, I start working on it within three seconds of having my initial thought.
By starting on my projects within three seconds of them coming to mind, I can beat inertia and get things done before distraction sets in. I highly recommend this method to anyone who’s having trouble getting started on their tasks.
Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.
Procrastination is tough to beat. It plagues us all at some point or another, whether we’re working at home, in the office, or in the classroom.
Armed with the right strategies and a will to change your work habits, you can stop procrastination in its place and start making progress toward your goals. Remember, you can have a great idea and a lot of knowledge, but it doesn’t mean much unless you put it to use. Your chances of success are none if you don’t get started, so start working on your goals and stop letting procrastination take control.