5 Tips to Help Put Procrastination in its Place
There are many responsibilities we avoid at times, including work, school, or any task that takes us away from what we would rather be doing. Despite this, we typically avoid talking about procrastination and dismiss ourselves as ‘lazy’.
However, it is a common problem that we can manage better by understanding it. Listed below are ways we can start to put procrastination in its place:
- Understand why you’re procrastinating – Take a moment to think about why you might be putting off a particular task. Is it due to unclear expectations? Do you have the tools you need to start? Are you feeling fatigued or anxious? By knowing the ‘why’ of our procrastination, we can determine how to overcome it. For each of the above reasons, we can ask questions, gather resources, and tend to our immediate needs to best address each underlying cause.
- Put barriers between you and procrastination – There are many things we turn to when we procrastinate. They can include social media, TV, or more ‘productive’ procrastination activities such as cleaning. Identify the things you procrastinate with and make it harder to turn to them. Turn off your phone, have a dedicated workspace, or use headphones to help reduce distractions.
- Shift your mindset – Only thinking about the difficult parts of the task or how long it will take unfortunately makes it harder to start working. Try focusing on what you will gain by completing the task, or the satisfaction you feel in being productive. This can help us to keep on track and persevere longer than if we only think about the negatives.
- Work in short ‘bursts’ – We are often tempted to try completing everything in one sitting, especially if a deadline is looming. Unfortunately, our mind may not be up to the demand of concentrating uninterrupted for hours. When possible, meet your attention where it’s at with shorter, targeted work sessions. A strategy called the Pomodoro Technique (developed by Francesco Cirillo), is a way we can work effectively without exhausting our focus. Set a 25-minute timer, work until the timer ends, then take a 5–10-minute break. After 4 sets, take a longer 20–30-minute break. The working time can be adjusted; try different intervals and see which fits best for you!
- Reward your progress – after working hard, give yourself a small reward! Not only does it boost our mood, but it also keeps our motivation up and our procrastination down. By having something to look forward to like a favourite treat or activity, we’re less likely to be pulled away by procrastination and more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment in a job well done.
These are just a few ways we can put procrastination in its place. If you’re having difficulties with procrastination, speaking to a counsellor can help identify additional strategies, as well as help you understand the reasons underlying your procrastination better. Often, starting can be the first and most important step to standing up to procrastination.
Lisa Gust, MSc, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and specializes in the areas of stress management and life transitions, as well as many others. For more information on Lisa and her work click here to link to her full bio page.