7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating
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Procrastination is the act of avoiding or delaying a task. People often find ways to put off doing something because they lack motivation, the task is too vague or they are afraid of doing a bad job. Whatever the reason for procrastination, there are simple techniques that can help you overcome it, become more productive and achieve your short and long-term goals.
1. Set your goals
People sometimes procrastinate because they lack clear, attainable goals. If you have to do something unpleasant, boring or difficult, it is very hard to motivate yourself unless you have a clear goal in mind. Work out what it is that you want to achieve. Are you studying a foreign language? If so, why do you want to learn it? Some people learn a language so that they can speak to a bilingual family member, or to locals on holiday. Other people may be studying to expand their skillset and advance their career. If you are completing a task, ask yourself why it's important to achieve it. This can help you to focus and remember the reason why you are putting in the work.
2. Use a visual motivation
Sometimes, people procrastinate due to a lack of motivation. If the task you need to complete is just one part of a large goal, it can be difficult to imagine a future reward. This is especially relevant to college students, where every assignment leads towards getting a diploma. Try making a mood board to display a visual of what your life might look like once you've achieved the overall goal. You might put a picture of yourself wearing graduation robes or pictures illustrating your dream career. Hang this board over your desk or somewhere you will see it often. This will help you to stay motivated for a goal that may seem abstract or out of reach.
3. Break down the task
Many tasks contain multiple parts. For example, housework often includes scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, mopping floors and dusting. It also spans several rooms, some of which may have additional tasks. If you tend to procrastinate when it comes to housework, try writing a list detailing each separate component, for example hoover living area, mop kitchen floor. Tick off each small task as you achieve it. This technique can apply to any task with more than one obvious component, for example writing an essay, preparing a presentation, filling out a form or making a job application.
4. Overcome the fear of failure
Many people procrastinate because they are afraid of failure. This fear becomes stronger than the desire to get something done. Often, people put off completing a task until their anxiety levels naturally dip. Try asking yourself some simple questions about the task you want to achieve. What will happen if you don't get it finished? What happens if it's not perfect? What happens if it fails? Most of the time, it is better to get something finished, even if it's imperfect, that not complete it at all. Consider doing some self-care activities to reduce your anxiety levels, for example practising meditation, taking a walk, talking about your fears with a friend, or listening to soothing music.
5. Take a break
When it comes to procrastination, taking a break might sound counterproductive. However, when you are thinking about doing a task, even if you haven't started, you are spending energy worrying about what you have to do. If you've been trying to get started on something for hours, give yourself permission to take a 30-minute break and refuse to think about the task. Do something completely different, preferably active, for example going for a walk or doing a YouTube workout. Sometimes, taking a short break away from a project can help you see it clearer.
6. Schedule your tasks
If you have a number of tasks to complete, you might decide to tackle them at the weekend, on your day off or during a free evening. Organising your free time can be challenging and you are likely to encounter distractions. Try scheduling your tasks. For example, if you have several errands to run, you might choose to wake up early on a Saturday morning and work through a list, so you have the rest of your weekend to relax. If you are working on a project, you might set aside two hours each evening where you have no other plans. Write your plan down in a diary or to do list.
7. Create a reward scheme
When you try to get children to do something, you often come up with a reward, for example a sticker or a fun activity, to motivate them. Adult brains respond just as well to the promise of reward. You might choose to reward yourself for completing a task, or for an hour's dedicated work on a larger task, such as an essay. Try to avoid using food as a reward, as this can lead to psychological problems around food and self-denial. Instead, pick something you enjoy, such as spending ten minutes browsing memes or YouTube videos, playing a video game, calling a friend or listening to your favourite song. If you are trying to complete a large task, break it into approximately 50-minute segments and give yourself a 10-minute reward every time you complete a segment.
There will always be extraneous factors that affect your productivity. Stress, exhaustion or busyness might get in the way. However, addressing the reason behind your procrastination and applying relevant techniques should help you to boost productivity and complete your tasks. Learning to overcome procrastination also frees up time and energy previously spent thinking about starting a task or worrying about the outcome.