Everyone has out off a task or avoided a task at some point; it’s normal. Have you ever wondered why you procrastinate? Or do you want to be better at avoiding or overcoming procrastination at work or at college?
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there may be negative consequences.
What causes procrastination?
There can be many causes of procrastination. It can happen if people are afraid of failing, or may lack self-confidence. Here are 8 causes of procrastination:
- Lack of motivation
- Fear of failure
- Lack of confidence
- Low energy
- Poor focus
- Tasks are too daunting
- Tasks are not exciting
There are strategies to help you avoid procrastination, which will mean that you are more productive with your time. These are 15 of the best ways to avoid procrastination:
1. Set Goals
To avoid procrastination, you need to set better goals. When you set exciting and motivating goals, you are less likely to procrastinate. It is really easy to procrastinate when you don’t have clarity on your goals and a plan to be able to achieve them.
You can start to procrastinate when your to-do list seems too overwhelming. This is why setting measurable and achievable goals is important. Read my 7 ways to achieve your goals guide.
2. Set Deadlines
When you set deadlines on your goals and tasks, it gives you focus and motivation to be productive in completing the tasks. Having deadlines can aid you in being able to prioritise your tasks effectively.
3. Learn What Your Procrastination Triggers Are
There are a variety of things that can trigger procrastinating behaviour. Here are triggers that can contribute to you putting off tasks:
- The task is boring
- The task is frustrating
- The task lacks a reward for you
- The task has little personal meaning for you
- The task is ambiguous and unclear
The more triggers a task has the more likely you are to procrastinate doing it. Learning what your triggers are can help you overcome the hurdles to being more productive.
4. Change Your Environment
Different environments can have varied impacts on your productivity levels and your motivation. Study your desk and your room; do they make you want to work? If the answer is no, then you need to change your workspace.
If you have a work environment that makes you feel motivated and inspired, it is important to note that the feeling in that environment can lose its effect after a period of time. So, revamping your environment and workspace is vital to keep your productivity charged.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Reducing the amount of distractions is a great tip to avoid procrastinating identifying what your distractions are can help you to reduce them when you at trying to complete tasks. Distractions can come in all forms such as: your phone, notifications, emails as well as a messy workspace can all be distracting. When you do not have the distractions, you will be able to focus on your tasks and goals.
6. Prioritise Your Tasks
Using a planner can help you to use to-do lists and write down clear tasks prioritising the most important task with the closest deadlines first to avoid failure. Setting a clear task as a priority each day can help you avoid being overwhelmed, so that you do not waste your time procrastinating. If you are not sure how to do this, just think; ‘If I was to do one task today and be satisfied, what I would do?’ This can help you to decide what you should be your number one priority. Read how you can write a better to-do list.
7. Break Down Bigger Tasks
Sometimes you may procrastinate because tasks or goals seem too daunting or overwhelming. Breaking down bigger tasks into smaller more manageable tasks can help you to successfully complete your tasks and goals, whilst gaining a continuous stream of rewarding progress.
When you are looking to break down larger tasks, there are some things you need to bear in mind:
- You can break tasks apart as much as you want – you can create sub-tasks that you can finish before needing a break
- You can start with a small first step – it can be beneficial to start with a small first step which can make it easier for you to get over the initial hurdle f actually getting started
- You do not need to outline all the steps from start to finish – with a big project; it can be counter-productive to outline all the upcoming steps. It is often preferable to start figuring out only the next few steps that you need to focus on and as time goes by, you can add on new tasks once you have made great progress
8. Reward Yourself
Rewarding yourself can create an incentive to complete a task and avoid procrastination, this technique is powerful. Knowing that you have a reward for completing the difficult task ahead will provide you with the motivation.
Rewarding yourself could be:
- Watching a favourite TV show
- Take a bath/have a pamper
- Listen to music
- Go for lunch with a loved one
- Buy yourself something you have wanted
Acknowledging your success of completing tasks or big projects can evoke motivation to keep you moving forward in achieving more goals. It can promote a positive mindset and attitude when it comes to approaching your tasks. When you reward your success it can: inspire you, boost your confidence and increase your motivation.
9. Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is essential for achieving your goals and helping you to avoid from yourself as well as: loved ones, friends, a mentor or coach, or even a nominated accountability partner. The purpose of having act as a sounding board to push and must hold yourself accountable otherwise you are unlikely to be productive.
Writing down your tasks or goals means that you are being clear about what you should and should not be doing, you have a deadline and research has proven that writing down goals and tasks means you are far more likely to complete them and be successful. Read the best goal planner to help you be accountable.
10. Be Organised
When you are unclear on what you actually want to achieve or how to start the big tasks can be procrastinating behaviour. If you practise positive organisational habits, you are clear on what you need to achieve and what resources you will need to do this. When you are organised you will have a decluttered schedule and this will stop you from outing your attention on things that are not a priority.
Organised people successfully overcome pits of procrastination because they use prioritised to-do lists and create effective schedules. If you struggle with organisation skills, you can learn to be with the help of these 30 small habits.
11. Do The Harder And More Important Tasks First
Research has shown that our biological clocks also known as the Circadian Rhythm ensures that we are often at our most alert at around 10am before we suffer a mid-afternoon dip. The harder the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them. It makes sense to do the hardest and most important tasks first because if you try you attempt a difficult task tired, it could lead to you putting it off, or doing something incorrectly.
12. Do The Task For Just A Few Minutes
Not only could you be spending longer distracting yourself doing the ‘wrong’ tasks, but they delay starting the ‘right’ tasks.
Professor Richard Wiseman shares about The Zieganick Effect, which describes how once you start a task your brain remains alert until you finish it. Starting a task is often the hardest part. If you can gain the motivation to start the task, your brain’s desire to see it through to completion takes over.
13. Increase Your Confidence And Self-Belief
Fear of failure is one reason why you could be procrastinating on a task. Practising positive affirmations regularly can help to highlight your positive attributes as well as reflecting on your previous successes. Another way you could increase you confidence is to highlight how other people who have been in a similar position have been successful. Psychologists call this practise modelling. This can make the task at hand seem achievable and far more approachable.
14. Don’t Beat Yourself Up About Procrastinating
A real negative aspect about procrastination is not just the impact on your work, but the impact it has on your self-esteem. Even if you manage to still complete your task by the deadline, procrastination can make you feel really bad and guilty. So if you have procrastinated, draw a line under it and move on. You can also use the situation to gather more insight into why you feel you may have procrastinated and how you can avoid it in the future.
15. Disconnect From The Internet
47% of people’s time online is spent procrastinating. It is so simple to check and respond to a notification or an email and then fall down the rabbit hole and you are left scrolling on social media for hours. Limiting your internet use when you are working on your to-do list will reduce your likelihood of procrastination.