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How to Stop Procrastination: 5 Simple Steps to Follow

by | Oct 4, 2022 | Blog, Insights, Productivity

You’ve probably heard of the tendency to procrastinate before. It’s something that almost everyone does from time to time, and it can be a real problem for those who are prone to doing it frequently and to excess. When procrastination goes unchecked, it can have serious consequences in your life. Things like finishing school, landing a job, starting a business, or even maintaining friendships can all suffer because of procrastination. Understanding why you procrastinate is the first step toward curing it. Everyone procrastinates for different reasons, but there are some universal explanations for why we put things off instead of doing them sooner. Understanding these reasons and how they relate to you will help you take the next steps in overcoming this bad habit.

Understanding Why You Procrastinate

A lot of procrastination comes from a fear of failure. This fear is tied to a lack of self-worth. When you don’t feel good about yourself or your abilities, you’re going to be less likely to act on things that may put those insecurities on display. Therefore a lot of procrastination is tied to perfectionism. Perfectionism is tied to the idea that nothing is ever good enough, so nothing is ever worth doing. Perfectionism is a sure way to procrastinate, because nothing is “good enough” to be finished. Fear of success may also be a factor. If you’re afraid of success, you may be putting off things that might lead to it. For example, if you’re afraid of success as a blogger, you might put off creating content, which would help you get more readers. You might also be procrastinating on improving your skills at writing, so that you may never get the readership you want.

Identify your triggers

To start combatting your procrastination, you should first identify the things that trigger it. These are the situations, emotions, and thoughts that cause you to put things off. For example, if you always put off studying for your classes, you might procrastinate when you are feeling overwhelmed by all the material you must cover. Identifying your triggers means being both observant and honest with yourself. For example, if you put off calling an old friend, it might be because those phone calls are awkward, or you’re feeling guilty about not staying in touch. If this is the case, you need to figure out how to get past that. If you put off working out, and you’re tired, or you’re too busy, or you don’t have supplies or a gym membership, then you need to resolve those issues. You can do this by asking yourself two questions: Why do I procrastinate in this situation? Why do I put off this specific task?

Resolve the root cause(s)

Once you’ve identified your specific triggers, you should try to resolve the root cause(s) behind them. For example, if you put off calling an old friend because you’re feeling guilty about not staying in touch, you’ll want to resolve that guilt. For the guilt, you could try writing the friend a letter, and putting it in an envelope to be mailed later. This will help you get the feelings off your chest, while also postponing the need to call the friend. You can also try to resolve other root causes. You may have to find time to work out or learn how to do the task you’re putting off, or even just build confidence in your ability to do the work. You may need to adjust your situation to make room for the work, or you may even need to address larger issues in your life like poor time management.

Create a habit to combat your trigger(s)

Once you’ve resolved the root causes for your procrastination, you can start creating habits that combat those triggers. For example, if you put off studying because it feels overwhelming, you can try breaking down your study time into smaller chunks. Or you may want to set weekly goals for how much you want to study and set up a system for tracking your progress. You can also try to combat a trigger with a positive habit. If you put off turning in a paper because you’re worried it’s not good enough, you should try to combat that with positive habits, like writing down positive affirmations, like: “I am enough” and “This paper is great.”

Create an accountability habit

If you’re having trouble breaking the habit of procrastinating, you may want to try an accountability habit. An accountability habit is something that helps you stay accountable for your actions, and for completing your tasks. For example, if you have a friend who is helping you to finish a big project, you may want to make an agreement with them that includes a system of accountability. You can also try making a public commitment to finish a task. For example, if you’re starting a blog, you can create a blog, and write a post about your commitment to blogging. Then, you can post that publicly, like on social media, so that you will feel pressured to finish your posts.

Set deadlines and commit to them publicly

Another way to combat procrastination is to set deadlines for your projects and commit to them publicly. For example, if you’re working on a paper, make a deal with yourself that you’ll have it done within two weeks. Then, you can publicly announce that deadline on social media, or via email to your friends and family. This will help hold you accountable to your promise. Most importantly, make sure the deadlines you set are reasonable. You don’t want to set a deadline for yourself that is so close that you don’t have enough time to do the work correctly.

My favorite strategy to beat procrastination was shared with me by my business coach. She told me about the concept of “eat the frog” which involves doing the hardest task first thing in the morning. The author Brian Tracy of “Eat that Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” says to eat the “ugliest frog” first. So whatever your hardest and most fearful task is, just do it. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Procrastination is a bad habit that can creep up on you and hold you back in life. It’s important to recognize the signs of procrastination and take steps to overcome it. You can start by understanding why you procrastinate and identifying your triggers. Then, resolve the root cause(s) behind those triggers, and create a habit that combats them. Once you’ve broken the procrastination cycle, you’ll be able to achieve so much more in life.