Procrastination, the habit of putting things off until the last minute, can take a heavy toll. Many experts define ‘procrastination’ as the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead. In plain words, it can be termed as ‘laziness’. We often feel lazy to take a shower, pay the bills and even attend an important interview. From silly activities to major tasks, this habit can ruin the recipe and take you on the path of destruction. While procrastinators often try to avoid distress by doing so, this approach can ironically invite more distress in the long run. However there is a piece of good news for those people – there are some ways to overcome this problem.
Recognize the problem
You might be putting off a task because you've had to re-prioritize your workload. If you're briefly delaying an important task for a genuinely good reason, then you aren't necessarily procrastinating. However, if you start to put things off indefinitely, or switch focus because you want to avoid doing something, then you probably are. The first step in such cases is to recognize the problem.
Find out the reasons behind your procrastination
You need to understand the reasons why you are procrastinating before you can begin to tackle it. For instance, are you avoiding a particular task because you find it boring or unpleasant? If so, take steps to get it out of the way quickly, so that you can focus on the aspects of your job that you find more enjoyable.
Again poor organization can lead to procrastination. Organized people successfully overcome it because they use prioritized ‘To-Do Lists’ and create effective schedules. These tools help you to organize your tasks by priority and deadline. Even if you're organized, you can still feel overwhelmed by a task. Perhaps you have doubts about your ability and are worried about failing, so you put it off and seek comfort in doing work that you know that you're capable of completing. Whatever the reason is, you need to find it out.
Do the important tasks first
The harder the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them. It therefore makes sense to do the hardest and most important tasks first because trying to start them when you are tired is difficult, often resulting in people putting them off for another day.
Do the task for just a few minutes
Not only do procrastinators spend longer distracting themselves doing the ‘wrong things’ but they also delay starting the ‘right’ things. This was the finding of a study into students who procrastinate. To combat this, you should start doing something for a few minutes as once you begin doing something, your brain remains alert until you finish it. Starting a task is often the hardest part. If you can persuade someone just to start it for a few minutes, the brain's desire to see it through to completion should then take over.
Improve self-regulation ability and beliefs
Self regulation is the ability to select appropriate strategies and self-correct them during a task. This is one of the most efficient and effective strategies to help procrastinators. Procrastination has been described as ‘a failure to self-regulate’; however, procrastination researchers state that knowing self-regulation is not enough to overcome procrastination on its own. To be effective, people need to have the confidence to implement these strategies and skills.
Be realistic while setting targets
As you chalk out your schedule, set a realistic target that you can achieve. Projects often take much longer than expected, so think about some extra time. And look for ways to go easy on yourself. For example, if you are not a morning person, don’t expect yourself to get up an hour early to start the exercise programme. It might be better to schedule that activity during lunch or before dinner.
Manage your environment
If you can see temptations, you are more likely to be distracted by them, and therefore procrastinate. For example, a recent study found that having your phone out and in sight, even if you are not using it, can make you perform 20% worse than if you had put your phone away. The authors of this study state that ‘the mere presence of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention’. Consider your working environment; is it conducive to the task at hand or one where procrastination can flourish?
Look for a partner
It is good to set specific deadlines for completing a task. Your next task should be to find someone who will help you be accountable. It could be a promise to your boss or client that you will complete the job by a certain date. Or it may be a coach who helps you stay on track. Or simply find an accountability partner and keep him/her posted about your progress.
Promise yourself a reward
If you complete a difficult task on time, reward yourself with a treat, such as a slice of cake or a coffee from your favorite coffee shop. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things! Remember that sometimes it’s necessary to pamper yourself.
Finally, have faith on your strengths. People who believe that they won’t be successful at the task at hand are more likely to procrastinate. One way to increase their confidence is to highlight how others who have been in a similar position have been successful. This can make the task seem achievable and encourage you as well.