Everyone is guilty of putting off tasks once in a while or when they find some tasks particularly boring. But some people procrastinate more than others and recent research suggests that this has more to do with avoiding distress than with laziness. Procrastinating too much is not good for health and can increase stress levels, disturb one’s sleep and lead to poor performance.
Procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, causing a spiral of self-critical thoughts which can impact one’s self-esteem. If you are currently putting off high priority tasks or have been avoiding certain chores for months, check out these tips to overcome procrastination:
- Change your mindset – Instead of thinking that you have to do something out of some kind of obligation or necessity, tell yourself that this is what you are choosing to do in this moment for the desired outcome. For example, think about why you choose to organise your drawer: because it helps you find important documents quickly and to lead a clutter-free life, etc.
- Assess the importance of each task – Before starting work, assess if it is really high priority at that moment and how much time you should dedicate to it, keeping in mind the other things you need to do that day. You can also think about whether you are the best person to complete that task or can ask someone for help.
- Take small steps – Break down projects into smaller tasks or actions you can take to complete something. For example, if you need to clean your house, you can tidy up one or two rooms at a time.
- Stop pressurising yourself – You need to stop telling yourself that everything in your life depends on this one big project that you need to put together. Otherwise you will keep living in fear of messing things up and make excuses for not doing it.
- Let go of perfectionism – Let go of the need to do things perfectly and settle for good enough, especially for things that do not require hours of work. You do not need to create a masterpiece when you design a poster for a small community event, for example.
- Keep track of time – Many of us waste a lot of time during the day without realising it, such as when we mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds or flip through TV channels without the intention of really watching anything. Be very mindful of how you are using your time. If needed, make a daily schedule with sufficient breaks for relaxation but incorporating all the other things that you need to complete that day.
- Avoid multitasking – Multitasking can be helpful in certain situations but if you are procrastinating and then trying to get multiple things done, chances are that there will be lots of unfinished tasks and everything will feel chaotic. So pick one task at a time and completely focus on that. Avoid snacking or having a conversation while you are getting things done.
- Stop waiting to get in the mood – Accept that you might never feel like doing some of the tasks that need to be done. Don’t wait to be in the mood. Just set your intention and get it done.
- Remove distractions – You might want to put your phone in a box, switch off the television, put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door and remove other distractions in order to concentrate.
- Make it fun – In certain situations, you can actually make the task more fun. For example, you can listen to music while you enter data in an excel sheet. You might also want to work in the right environment so setting up a workstation creatively might help.