Wondering how to stop procrastination? Many people are. Most of us have found ourselves putting things off and just watching ourselves do it, as if from the perspective of an outsider looking in, at least at one time or another. While we may tackle certain projects with gusto, some tasks leave us feeling paralyzed with inertia, watching our deadlines approach (or pass us by) as we wonder how to force ourselves to move forward. If this sounds dreadfully familiar, I have help! The next time you find yourself battling procrastination, you will have more tools on your side. Read on for 9 tips on how to stop procrastination.
Keep Perfectionism In Check
While not all procrastination comes from perfectionism, this can definitely be a factor.
Think about it: when you’re letting perfectionism take hold, you may let projects become so large that you’re intimidated to start. You may then be at the mercy of procrastination.
If you find yourself procrastinating out of perfectionism, you can help yourself by relaxing your standards. Shoot for “good enough” and work your way up to “great” if you have the time and energy. Don’t let the goal of perfection keep you from starting!
Get Quick Things Out of the Way
Sometimes a too-long to-do list can intimidate you into procrastination; all those items that need your attention can sap you of the energy you need to get started. One helpful “how to stop procrastination” tip is to make a list of the things you need to get done and note how long each item should take to complete. As you review the list, take any item that can be completed in 5 minutes or less, and do it immediately. This can not only shorten your to-do list quickly but can energize you as you mark off the items. It also sets you started in the right direction to finish the rest.
Take Small Steps
Breaking procrastination-worthy projects down into smaller steps is a well-known and effective procrastination-busting technique. It can be much easier to begin tackling a project that you know you can complete quickly, and once you’ve taken a few initial steps in the right direction, you can keep moving more easily and continue until you’re finished. (As you complete each step, you’ll likely feel more energized and motivated to complete more.)
One important key is to make the steps short, concrete, and set in your schedule. Small steps lead to big gains!
As you complete each of these smaller steps, the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment you feel can be its own reward and can create its own motivation to move on to the next step. However, sometimes you can benefit from an extra reward. In these cases, you can propel yourself forward by attaching small rewards to each of your small steps, or a bigger reward when you complete several. Go to a movie, celebrate milestones with friends, do things you enjoy when you complete your tasks. You may be dreading the task itself, but the treat on the other side can motivate you to get started!
Do the Easy Things First
When a task feels overwhelming, it’s often because we doubt our ability to tackle it. One way to build self-confidence is to tackle the easier parts of the job first.
As you complete the easier tasks, the job may feel less daunting, and it’ll be easier to stop procrastination as you complete it.
Once the easy parts of the job are completed, you’ll be left with less overall work to do, so the rest of the job is smaller and may seem easier to take on. In both ways, your confidence can grow by taking on the easy parts of the job first.
Or Do the Hard Things First
If you know you can do the task at hand, but you just cringe when you think of the work that’s involved, save yourself some stress and tackle the unpleasant or difficult parts of the job first. Like quickly pulling off a bandage, you’ll get the most uncomfortable part of the job out of the way, and save yourself all the discomfort that comes from dreading and avoiding it before you finally stop procrastination and do it anyway. Don’t prolong all that stress! Get the hard parts out of the way, and the rest of the job will be much easier to do.
Be an Optimist
Another way to combat the self-doubt that often leads to procrastination is to start thinking more like a classic optimist: highlight the positive and minimize the negative parts of the job and of yourself. Look more closely at why you may feel you can’t do this task and challenge those views by actively looking at reasons you can: your strengths, your resources, and your successes—similar tasks you’ve successfully completed in the past.
Focus more heavily on why you can do this, and less on why you think you can’t.
Let Your Temptations Fuel You
Never has a television show seemed so inviting to me as when I’m procrastinating and avoiding a big project. T.V. shows, conversations with friends, snacking—suddenly these activities can feel irresistible! I’m sure you can relate. When you’re wondering how to stop procrastination, part of the solution is staring you in the face: look at these things that come up as tempting distractions, and use them as rewards instead! Just tell yourself that whatever it is you’d rather be doing, can be your reward for a job well done once you complete part of your work.
Use Your Energy Wisely
Have you ever noticed that you have more energy at certain times of the day? (For me it’s usually late morning.) Tackling those things that usually fall prey to procrastination during these “high energy windows” can help you to be much more productive, can make the job itself feel easier, and can help you stop procrastination much more easily. For the next few days, notice when these higher-energy times of day are for you. Then leave the easier tasks for when you’re frazzled at the end of the day, and use your energy on your more challenging tasks when you have higher amounts of it.