This is one of the most common problems most people struggle with. Procrastination is a psychological and neurological state of indecision. In most cases, procrastination is simply ones inability to recognize and push through short-term pain or discomfort in exchange for pleasure. Most people allow pain and pleasure to control them, instead of using it as a tool to motivate ones self. Some procrastination is just anxiety based on past unrelated events (i.e., memories), but other forms of procrastination is your brain telling you that you need more information before making a wise decision. When we procrastinate, we are consciously or unconsciously experiencing confusion, uncertainty, self-doubt, or fear.
There’s also a powerful connection between perfectionism and procrastination. For the perfectionist, it’s never good enough, which means that a perfectionist has low self-esteem. Are you procrastinating because you don’t trust yourself? If so, just ask yourself this question: “Am I good enough to make a decision? The answer is usually YES! If not, consider some personal coaching. It’s easy, with the help of an expert, to know how and when to take action on nearly everything.
1. Awareness —Reflect on the reasons why you procrastinate, your habits and thoughts that lead to procrastinating.
2. Assess —What feelings lead to procrastinating, and how does it make you feel? Are these positive, productive feelings: do you want to change them?
3. Outlook —Alter your perspective. Looking at a big task in terms of smaller pieces makes it less intimidating. Look for what’s appealing about or what you want to get out of an assignment beyond just the grade.
4. Commit —If you feel really stuck, start simply by committing to complete a small task, any task, and write it down. Finish it and reward yourself. Write down on your schedule or “to do” list only what you can completely commit to, and if you write it down, follow through no matter what. By doing so you will slowly rebuild trust in yourself that you will really do what you say you will, which so many procrastinators have lost.
5. Surroundings —When doing school work, choose wisely where and with whom you are working. Repeatedly placing yourself in situations where you don’t get much done and are easily distracted– such as “studying” in your bed, at a café or with friends – can actually be a kind of procrastination, a method of avoiding work.
6. Goals —Focus on what you want to do, not what you want to avoid. Think about the productive reasons for doing a task by setting positive, concrete, meaningful learning and achievement goals for yourself.
7. Be Realistic —Achieving goals and changing habits takes time and effort; don’t sabotage yourself by having unrealistic expectations that you cannot reasonably meet.
8. Self-talk —Notice how you are thinking, and talking to yourself. Talk to yourself in ways that remind you of your goals and replace old, counter-productive habits of self-talk. Instead of saying, “I wish I hadn’t…” say, “I will…”
9. Un-schedule — If you feel really stuck, you probably won’t use a schedule that is a constant reminder of all that you have to do and is all work and no play. So, if your many attempts to make a schedule have failed miserably, make a largely unstructured, flexible schedule in which you slot in only what is necessary. Keep track of all the time you spend working toward your goals, tally it up, and reward yourself for it. This can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and increase satisfaction in what you get done. For more see the book Procrastination by Yuen and Burka.
10. Focus – where focus goes, energy flows. Learn to use quality questions to shift your focus to pain and pleasure motivators. i.e. focusing on the pain of going to the gym and the pleasure of staying comfortable will likely not be a good motivator, but if you focus on the pain of being overweight, having low energy and low-worth because of your sloppy, unattractive out of shape body that might hurt and make you get off your butt and go workout, and sprinkle in the pleasure of looking great, feeling your best, and having higher levels of energy and confidence, that will probably add to the motivation. Shifting your focus by using pain and pleasure as a tool is incredibly powerful and effective.
11. Accountability – find people you value and respect who will hold you accountable to your goals and tasks. Sometimes we are more motivated to not let others down.
12. Talk to your future self – Whenever I am about to procrastinate on something I have a quick conversation with my future self. And it usually goes something like this, “Hey future self, I don’t want to do this task right now so I’m going to give it to you to do tomorrow sound good?” future self responds, “Thanks jerk, trying to give me the work to do tomorrow. Just get it done today so that tomorrow we are free.” When you recognize that shifting delayed pain onto your future self is like playing a prank on your future self, it helps you realize you should just do the task at hand now, not wait until later. Remembering that delaying short-term pain in the moment is really only shifting that pain onto your future self.