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How to Stop Procrastination and Boost Productivity

Jul 2, 2023 by Vreny Blanco · 6 min read · Focus, Time Management

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Image with permission from Niklas Behrens

Are you tired of procrastinating and struggling to get things done? Procrastination is a counterproductive habit that can affect your overall well-being.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the definition of procrastination and provide concrete approaches for overcoming this habit.

Get ready to take control of your time, increase your productivity, and achieve your goals!

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the voluntary delay of an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of task performance or how the individual feels about the task or himself.

Procrastination is a needless, voluntary delay and an emotion-focused coping strategy, not a time-management problem. It can become a habit for many people, often without even realizing it. It is also a form of self-regulation failure. We fail to regulate our behavior to achieve our own goals.

The problem lies in our desire for immediate gratification and mood improvement, even if it means sacrificing long-term goals. We give in to impulsive urges, prioritizing our present comfort while our future selves suffer the consequences.

How do I Stop Procrastinating?

Procrastination starts with your mindset.

To change, you must develop new strategies and put them into practice. However, no technique alone will work without a firm commitment to a goal.

When it comes to procrastination, there’s a conflict between wanting to feel good right now and working toward long-term goals. It’s important to understand that giving in to the desire for immediate gratification is at the root of self-regulation failure, which is why developing strategies for change is essential.

When you are faced with a tedious task and say: “I’ll do it later” or “I’ll feel more motivated tomorrow,” stop and realize that you are trying to avoid the negative emotions you are feeling right now. Recognize that the task makes you feel bad, and your tendency to avoid it is driven by your desire to escape those unpleasant feelings.

Recognize Voluntary Delays

Not all delay is procrastination. You need to focus on the unnecessary delays. These are the delays that you want to do something about.

Here are some steps to follow:

  1. List the tasks, projects, or activities you tend to procrastinate on.
  2. Identify which delays are voluntary. You may see a pattern emerge.
  3. What emotions or thoughts come to mind when you think of these incomplete projects?
  4. Design a strategy to follow.
  5. Take action!

Stay Committed to Your Goals

A key factor in achieving success is to be fully committed to your desire to change. Think about the negative consequences of procrastination in your life and the benefits of taking action now.

Get Started, Even if You Do Not Feel Like It

We usually feel optimistic about a task when we plan to do it in the future. Suppose you are tempted to procrastinate on a project because you think you will feel better about it tomorrow. In this case, you need to stop and realize that there is a good chance you will not. It is very likely that those negative feelings about the project will still be there tomorrow, increasing the chances of not completing the task.

There it’s a common misconception when it comes to achieving our goals. We think we have to be in the right mood to get started. We don’t. The thing is, our motivational state does not need to match the intention in order to act. You can do something even if you don’t feel like it.

Remember your goals and take action!

Usually, once we start a task, it’s better than we thought it would be. Research shows that getting started changes how we see the task and ourselves. Once we start, we perceive the task as much less aversive than when we avoid it. Even if we don’t finish, taking action still counts, and we don’t feel as negative about ourselves the next day. We feel more in control and more optimistic.

Making progress toward our goals brings us happiness and satisfaction. Positive emotions help us stay focused on our goals and motivate us for future progress and success.

Eliminate Distractions

In our previous article How to be focused, we emphasized the importance of this topic.

Before you start working, it’s important to eliminate potential distractions such as phone calls, social media notifications, interruptions from family or colleagues, and so on. Take a moment to clean up your workspace and make sure it has good lighting, a comfortable temperature, and an organized setup to help you stay focused.

By blocking out distractions, you’ll be able to maintain your attention and focus on the task at hand. This pre-decision to create a distraction-free environment is a helpful step to enhance your productivity.

Use a website/app blocker like 1Focus to block social media and other distracting, time-consuming content like YouTube, Netflix, Twitter (X), text messages, email, etc.

Focus on One Thing

  • Avoid multitasking and train yourself to focus on just one task at a time without distractions.
  • Turn off and remove everything that’s not essential to the task you’re working on.

Establish a Structured Routine

Willpower has its limits. To ensure productivity, it’s essential to establish a structured routine that works even when your emotions fluctuate.

Here are some tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep routine to recharge your energy.
  • Practice breathing exercises to calm your mind and improve your concentration.
  • Manage your time effectively.
  • Plan your day ahead. Include meals, breaks, and time for exercise.
  • Find someone to talk to or something to do that lifts you up and makes you feel energized.
  • Be aware that social situations may require extra self-control and effort.

Conclusion

Procrastination is a voluntary delay of an intended action that can negatively affect your task performance and emotional well-being. The key to overcoming it is recognizing that procrastination is an emotion-focused coping strategy rather than a time management problem.

By focusing on the costs of procrastination and recognizing the benefits of immediate action, you can increase your commitment to your goals. Even when you don’t feel like it, taking action is crucial. Your motivational state does not have to match your intentions in order to act. Getting started can change your perception of a task and yourself, leading to increased control and optimism.

Remember, everyone’s anti-procrastination recipe is unique, and change takes time. Focus on one or two areas to improve, be kind to yourself during setbacks, and persist in your efforts. With determination and a willingness to try again, success will come.

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