It’s common to think setting the goal is the key to beat procrastination, but that can lead to frustration and demotivation. Before you set your productivity goals, you should first stop anything that’s making you procrastinate.
Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles to getting things done and it can cause some serious damage once it becomes a constant. Whenever you give into that voice in your head telling you why now is not the right time to complete a certain task, you build your procrastination muscles. No matter what you end up doing instead, even if it’s productive in a different way, reinforces your habit of putting certain tasks off. It’s easy to listen to, and often the things you end up doing aren’t the things you need to do to reach your goals.
Here are five things to help you figure out why you’re procrastinating and how to beat it.
1. ANALYZE WHY YOU PROCRASTINATE
On the surface, analyzing why you’re procrastinating is easy: you don’t want to do the task. But why? There’s a deeper reason behind this bad habit and if you don’t uncover it, you risk ruining your productivity. The sooner find your why, the faster you can take action and become more productive.
Maybe it’s fear of failure. You might imagine only worst-case scenarios every time you start the task. Or you might not know where to start or how long it might take to reach your goal. Or maybe the idea of being less than perfect stresses you out to the point of paralysis. But even these can be surface level reasons.
There’s a fallacy among higher performers that they function better under pressure. You might put off projects until the last moment, often staying up all night to complete a project. You achieved your goal, but that doesn’t mean that you weren’t procrastinating. And finishing at the last minute can have its own downfalls that potentially hold you back.
Another type of productive procrastination is taking on too much at one time. Busy is not productive and can actually keep you from achieving your goals. When you’re overloaded, you might put tasks off because you agreed to do other, less important tasks instead. This can lead to you becoming overwhelmed and exhausted.
Finally, you might procrastinate because your goals aren’t clear. Do shiny new ideas take precedence over the one you’re currently working on? Do you reach a certain point in a project and just get bored? There are a lot of reasons that might happen, including ADD, stress, or fear. But this can also happen when you’re unclear on what you want to achieve and why.
Once you know the why, you can start working on solutions to beat procrastination once and for all.
2. IMPLEMENT A PLAN
Understanding why you’re procrastinating gives you the knowledge to implement a plan. You can deal with your fear of failure by shifting your mindset. Start by breaking each task into the smallest, simplest step and only focusing on that task. Whenever you feel fear and doubt creeping in, remind yourself why you want to achieve your goal. It might help to make a vision board with various images you associate with success in reaching your goal.
One of the biggest ways to tackle fear is welcoming failure. You’ll never know how things turn out unless you try, so change your perspective on failure. Instead of failing to achieve a task, define failure might as not doing the task. Even if you don’t complete it, take time to analyze why and what you learned. The more awareness you develop, the more tools you’ll unlock for the next project.
If the bigger picture scares you, take your time to write a detailed plan on what to do exactly to complete your project. You might make a chart so you can track your wins and progress. Crossing items off a list can be very motivating and an easy way to build momentum, which are both effective in eliminating procrastination. It takes the project out of feeling too big to wrap your arms around and makes it feel manageable.
Understand your goal with crystal clarity and anytime you want to do a task, ask yourself how that task affects your goals. If it interferes, distracts, or even sets your back, put it at the bottom of your priority pile. Practice saying no and be protective of your time. To beat procrastination, you have to always have a clear vision of your goal and stay focused on it, no matter what.
3. TRACK YOUR REACTIONS
As you work through this process, you’re going to have reactions. If you say no to extra tasks, you might experience fear. If you get specific about every tiny step to reach your goal, you might feel stressed. Awareness is always key when trying to break a habit and replace it with a new behavior. Noticing how you feel is a big part of this.
You might not notice these emotions or reactions until you’re already procrastinating. That’s okay and part of the process. Take the time to evaluate how you felt before you picked up your phone. You might find that you’re pushing yourself too hard, and need to take more breaks. Or that you’re taking on more that you have time for without risking burnout.
Anytime you focus on the unknown, your brain redirects you to a safe task. The more stress or fear that’s triggered, the harder it is to stay on track. Make sure you allow time to meditate and regroup, where you can sit with your emotions and sort them out. You might want to keep a journal to help you analyze these emotions and keep track of your progress. Make sure to note how you felt throughout the day, capturing before and after both activities and procrastination events.
The more you are aware of your reactions, the better you’ll get at recognizing when procrastination is trying to take over. That’s a big step in the right direction as it helps you come back to the present moment and say ‘no’ to it.
4. ELIMINATE THE OBSTACLES
You want to make everything as easy as possible. This involves planning, but also preparation. You have your plan, now you put the pieces in place to get it done.
Some of this can include building your calendar with all of your tasks scheduled in time-allotments. Set alarms so you know when to start and set a specific time to stop. If you need notecards, pens, highlighters, exercise equipment, cleaning supplies—whatever items you need for that task, make sure you have them ready to go when your alarm goes off.
You might need to set deadlines to help engage your brain in work mode, but make sure that they account for time to check your work. Having deadlines for each individual task can create a sense of urgency that motivates you to start. And these multiple deadlines can help you feel momentum in achieving a series of tasks rather than one big deadline for one big project.
Stay organized. Whether that’s your task chart, a series of to-do lists, a project management tool, notecards and post-it notes, or a planner. You want to know exactly what each day brings before you get started in the morning, and what tasks you need to prepare for the night before.
When you free your mind from trying to assess what needs to be done and how, you don’t give yourself time to succumb to stress and worry. It helps you focus on the single task in front of you rather than trying to figure out what to do next. The more prepared you are, the easier each step becomes. You’ll beat procrastination and find yourself accomplishing more in less time.
5. REWARD YOURSELF
Motivation and momentum are tied to your reward system. When you finish a task, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and this releases feel good hormones in your brain. The more you do this, the more your brain seeks that behavior out, and you end up feeling motivated to do even more.
But procrastination is also tied to this system, which is why you do other things and getting distracted. Scrolling social media is more rewarding than working on a spreadsheet. To beat procrastination you have to tie each task with a specific reward.
You want to make sure the reward is strong enough to overcome your procrastination rewards, but not bigger than the task itself. That means small but effective rewards for small tasks, big but effective rewards for bigger tasks. Things like taking a five-minute break or getting to eat that snack you’ve really wanted. You might read a book for ten minutes or call your friend for a brief chat. Sometimes crossing off a to-do list or filling in a chart can feel rewarding and satisfying, but you want to mix actual rewards in, too.
Take the time to really consider what you find rewarding. Perhaps buying those super cute socks after you finish a majority of your daily tasks is a good reward. Or going to see the newest movie after work. Different things motivate everyone, so don’t be afraid of what anyone else wants or thinks. Find the right rewards for you.
If you find that you’re not actually that excited about a certain reward, change it. The things you think might motivate you might not be as important or exciting as you thought. Give yourself the opportunity to be flexible. The only important thing is that you’re looking forward to whatever that reward is, no matter how silly or how small. And be sure to add larger rewards for milestones and larger achievements.
Motivation is key to being more productive. Procrastinating is tempting, but with the right rewards in place, you’ll be far more motivated to achieve your tasks all day, every day.
Procrastination happens. But it doesn’t have to stop you from reaching your dreams and getting the most out of your day. By understanding why you’re avoiding a task, you can find the right tools and tips to beat procrastination, unlock your productivity, and start achieving your Limitless goals—no matter what.
Watch this video for more tips on how to FINALLY beat procrastination: