When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing until it is too late. Then we often panic and wish we had gotten started earlier because now we do not have enough time. Procrastinators spend years of their life caught in this cycle: delaying, putting things off, hiding work, and only completing tasks when it is unavoidable, then repeating the process over again. It is a bad habit preventing us from achieving greater results in life. Understanding what a procrastinator is and their mindset can help them achieve the 5 ways to finally stop procrastinating.
A procrastinator, in simplest terms, is someone who puts off work, and there are two types: situational and chronic. A situational procrastinator is controlled by the task they have to do. If they do not like the task, they will push it off and try to avoid it. A situational procrastinator can be found in everyone as it can pertain to cooking, cleaning, laundry, and unwanted conversations. Chronic procrastinators have a hard time completing any task and getting tasks done. Both types show there is a link between our attitudes towards work and motivation.
Procrastination is better understood when you change the way you look at it. Understanding it is not to be looked at in theories, but instead, try to understand it in an ethical and moral sense. There reasons people procrastinate, and part of the reasoning can be it provides a protective strategy for coping with the lack of motivation. Procrastination can also form from the conflicting views between the anxiety ridden back and forth between I want to get it done ahead of time and what if it is not good enough. Understanding procrastination and seeing it not as something to be ashamed of, can help better overcome the obstacles as to why it is predictable. It is important to figure out the dynamic between motivation and the circumstances from which it arises.
One instance, especially in jobs and colleges, we are highly selective. In highly competitive environments where people are evaluated, there is an increased amount of pressure to do the best you can making it hard to actually start the task at hand because you do not want it to not be enough. The motivation to do the work is present in the circumstance, but the highly selectiveness and competitive environment bring a sense of procrastination because the start is being over-thought. Not only do people procrastinate in order to achieve the best thought out plan, but they utilize the time to talk-down to themselves in order to protect themselves if they do not win the reward or do not gain benefits. All of this is done for their self-worth because there is more than the reward on like, and it is important to realize the subconscious reasoning behind procrastination.
Oftentimes, we also find ourselves making excuses: I cannot do my best if I am tired, what can I get done in an hour?, I will do this first, so I can concentrate better, and on we go until we have no choice but to do what we pushed off because we are out of time and feel stressed. Once we realize we are out of time and begin the task, there is a moment of thought where we push ourselves with the idea of just doing it because if you do not, it is going to be bad. The humiliation of incompletion is worse than not being the best everyone else has seen. If we would push through the negative mindsets and tell ourselves to just do it repeatedly, we would not find ourselves in constant states of panic and stress.
The Self Worth Theory, as described by Nic Voge, talks about the psychological desire everyone has to be seen by themselves and others as capable and competent and how it pertains to the motivational connection of procrastination. This need to be accepted tends to mask other needs as it tends to take precedence thus causing procrastination. We determine our own self-worth by the skills we exude and not by the effort we put in, so people who are fearful of failure are heavy procrastinators and believe performance = ability = worth. This shows procrastination is not a habit adapted by not liking something but rather by their love for the task at hand and their need for self-worth.
A common misconception about procrastinators is they tend to be less motivated and lazy; however, in most cases, procrastinators tend to be more motivated and extremely driven. Instead procrastinators feel stuck as their minds are working against itself with two conflicting forces between success and failure. We strive for success, yet are extremely motivated to avoid failure on the other hand causing procrastinators to push off the task in order to push off failing. Oftentimes the feeling of being stuck takes over and it feels like we are pressed against the wall, we cannot sleep, we are exhausted, but if we try to make the best of the lack of sleep, we cannot seem to work. Moving forward does not seem like an option until we have a moment of realization of “if I do not start now, I will not get this done”.
The moment we have this realization is the moment our self-sabotage changes to performance sabotage for self-protection because the fear of not getting it done helps motivate us to move forward with completion. Procrastination is often looked at as a way of self-sabotage and a way of handicapping ourselves, but if you look at the situation from a self-worth point of view, it is not self-sabotage but self-protection in order to be accepted and able with a sacrifice of our performance in order to achieve it.
Looking at procrastination as a strategy and coping mechanism can explain a lot in perfectionists. If we procrastinate and do not achieve to the highest extent, it is a built-in excuse. Stating lack of time as an excuse for the flaws in the completion saying of course it was not the best. People oftentimes talk about how they are not ready because then they not only have an excuse for themselves but for others. However, on the other hand, if you are able to procrastinate and still succeed, you gain a confidence boost because you were able to achieve without the performance. Procrastination as an avoidance strategy protects self-worth.
How to Overcome Procrastination
Typically, we tend to talk ourselves out of our funk and into getting started. However, by stating if I do not do this, then this will happen we are actually increasing fear and making it harder to get started. Instead it is important to develop awareness, tip the balance within your mind, and challenge your performance, ability, and worth (PAW) beliefs. By being aware of the dynamic between your motivations and procrastination and being self aware, it makes it easier to overcome. Bring awareness to what you feel in those times is key as well not just understanding the roots of your procrastination. What do approach motives versus avoidance feel like to you? We know cleaning or sleeping before the final is a form of procrastination, but not every aspect is clear like checking your email when you are supposed to sit down and write. The more we know and are aware of our own subconscious motives and procrastination, the easier it will be to overcome it.
Learn how to tip the balance away from avoidance and more toward motivations. When motivation is lacking, take a step back and examine the why. We have a tendency to feel we lack motivation because our fears dictates and overpowers our approach motives. There is a reason you are doing the task at hand or signed up to work, but it can be hard to remember and stay focused because our minds take control and fear sets in. Motivation only works if we are thinking and feeling it. We have to make the conscious choice to do instead of wait.
In order to stay focused, you can make lists as to why you want to do the task and the benefits of completing it in order to dominate over the reasons you might avoid. Writing down the things you want to remember and using them as a way to almost practice positive affirmations will help take the pressure of the task. Repeat the list to yourself and stay focused on what you want to achieve or get out of the experience.
Understanding performance is not equal to our ability, and our ability does not equal our self-worth is one of the healthiest mindsets you can achieve in order to stop procrastinating. Think of those you value within your life and those who care about you. It is not because of your ability, your grades, your promotions, or awards keeping them around. No, it is our human qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and vulnerabilities that determine your worth. Do not fear your abilities because they do not determine who you are as a person. Living in fear causes more than procrastination and can cause impared mental health.
Here are 5 ways to finally stop procrastinating.
Set Simple, Achievable Goals
Part of the reason people procrastinate is because the task seems overwhelming and like a lot of work. It is easier to start a task when you are able to get organized, set reasonable goals, and make a timeline for those goals. Try being specific with the goals instead of vague. This will make your goals less intimidating and more obtainable. Setting the timeline schedule can help you break up the task into smaller chunks over time, so you are able to manage the task as a whole while only focusing on a little at a time in order to not become overwhelmed. Be disciplined enough to stick to your deadlines. Saying “I’ll get to it” or “I’ll do it later” normally turns into never. Plan to have your task done a little ahead of time, so if anything happens, you have wiggle room to complete it.
Get Rid of Distractions
A typical procrastinator will become distracted by everything without meaning and ends up finding themselves in a pickle when a fast approaching deadline is near. Rid yourself of any distractions before you begin working, so you do not continuously get sidetracked from the task. Pay attention to your typical distractions, if you find yourself scrolling through TikTok when you should be working, then shut your phone off. Distractions can also be annoying siblings, so try to find a quiet place you could go to get away from the noise or turn on classical music to drown them out.
Surround Yourself with Support
If you spend 10 minutes with someone who is motivated and successful, it will motivate you more than doing nothing. There is power in the people you spend your time with. They can either lift you up or tear you down, and when you are already tearing yourself down by pushing back your task, why would you not surround yourself with people who encourage you? Get a buddy who has their own set of goals, and you both can help hold each other accountable by telling eachother your goals and providing encouragement.
Stop Over-complicating Things
If you are waiting until everything is perfect to do something, then you are never going to move forward because you are going to constantly tell yourself now is not the right time due to x,y, and z. The issue is we are all humans and life is never perfect. Waiting until you have no fear before moving on will allow the opportunity to pass due to the lack of chance taken. There will never be a perfect time. Perfection is a reason a lot of individuals procrastinate, as they are driven by the fear of not being the best. Understanding you are human and will make mistakes will help alleviate the pressure put on yourself causing the procrastination.
Just Do It
It is easier said than done when your own mind is against you saying all the reasons to wait. However, in the end, it is when you take action the task is completed. The truth is no amount of planning, goal setting, and timelining can mean anything if you do not put in the work. By pushing it off and refusing to do it does not make the task magically disappear. Having self-discipline to get a grip on yourself and just do it is a strong and bold start to becoming more productive.
When it comes to breaking the cycle and finally stopping procrastination, it really all just comes down to taking action. Make the conscious decision to change your mentality and push yourself to do the work at hand. You can follow the 5 ways to finally stop procrastinating above, but if you do not believe you can do it and take control over your life, change will not happen. Try to remove as much of the fear of your self-worth as possible and hone in on the little bit left in order to drive you to success. Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but allowing procrastination to control your life is an unhealthy mindset causing overwhelming amounts of stress.