How to Beat Procrastination for Good

It’s the end of the week, and you’re frantically checking the time to gauge if you have enough bandwidth to complete that all-important task before the deadline. Do you often find yourself in this predicament, even though the brief or assignment was given to you months ago? How did we get ourselves into this bind?

Many of us experience the perils of procrastination. 95% of people put off work at some point, according to Piers Steel. Procrastination is a danger we all face, but it’s important to remember that it’s something we can control. This behaviour can become inherent and we want to understand why it happens and how we can overcome it.

Why do we procrastinate?

The Internet did not create procrastination. People have debated habitual postponement for thousands of years. The Greek philosopher Hesiod, writing 8th-century B.C., cautioned to, “Don’t procrastinate your work”.

Did you know that procrastination is not something we just fall into? It’s an active process of choosing something else instead of the task required. Often, we decide to deprioritise the more tedious and complex duties in favour of easier and more enjoyable work. The motivation and instant gratification of ticking off items on our to-do lists are much easier than doing the more straightforward tasks like responding to or clearing out emails. However, this creates a tendency to leave the significant and often more critical job at the bottom of the list, growing more daunting by the day.

The worst thing about procrastination is that it causes us to feel ashamed and guilty. It harms teamwork, reduces productivity, and can lead to a lack of motivation when we lack balance. How can we prioritise it and channel a more logical approach to balance?

Want to know the best way to overcome procrastination? Here’s how!

There are lots of different ways to deal with and prevent procrastination – it all starts with acknowledging that you have a tendency to procrastinate and trying out some different strategies to see what works best for you.

Here are a few of our easy and effective ways of beating procrastination:

  • Choose One.
    The fundamental principle to beating procrastination is concentration. We often tend to give ourselves too many to-dos and lose our focus. Take the first step and just accept that you’ve been delaying something, and make a decision to complete the task in the next 1 week.
  • Start Now.
    Overcoming the initial hump is the hardest. Oftentimes, we are overwhelmed by the task we’re avoiding. The secret to tackling complex work is by breaking it down into smaller and simpler non-intimidating baby steps. Jot it down in a to-do list, and identify the smallest first step necessary to get the ball rolling. Achieve that small goal, and these small wins reward you a sense of achievement that will in turn fuel your motivation to take the next step.Pick one activity today, and set your plan in motion. If you don’t think you have sufficient time for your selection or working away at it seems difficult, use the strategy below for immediate action.
  • Commit to it.
    When you’re given a major task, commit to it and focus on doing instead of avoiding it. Take measures to plan. Set in place incentive mechanisms to build motivation. Make a promise to yourself that you will be rewarded. Reward yourself with a treat if you finish a challenging assignment on time, such as a new book or a delicious dinner. Giving yourself something to look forward to increases the likelihood that you’ll do it.
  • Another way to ensure the commitment is by instilling accountability. Tell a teammate that you’ll be sending the output by a specific time, and see how it motivates you to fulfil that promise. We are social beings, and we value our reputation. We don’t want to be perceived as unreliable and lazy so we get to work and get it done. Accountability prompts our brains to become more driven and committed.
  • The Five Minute Wonder.
    One of the best techniques to beat procrastination is The Five Minute Wonder. Decide what you could do in five minutes TODAY that could nudge things forward, even a tiny bit. Set a timer for five minutes, spend five minutes on it, and complete the action.
  • Lean into a Power Hour.
    A Power Hour is a form of intense work that starts with a 20-minute span of self-pacing with no distractions and ends with several short breaks (we suggest no more than 20-minute periods at first). And make sure you balance the focused time with laid-back periods.
  • Less is more.
    A lot of people place way too much importance on their to-do list. One way to help you avoid putting things off is to establish whether you are ever going to get around to doing THAT task. What can you delete from your To-Do list? Go on, try deleting something from your checklist because you know you do not need to do it, ever. Give yourself permission to stop.

Remember, it is important to look a bit deeper and understand why you’ve been procrastinating on a specified task. Perhaps it’s fear, you think you won’t deliver the value or that it will be good enough, perhaps you’re over-anxious and just don’t know where to begin.

Be kind to yourself. ​​If you can release yourself from past procrastination wholeheartedly, you’re more likely to be able to curb your current procrastination and get started on the necessary tasks. Practicing self-compassion and making peace with past procrastination are two critical practices.

Procrastination is not about doing nothing. It’s doing everything else except the most important one. And one of the main culprits for our procrastination is distractions. Breaking a bad habit can be challenging and takes some energy and planning, and it won’t happen overnight.  The next time you resist a task, recognise that your brain needs a little help if it’s going to be less short-sighted.

Develop good daily habits before procrastination turns into a pattern of behaviour. Try to negate this and consciously avoid putting things off and focus on getting things done as quickly as possible. There will always be a lot of competing demands on your schedule. Consider what it is, determine what’s important, and prioritise!  Condition your mind, establish a system, and set a conducive work environment to increase motivation. Follow these tips and overcome bias for the best work performance possible.

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