How to Get Rid of the Procrastination Habit

Now or Later

by Jayaram V

Procrastination means delaying tasks which are important or which require immediate attention, and which cannot have delayed or neglected. It is a common behavioral problem, which assumes many forms, such as cleaning the house, replying to a letter or an email, paying the bills, meeting someone, repairing something, preparing for an examination, seeing a doctor for a medical checkup or attending a phone call that is overdue.

Procrastination is not only about delaying actions but choosing the less important actions over important ones such as going to a movie or watching television when an important report is to be completed and submitted in a few hours. Studies show that people may procrastinate for various reasons. They may do it to avoid negative and unpleasant feelings that may arise from performing certain tasks such as fear, anxiety, stress, pain, discomfort or inconvenience, or due to lack of will power, confidence, skill or motivation.

Procrastination may also happen due to prioritization or the need to attend to other pressing problems which demand more attention. Due to limited resources or other constraints such as time or circumstances, sometimes you may have to trade off certain actions for certain others. Hence, according to one argument, putting of any action due to a valid cause is not procrastination.

The key features of procrastination are, firstly there must be a general expectation about the time in which the task needs to be completed. Secondly, the cause or causes must be irrational, and thirdly the postponement must be voluntary and induced by internal factors. In some people procrastination may become a habit as they repeatedly engage in it even though such behavior may prove to be counterproductive and harmful.

How to overcome the habit of procrastination

The habit of procrastination can be overcome by sheer willpower and determination. You must make a firm decision not to procrastinate and stick to it. Performing certain tasks can be painful, stressful and unpleasant. Everyone wants to lead a trouble free, pain free and relaxed life. At the same time, we cannot avoid performing certain actions, since they are vital to our survival, success, peace and prosperity. To overcome the procrastinating habit, we must learn to motivate ourselves and overcome resistance to pain and our preference for pleasure. In this regard, the following suggestions are helpful.

1. Analyze the causes: Make a review of the actions that you habitually procrastinate to know their causes. Especially, focus upon the feelings and thoughts associated with them. You may be procrastinating because you developed certain habits or a particular way of thinking to minimize the pain or discomfort associated with doing certain tasks or you do not see it as a problem. That knowledge may help you change your responses and behavior.

2. Keep task lists: One of the best ways to focus upon important tasks and complete them in time is to keep to-do lists on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and keep referring to them. It helps you remember what needs to be done and remain focused. Some people use sticky notes or a white board to jot down important tasks and refer to them to remind themselves and remain motivated.

3. Organize your life and activities: If you lead a disciplined and organized life, you will less likely to procrastinate. Discipline means commitment to a particular course of action or a way of life. It is best practiced when you are organized. People who value them rarely abandon their commitments. Until your habits improve, follow a rigid daily routine and organize your work.

4. Practice time management: Those who value time, do not postpone actions unless there is a compelling reason. Time is a limited resource. The circumstances surrounding a task may also keep changing with time. If you learn to value time, you will not procrastinate or ignore important tasks. You will set deadlines and finish them.

5. Consider the consequences: When you procrastinate you not only delay actions but also break your promises and create distrust and negativity. Consider the long-term as well as short term consequences of procrastination such as monetary loss, loss of reputation, customers, business, friendship, etc. That awareness can bring a change in your thinking and behavior.

6. See the benefits: Consider the benefits of sticking to your time schedules, deadlines and commitments and its positive impact upon your life, career, finances, relationships, future and public image. You will be relaxed and free from backlogs, stressful situations, conflicts and negativity. For example, if you pay your bills in time, you will avoid penalties and enjoy a higher credit rating, which in turn help you get better terms from lenders.

7. Reward yourself: People tend to procrastinate due to lack of morale or motivation. Self-motivated people know how to remain focused upon their commitments and daily tasks. One of the best ways to motivate yourself is to reward yourself with something whenever you complete your tasks in time. Even the simple feeling of being effective or having completed an important task is a positive reward and a motivating factor in itself.

8. Prioritize your work: Organize your tasks in the order of their importance so that you can complete both important and urgent tasks in time and conserve your time, energy and other resources. Prioritization helps you stay organized and focused. In prioritizing tasks, follow the method or the principles that work best for you. Do not blindly neglect important tasks because they are difficult or consume time or follow the path of least resistance because it is easier. Use your discretion and commonsense.

9. Practice delegation: If you are overwhelmed with work, you can delegate some of the tasks to others. It is easier to delegate tasks when you lead a team effort and when you are responsible for the work of others, but difficult when you are on your own or work for yourself. However, if you are in the habit of helping others who are in need such as your friends, colleagues and family members, they may reciprocate your gesture and help you in return.

10. Breakdown the tasks: Some tasks can be overwhelming because of their complex nature, or they may involve a lot of time, planning and effort. Certain tasks may also grow in complexity due to the changes in the circumstances or the gravity of the situation, as we keep postponing them. When you are faced with such a situation, you can break down the task into smaller tasks and make a beginning. As you tackle them one by one, you may gain confidence, clarity and ease of doing.

11. Be proactive: It is not necessary that you should always attend to tasks only or react to situations when they become important, urgent or critical. You do not have to wait until someone or something reminds you of the importance of a task or the urgency of doing it. You can foresee problems or anticipate the need for certain actions and take care of them in advance by taking initiative. Thus, the proactive approach is the best way to tackle the problem of procrastination before it becomes a problem.

When you procrastinate, you lose control of your life and situations. As the pending tasks assume a life of their own, it becomes difficult for you to organize your life and focus your attention upon your goals and priorities. It may also bring in its wake additional problems such as problems in relationships, health problems and monetary problems. The best way to take back your life and control your destiny is by avoiding procrastination and keep yourself motivated.

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