Stop Waiting! 5 Tips to Overcome Procrastination

to-do-listDoes your to-do list continue from one day to the next? Are you still thinking about that project you wanted to start a couple of months ago?

In the words of Mark Twain, “Never put off ’til tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

Start 2014 on a positive note by removing procrastination from your life.

“Eliminating procrastination is all about avoiding … well, avoiding,” said Tisha Bayless, a therapist at Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois. “I think most people can relate to some level of procrastination in their life. Ironically, a person can be very organized and efficient with some areas of their life while procrastination takes over other areas. Use those skills that keep you organized to take care of the tasks you are avoiding.”

People procrastinate for a few common reasons, Bayless said. These include:

  • • Avoidance of tasks unless it can be fully completed. For example, you don’t have the time to clean your entire house so you don’t do any cleaning instead of tackling one area or a small cleaning project.
  • • Fear of making mistakes or lack of confidence to do something well.
  • • Indecisiveness as to where to begin.
  • • Spending more time planning or preparing versus doing the task that needs to be completed.

“People who regularly procrastinate can have low energy levels or poor motivation, and some might suffer from depression, which can interfere with being productive,” she said.

People are much less likely to procrastinate when they need to do something they enjoy. For some people, procrastination gives a temporary feeling of relief, especially if the task is unpleasant or not meaningful. As procrastinators, the more there is to do, the easier it is to want to put it off.

Unfortunately, procrastination can negatively affect a person’s emotional and physical health.

“When we procrastinate, our stress levels increase because tasks or responsibilities start to pile up,” Bayless said. “People who are overwhelmed and stressed can become frustrated and irritable, which can lead to relationship problems and even difficulty sleeping.”

Some people will consider their lack of productivity as failure, and feelings of low self-esteem can develop. As worries increase and emotional health declines, self care can be negatively affected.

Here are five tips from Bayless about how to stop (or decrease) procrastinating:

  1. Dig deep and uncover the real root of your procrastination.
  2. Make a commitment to change the way you think about putting things off and/or your reasons for procrastination. Create new phrases to combat the thoughts or excuses you use to put things off.
  3. Focus on the feelings you will have once the project is completed versus the feeling of dread in doing the project. Remind yourself of past successes and try to adopt similar strategies for problem areas.
  4. Get organized by making a plan or schedule. Write down your plan instead of just thinking about it. Use apps or reminders on your phone or computer to help you get organized and stay on top of tasks.
  5. Break larger tasks into smaller steps and incorporate deadlines. For example, if you are procrastinating about cleaning your house, invite people over next weekend and then vow to clean the house before your company arrives.

It isn’t uncommon for someone to try to stop procrastinating but falter at some point and go back to his or her old ways. Change is hard, so be realistic and don’t consider it a failure.

“As with any change, there will be setbacks and going back to old habits may seem appealing or easier at times,” Bayless said. “Think of other habits you have changed successfully and the techniques you used. You may even want to involve a friend who can help keep you accountable and on track in a supportive way.”