It’s clear that we all submit to procrastination sometimes. But how do we rid ourselves of this pest? Here you will find 5 proven, research-based techniques, for fighting procrastination.
According to psychologists, who work with procrastination, such as prof. Joseph Ferrari, telling someone who procrastinates to simply create a schedule, is just like asking someone with clinical depression to cheer up 2.
As you already know, procrastination is not so much the result of poor time-management, as it is an outcome of deeper, psychological factors. However, you can still tame your procrastination. Here’s how:
1. Figure out Why You Procrastinate
Wanting to become more organized, while having no idea why you procrastinate, is like walking out into a battlefield, with a blindfold. If you are not able to see what you’re fighting against, how could you win?! Consider which type of procrastinator you relate to the most.
Then, you can examine your psyche, to determine which deep-rooted beliefs are making you feel this way, and start changing them. In order to do that, you need to work with your automatic thoughts, cognitive distortions, and core beliefs, which will be addressed in an upcoming post.
2. Set Deadlines That Work for You, Not Against You
You’ve probably noticed how it’s easier to meet deadlines, which have been set by someone else – your manager at work, for instance. Self-imposed deadlines can also be extremely effective, as long as you tie them to meaningful consequences.
Nevertheless, self-imposed deadlines can be difficult to meet, and a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals the reason 1. According to the data, setting your own deadlines is an effective strategy and most people are willing to do it. The problem of procrastination comes with our struggle to set helpful deadlines.
If we allot too little time to the task, there is a significant risk of failing to complete it. If that happens, we start to feel insecure, the task seems even more difficult, and we fall into procrastination’s trap.
On the other hand, a time frame that is too long is often demotivating. This phenomenon is called hyperbolic discounting and explains why, if given too much time, we tend to put tasks off until the last minute. It’s simple – we subconsciously prefer to enjoy ourselves here and now, rather than struggle in the name of some future success.
Unfortunately, no one can give you an exact formula of how you should set your deadlines. Every person and task have individual needs. Still, you can learn to set realistic deadlines, with tip №3.
3. Break Big Tasks into Smaller Goals
Here’s your chance to steal an excellent technique that psychologists use. When you really don’t feel like doing something, tell yourself the following: “I am starting right now and will do it just for 10 minutes”. Immediately put everything else aside, and focus solely on your task, for 10 minutes. Sure, this is not enough time to write your thesis, get in shape, or start a business, but it will help you to begin.
Another well-tested option is to break a large task into smaller chunks. Now, instead of a huge, intimidating goal, such as writing an entire business plan, you have to face a few small, achievable steps. It’s most effective to create a written plan of the steps. You can divide a large task into as many elements as you want – what matters is that you feel comfortable and enjoy each step so that you don’t feel the urge to procrastinate.
4. Forgive Yourself and Have Fun
A research that studied 119 college students, has revealed that when we forgive ourselves for procrastinating, next time we’d be more willing to act, instead of stall 4. If you didn’t start your new diet yesterday, simply avoid beating yourself up, to increase your chances of starting today.
Self-blame ruins our confidence. We then feel increasingly incapable and are more likely to procrastinate.
Furthermore, while pursuing your goals is always important, it is equally valuable to have fun. A widely accepted principle, among psychologists, is that doing something you enjoy every day boosts self-esteem, helps prevent anxiety and depression, along with keeping you motivated.
5. Get Rid of the Distractions
According to prof. Piers Steel, one of the most famous contemporary researchers of motivation and procrastination, we can do ourselves a huge favor, by getting rid of distractions 3.
On the one hand, distractions can be external, such as your phone, social media, TV, etc. To deal with these factors, all you need to do is will yourself into turning them off.
However, the other most common source of distraction requires more attention – these are our own thoughts. Procrastination is often associated with self-blame, as we discussed in №4. А valuable technique to help you cope is to write down the exact words you say to yourself when you engage in self-blame. Then, you can start to forgive and accept yourself, which we will discuss in an upcoming post.
As you fight your battle with procrastination, remember that it is never helpful to see setbacks as a failure. Instead of beating yourself up, consider what you’ve learned and how you can improve next time.
Have you ever tried any of these solutions? Which seems easiest and which most difficult to apply?
- Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002). Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment. Psychological Science, 13(3), 219-224. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00441
- Ferrari, J. R. (2010). Still procrastinating: The no-regrets guide to getting it done. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65
- Wohl, M. J., Pychyl, T. A., & Bennett, S. H. (2010). I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination.Personality and Individual Differences, 48(7), 803-808. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.029
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