— Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.
If you have always wondered about how to stop procrastinating, here are the ten best procrastination hacks to beat that unhappy habit of yours.
Procrastination is when you don’t want to start or finish a task, even though you know you should. It is the act of intentionally delaying or postponing a task.
Remember, procrastination is a voluntary activity. It’s something that you do on purpose, and not something that happens by chance.
Before I procrastinate, let me ask you to remember to check out these 10 Ways To Be Happy In Your Daily Life (Expert Tips From Research).
Procrastinators believe the time is always up against them, and they have to outpace it somehow. They’re often perfectionists who don’t finish until they find the perfect answer.
How To Stop Procrastinating: 10 Hacks To Overcome Your Procrastination Habit
All the best hacks in the world won’t make you get over your procrastination unless you take action.
Even if your monkey mind is telling you that these won’t work for you, please keep an open mind and give these a fair try.
They won’t work unless you work. So, get going as soon as you finish this.
Here are 10 highly effective hacks to overcome your procrastination habit:
1. Acknowledge The Problem
• Recognize and admit that you have a problem with delaying things deliberately and needlessly. Know that it’s you who is subverting your own plans. This is the first step.
Did you know that fear of failure is a big driver of procrastination?
These people are worried that they won’t be able to do the task well and will come across as failures. So they don’t start the task at all.
Strangely, this can lead to a vicious cycle, as their procrastination makes it more likely that others will ultimately see them as failures.
Another frequent issue is impulsivity.
People who are impulsive are more likely to put off tasks until the last minute, as they are more busy doing things driven by their impulses. This can lead to procrastination.
2. Start To Work On It Now
• Get started now. Whatsoever it is, you just get started on it. Don’t pass on yourself any chance to wait for a better mood or a better circumstance.
No one has an assured future. Your body cells are dying, and new cells are being created all the time. Even your own brain treats your future self as a stranger.
Do you know why the ancient Stoics practiced this concept called Memento Mori? There is a famous story that victorious Roman generals returning to the capital in a triumphant march were repeatedly reminded of their death by a slave standing close behind.
Carpe diem, or seize the day, is a related concept that urges us not to waste our time, since no one is assured a tomorrow.
Researchers Krause & Freund (2014) argue that people who are more focused on their goals are less likely to procrastinate.
They also suggest that goal focus can be improved through interventions such as goal setting and self-monitoring.
- Goal setting is identifying specific goals and developing a plan to achieve those goals.
- Self-monitoring is tracking your progress and identifying the obstacles to your goals.
3. Stop Overthinking It
• Do not overthink. Do not worry about how would you fare with the task or how will your final task look like. It will wear you out and whittle away your willpower.
Now, there are three main types of procrastination:
- Active procrastination: This is when people consciously choose to delay a task.
- Passive procrastination: This is when people avoid a task by doing something else instead.
- Decisional procrastination: This is when people have difficulty making a decision about a task, and so they delay the task altogether.
Overthinking is most likely to impact decisional procrastination. This is because overthinking can lead to paralysis by analysis, where people become so overwhelmed by the choices that they are unable to make any decision at all.
Some ways that overthinking can lead to decisional procrastination:
- A job seeker who is trying to decide which job offer to accept may overthink all the factors involved, such as the salary, the benefits, the work-life balance, and the potential impact on their career prospects. This can lead them into delaying making a decision until they have missed out on other opportunities.
- A person who is trying to decide what to do with their life may overthink all of the possibilities. This can lead to the person delaying making a decision and feeling stuck in their current situation.
Read this in-depth article on how to stop overthinking.
4. Break it Down Into Mini-Tasks
• Break down your task into small bites. Fix timelines for completing each of these sub-tasks. And be kind to yourself, to forgive yourself when you fault on meeting a timeline.
This study found that when you focus on the steps you need to take to complete a task (the means), it can help you start and keep going, especially if you’re afraid of failing.
However, it also found that if the steps are really hard or unpleasant, it might be better to focus on the outcome you want (the goal) instead.
5. Use The Pomodoro Technique
• Adopt the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo, in which you specify a timer for 25 minutes (or more, or less), and keep your nose down at the task till the timer bell rings.
This lets you work without distractions. When you’re done, take a break.
6. Make It Interesting
• Make the task interesting. At least make the most boring parts of it interesting by turning it into a game you’d enjoy. Ask for help on how can you make it interesting.
Procrastination is often caused by boredom or a lack of motivation, and one way to kill it is to make the task more interesting.
Try turning the task into a game, setting little challenges for yourself, or finding other ways to make it more fun.
Like. “I’ll do a little dance by myself when I have finished this first part!”
Say, if you have to write a paper, you could turn it into a scavenger hunt by finding information from different sources.
Or, if you have to clean your room, you could set a challenge for yourself to see how fast you can clean it.
Ask for help from a friend, family member, or colleague if you can’t seem to find how to make a task interesting. They may be able to come up with ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
7. Remove Social Media Distractions
• Log out of your online social media accounts. Mute your emails and smartphones too.
Procrastination is often aided, and even caused, by distractions. Virtually everything that has a continuously updating feed will give you dopamine spikes and keep you scrolling for hours.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that rewards us for pleasurable experiences.
Social media algorithm shows us content that is tailored to our interests, which is like flashing lights trying to grab our attention. The never-ending doom scrolling on social media, news sites, and short video platforms releases dopamine.
One simple way to reduce distractions is to log out of your online social media accounts and mute your emails and smartphones. Teo ways to do that – one, keep your phone away (perhaps in another room), and two, close all social media tabs on your browser.
This will leave you with almost no choice but to focus on the task at hand and avoid getting sidetracked.
- Find a quiet place to work. This will help you avoid distractions from noise and other people.
- Turn off your phone or put it away. This avoids distractions from notifications and alerts.
- Close any unnecessary tabs or windows on your computer. This lets you focus on the task at hand.
- Take breaks when you need them. This will help you avoid burnout and stay focused and energized.
Some specific reasons why logging out of social media and muting your emails and phone can help you overcome procrastination:
- Social media and email can be a major source of distraction. When you’re working on a task, it’s easy to get sidetracked by a notification or a new message.
- Social media can also be a source of anxiety and stress. When you see all the things that others are doing, it can make you feel like you’re not doing enough. Logging out of social media can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which can make it easier to focus on your work.
- Email can also be a source of stress. When you have a lot of unread emails, it can feel overwhelming. Logging out of email can help you clear your head and focus on the task at hand.
8. “You’re Not A Last-Minute Hero”
• Forget telling yourself that you work best under pressure. It’s a lie. In all your past experiences, all the jobs that you finished in the eleventh hour were results of not having them done when you had enough time, and not because you were given that small window of time.
9. Stop Trying To Multi-Task
• Don’t try to multitask. Plenty of us have got ourselves hooked to multitasking, a trendy, attractive, but fatally deceptive addiction. However, it’s a myth that multitasking makes you more productive.
You can’t achieve more by trying to do several things at once; believing otherwise is only an illusion.
Multitasking is shifting your attention back and forth from one task to another. This on-and-off focus-switching makes you inefficient and lowers the quality of your work.
Devora Zack explains in her amazing book Singletasking: Get More Done-One Thing At A Time how doing one thing at a time decreases stress, enhances productivity, and creates higher-quality output.
10. Practice Mindfulness
• Practice mindfulness. It can help you observe the present moment non-judgmentally, without fear or anxiety.
Once your anxiety about the present is gone, you find it easy to start working on your project. Mindfulness can help us overcome procrastination by paring down our instant gratification urges regulated by the brain’s limbic system.
As Dr. Timothy Pychyl says:
“Really what we want to do is downregulate the limbic system and upregulate the prefrontal cortex. And mindfulness meditation is a path to that.”
Does Procrastination Make You Unhappy?
Yes, procrastination can make a person unhappy. In the short term, procrastination can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. In the long term, it can be especially harmful to people trying to achieve their goals, leading them to miss opportunities, have regrets, and lower self-confidence.
When you know you have a task to do but you’re putting it off, it can weigh on your mind and make it difficult to relax. It can also lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
When you procrastinate on important tasks, you’re less likely to achieve your goals.
This can lead to feelings of regret and disappointment. Moreover, procrastination can damage your self-esteem and make you feel like you’re not capable of achieving your goals.
How Does Procrastination Make You Unhappy?
There are many ways that procrastination can make you unhappy. Here are a few of the most common:
- It can damage your relationships. When you procrastinate, you’re essentially breaking promises to yourself and others. This can damage your relationships and make it difficult to trust you. Say, you are always late for work or meetings, and this can make your colleagues start to lose trust in you. And if you are always putting off important tasks for your friends and family, they will start to feel like you don’t care about them.
- It can lead to feelings of regret and guilt. When you procrastinate, you are essentially choosing to do something that you know you will regret later. This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, which can make you feel unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself.
- It can make you feel stressed and anxious. When you have a task that you are procrastinating on, it can be difficult to focus on anything else. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, which can make it difficult to enjoy your life.
- It can lead to low self-esteem. When you procrastinate on a task, it can be a sign that you don’t believe in yourself or that you’re not capable of completing the task. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
- It can lead to missed opportunities. When you procrastinate, you may miss out on opportunities that are important to you. For example, if you procrastinate on applying for a job because you don’t have the perfect resume, you may miss out on your dream job.
- It can lead to poor performance ratings at work. When you procrastinate at your workplace, you may not perform as well as you could. This can impact your assessment or your performance grading which can lead to disappointment and frustration.
- It can lead to financial problems. When you procrastinate on paying bills or other financial obligations, you may end up with late fees or other financial problems. This can add stress and anxiety to your life.
- It can lead to health problems. Stress and anxiety, which are often caused by procrastination, can lead to health problems such as headaches, stomachaches, and high blood pressure.
What are some procrastination hacks to have a Zen day?
1. Attack your most important task first. This will help you get the most important thing done and avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the other tasks you have to do.
2. Create a “Do a Little Bit Now” habit. This means setting aside a small amount of time each day to work on your most important task, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. This will help you stay on track and avoid feeling like you have to do everything all at once.
3. Set a deadline and tell others about it. This will help you stay accountable and make sure you don’t procrastinate on the task.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management technique that involves working for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. This can help you stay focused and avoid getting bored or distracted.
5. Give yourself a reward for completing a task. This will help you stay motivated and make the task more enjoyable.
6. Remove all distractions from your work environment. This means turning off your phone, closing your email, and finding a quiet place to work.
7. Think about the task’s benefits and positive aspects. This will help you stay focused and motivated on the task.
8. Take breaks regularly. This will help you stay refreshed and avoid burnout.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re struggling with a task, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend, family member, or colleague.
10. Practice mindfulness. This means being present in the moment and focusing on the task at hand. Mindfulness can help you to reduce stress and anxiety, which can make it easier to focus on your work.
What are 3 quick hacks to stop procrastination and get more done?
1. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will make the task seem less daunting and more achievable.
2. Set a deadline for a task and start right away. This will help you get into the habit of sticking to it, staying on track, and avoiding putting it off until the last minute.
3. Reward yourself for completing tasks. This will help you stay motivated and make the task more enjoyable.
Finally, here are three procrastination hacks based on science:
- The 2-Minute Rule: This rule was popularized by productivity expert David Allen. It says that if a task can be done in 2 minutes or less, you should do it immediately. This is because the longer you wait to start a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate. The 2-Minute Rule can help you to overcome procrastination by making it easy to get started.
- Focus on the process, not the completion: It is a strategy that is often used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that helps people change their thought patterns and behaviors. When you focus on the process of a task, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by the task. This is because you are breaking the task down into smaller, more manageable steps, and focusing on one step at a time.
- Set deadlines and hold yourself accountable: Deadlines can help to create a sense of urgency and can help you to stay on track. When you set a deadline, you are more likely to take action and avoid procrastination. You can also hold yourself accountable by telling someone else about your deadline. This will help ensure that you stay on track and you don’t procrastinate.
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