The Psychology of Procrastination: 5 ways to stop putting things off for good

Let me start this off bluntly, if that’s ok with you.

If you’re struggling with procrastination, the reason is a lot simpler than you probably think.

In fact, it’s frustratingly simple.

And that is this: you don’t hate procrastination enough.

Which is completely fine, but you need to know a few things.

Procrastination takes away from our happiness more than we’d like to admit. It’s a silent killer that, like fast food and smoking, can steal years from us.

It increases our stress, takes hours from our day, and means that when we have free time, we’re often unable to fully enjoy it because we’re constantly thinking about things we haven’t yet finished. And the worst part, procrastinating (unlike fast food and smoking) isn’t even very enjoyable in the moment!

Imagine if there was a food that did all of those things. Imagine a burger that just tasted average. And every time you ate this burger you felt anxious, plus you had to drive an hour a day to buy it, and everything else you ate after that burger tasted a little off because you still had the taste of the burger left in your mouth.

What would you do?

Well, obviously you’d stop eating the damn burger!

But even though procrastination essentially does the same thing, we allow it to do so because we’re not always aware of the effects.

Once we grow to dislike procrastination enough, we can start implementing strategies to beat it.

So without further ado, here are 5 ways to stop putting things off and overcome procrastination for good.

  1. Remind yourself what procrastination is taking from you

The first step to stop putting things off is to remind yourself exactly what procrastination is taking from you.

Whether it’s time with your family, enjoyment at work, a calm state of mind, every time you procrastinate you are losing something, and once you see that, it’s natural that you’ll become a lot more motivated to get things done.

  1. Find the ways you are procrastinating

Once you are aware of the perils of procrastination, it’s necessary to take an honest look at exactly how this phenomenon is playing out in your own life.

You can use a daily journal to track how you work from day to day, and importantly, how you procrastinate. Social Media? Text messages? Smoking or snack breaks? We all have our own mechanisms, and once you know what these are for you, you can create ways to minimize them.

If Facebook is your biggest time-waster you can use a site blocker, if it’s text messages, put your phone on silent – whatever the issue, the first step is to reflect on why it is happening.

  1. Have a decision-making strategy in place

We have to make dozens of decisions every single day, so it’s natural that they’re going to take up a lot of our time. What you want however is to make sure that you have a decision-making strategy in place so the process is as quick as possible and you don’t get stuck at each fork in the road, and end up procrastinating because of decisions that need to be made.

You can try creating and using a decision-making matrix, which is essentially a roadmap to guide your decisions and speed up the process.

  1. Manufacture Urgency

Motivation is a product of natural and manufactured urgency. When you feel you have something that needs to be done. In the case of natural urgency, you typically have a visible threat, if you miss this deadline you’re going to be fired or your house is on fire so you have to get out.

Manufactured urgency, on the other hand, is a sense of urgency that you create. For example:

  • Give yourself accountability
  • Remind yourself that you don’t have all the time in the world
  • If necessary, burn bridges
  1. Set yourself time limits

There’s a terrible affliction that affects almost all procrastinators worldwide.

I like to call this ‘someday syndrome.’ You’ll typically see this when people put off what needs to be done into an invisible box in their mind they label someday.

And the way to beat someday syndrome?

Time limits.

One way to help you overcome procrastination is to break down what you want to do into manageable steps and write down when you need to achieve them, preferably with consequences. It seems simple, but it has widely been held that those who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them.

Again, in this situation, it’s important to consider that you have accountability from someone else.

If you suffer from procrastination, don’t worry, there are many out there like you, and overcoming it is a lot easier than you think.

Attention Pick The Brain Readers

Would you like to learn strategies to help you overcome procrastination at work?

Then grab our new FREE eBook:

The Mindful Workplace: 27 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Mind, Defeat Distraction, and Find Your Focus at Work

We’ve found simple mindfulness practices can make a huge difference, and we want you to benefit from them the same way we have!

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Ben is a freelance writer, and the co-creator of Project Monkey Mind – a blog for the 21st-century worker who wants to take control of their mind, smash through their limitations and lead a life worth living.


GET THE BOOK BY
ERIN FALCONER!

Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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