How to Stop Procrastinating Already!
Feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to start? Here’s how to stop procrastinating so you can get things done.
Like any good perfectionist, I am a master of procrastination. My house and my pores are never as clean as when I have to do something I don’t want to do! Maybe I’ll organize my closet a la Marie Kondo, catch up with that friend I haven’t spoken to in years, or spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror perfecting my eyebrows. Really important stuff, right? WAY more important than the thing I’m actually supposed to be doing right now!
There are a lot of reasons to procrastinate. But ultimately, procrastination just makes us stress even more once we realize that we now have even LESS time to do the thing we were too overwhelmed to do in the first place. If you have something you need to just get done already, I’ve get 9 tips for you to stop procrastinating right here.
1. Think about what you want
There are a lot of reasons that we put things off. One of them is that we honestly just don’t care! Ask yourself what you really want for your life. Will the thing you’re putting off get you closer to that goal? If so, this might give you the push you need to stop procrastinating and get it done. If not, you might be able to let yourself off the hook and save your energy for things that actually matter to you.
My worst grades were never in my hardest classes. They were in my classes that didn’t interest me. The reading and homework was way too tedious. Now I’m not recommending that you just blow off your classes. But if you end up prioritizing the classes related to your major over the ones that are simply Gen Ed requirements, it’s hardly the WORST thing you could do.
2. Stop procrastinating by confronting your fears
A lot of times when we put things off, it’s because we’re afraid. What are YOU afraid of? Are you afraid you won’t do a good job? Are you afraid of the next stage the project will lead to when it’s done? Whatever it is, I can just about guarantee that the fear is bigger than the reality.
My dream all through high school was to go to Duke for college. I even had a picture of their gorgeous campus taped to the back of my bedroom door. But when it came time to actually apply to my dream school, I choked. I was so stressed about the application process that I never even sent it in. Lame, I know. But I was so overwhelmed that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
What was I afraid of? That my essays wouldn’t be good enough. That after 4 years of dreaming, I would have to face a rejection letter. So to avoid all that, I ended up just applying to my safety school. Which if you think about it, is basically the same result as if I had been rejected anyway. I would have lost absolutely nothing if I had at least tried.
Related: How to Beat the Bully in Your Head
3. Imagine your success
When we put things off, it’s because we’re picturing how much work it’s going to be, all the things that could go wrong, or the parts that we have no idea how to do. If you haven’t noticed, our brains are very skilled at identifying problems.
Instead, try picturing your project completed. How will you feel when it’s done? Can you picture the project actually having gone well? What can you do to make this happen IRL? Try channelling the energy you would normally spend imagining failure toward picturing success instead and you’ll be able to stop procrastinating much more easily.
4. Stop procrastinating by breaking it down
We tend to procrastinate when we get overwhelmed. And overwhelm happens when we focus on too many things at once. So if you find yourself putting off a big project, try breaking it into smaller pieces that aren’t as intimidating.
Let’s say you’ve been putting off writing thank you cards for graduation and your mom is ready to lose it. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the entire job ahead, try breaking it down into steps. You have to buy the cards. Buy the stamps. Find out what to even write in a thank you card. Pull together your list of everyone who needs a card. Write 50 *gulp* of them. And then stick them in the mailbox.
Thinking about all of these steps at once is sure to get your stress going, but just focus on Step 1 for now. Buy the cards. Hey, they have those at Target! You can handle a trip to Target, right?
Wish you had a plan to get things done? Check it!
5. Set some deadlines
Once you’ve broken down a big project into smaller tasks, stop procrastinating by assigning yourself some deadlines. This keeps you on track and helps you set a realistic pace so that you don’t get stuck with an overwhelming amount of work again 2 weeks from now. It also helps you keep yourself accountable so you don’t just continue to put things off.
Using the thank you card example from #4, let’s say you have another week or two before your mom confiscates your phone and car. Set deadlines for each of those tasks and literally put them on your calendar so you don’t forget. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time for each step and make a commitment to stick your schedule.
6. Choose the right location
Think of a time when you were a productivity machine and got a lot done in a short amount of time. Where did you get that work done? Do you work better in your room with no one else home? At the library? Or maybe a coffee shop? Think about how you work best and set yourself up for success.
The best way for me to stop procrastinating is to go somewhere I can’t do anything but work. If I’m home, I’ll find something to clean. If I’m at my office I’ll spend hours bothering my office buddies. (Sorry guys!) My best work days are when I head to a coffee shop and camp out. For me, caffeine + strangers = productivity win.
7. Eliminate distractions
When we’re trying to put something off, we can ALWAYS find a way to waste time, amiright? Get yourself to stop procrastinating by eliminating distractions. Leave the house if you have to so you won’t get distracted by TV or your family. Then turn off the notifications for your phone and social media.
The Pomodoro Technique is a fantastic way to help you focus so distractions don’t eat up all of your time. The basic idea is to stay on task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After that, you get back to work. Once you complete 4 cycles, you get a longer 25-minute break. If you want to give it a try, you can set a timer or download an app.
Related: 8 Smart Ways to Be More Productive
8. Ditch perfectionism
Perfectionism is one of those flaws that we secretly love to brag about. (Or maybe it’s just me?) But perfectionism definitely does have its setbacks. For example, perfectionists tend to avoid things that they aren’t certain they will be amazing at. (SO guilty!)
If perfectionism is keeping you from getting things done, stop procrastinating by playing some minds games with yourself. A phrase that has really helped me is: “Done is better than perfect.” It’s so true! Whatever you need to do, just get it done. Then, if you have time leftover, you can make sure it’s up to your usual standards.
9. Reward yourself for progress
Once you’ve made some progress on a project you’ve been putting off, you deserve to celebrate. Take a break to do something fun or reward yourself after you check off each task. It helps to plan for these rewards ahead of time, because they can be a great motivator to stop procrastinating.
Finally picked out those thank you cards at Target? You obviously deserve to buy that unicorn pool float in the Dollar Spot while you’re there! Found a great thank you note template online? Go ahead and stalk your crush’s Instagram feed, guilt-free. (Please, you know you do it!)
There are a lot of reasons to put off things we don’t want to do, but you can absolutely stop procrastinating and get them done. Confront your fear, take charge of the situation, and get it over with! You’ll feel so much better AND have time left over for things you actually WANT to do. Woot, woot!