If you’re the type to leave things for later, then this is for you.
Surely more than once, you have felt an urgency to postpone some uncomfortable, difficult, or boring activities (doing something else instead), and you know the stress and sense of defeat that comes with constant procrastinating.
In this article, I have the perfect strategy to stop procrastinating that you can use as an effective lifesaver at any time, plus 10 other strategies that fit you. You also will find a small test to find out which level of procrastination you are at.
Don’t leave it until later! End procrastination now.
Do you need discipline not to procrastinate? Download 5 habits that enter the discipline
“Procrastination is like using a credit card, a lot of fun until the payment receipt arrives.”— Christopher Parker
Maybe you think you’re reading this article because writing it was a very important task.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
The truth is that I was writing an article on how to lose weight, but instead of finishing it (as I had planned), I felt that uncontrollable urge to procrastinate.
I went to Facebook and, I don’t know how I ended up watching a video about how to play guitar (even though I don’t own one).
After that, I got hungry, made myself a toast, and decided to wash the dishes.
When I was about to sit down to write, I preferred to read the correspondence that had arrived and read from beginning to end the brochure with the offers of the supermarket.
I felt guilty and defeated.
Will I be the only procrastinator in the world? Why do I postpone finishing that important article? What can I do to stop procrastinating?
That’s why you’re reading this.
I started researching and writing an article on how to stop procrastinating.
Did something like that happen to you?
Many of us go through life with a wide variety of unfulfilled tasks, big and small, important and every day.
Well, here, I explain the perfect strategy to stop procrastinating that I put into practice (+10 more strategies that suit you).
I already put them into practice, and they worked for me, helping me finish this article (and also the one I procrastinated in the first place).
Hey! If you are procrastinating reading this article (to stop procrastinating), I recommend you read it to the end.
I assure you that this last distraction will be very useful (and when you finish reading, write in the comments what strategy to stop procrastinating you will be using more).
What does the word “procrastination” mean?
The word “procrastinator” comes from the Latin “cras,” which means “tomorrow” or “ahead.”
And it is precisely the logic that we use when we postpone. We leave things for later, forming a vicious cycle between anxiety and guilt that generates more anxiety.
Do you remember the last time you postponed something?
Without realizing it, these are the stages you followed:
- First stage: You perceive anxiety or discomfort in the face of that activity that needs to be done.
- Second stage: As a logical reaction, your brain seeks to alleviate that sensation with some other task. Therefore, you become incredibly productive in other activities (which are not a priority at that moment).
- Stage three: Your brain stores that activity-that-needs-to-done as painful, and looks for more distractions, or some logical reason as to why you put it off. All the comforting excuses appear at that moment: “Tomorrow will be another day,” “It was very important to answer that mail,” The meeting was inevitable,” etc.
When you remember that task or pending activity that you procrastinated in the beginning, it generates guilt or remorse, and you return to the starting point.
Consequences of procrastinating
In addition to the stress and guilt of procrastinating, these are other consequences of postponing what you have to do:
- Earning a bad reputation with coworkers, friends, and family
- Losing your ambition to succeed or achieve important goals
- Not having the results you expect or want, or the clash of expectations
- Jeopardizing your well-being if it’s a health-related task (like going in for an annual checkup or exercising).
Things get worse because procrastinating can affect your self-esteem and mood.
If we don’t do something about it, the habit of procrastination floods other important parts of our lives; avoiding a difficult conversation prolongs the conflict. And postponing an important decision in life, such as separating, making a serious commitment or changing jobs can make you unsatisfied for life. 1
But if we recognize that these consequences exist, why do we keep procrastinating?
Why do we have the habit of procrastinating?
George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote an essay on the dynamics of procrastination after he became a victim of this habit.
He gives an account of an instance in which he postponed sending a package to a friend for eight months. He relates that he was always about to send the box, but the time to act never came.
There’s something comforting about this story: Nobel Prize winners postpone things, too!
He concluded that procrastination could be more than just a bad habit. It is actually a natural impulse in human beings.
In fact, the percentage of people who admitted to procrastination is estimated to have quadrupled between 1978 and 2002.
As if that weren’t enough, a recent study found that the tendency to procrastinate is also in our genes! 3
It is true that there are many reasons we procrastinate, but I have five of the main reasons. 4
Why activity is not a habit (and conflicts with other habits)
One of the most important reasons people put things off is because a task conflicts with their established habits. When you try to do something that is not part of your daily routine, it will take some effort to complete it. This is especially true if the task is unpleasant.
We want to have an instant reward
We have no immediate negative consequences (although we will pay for it later); for the moment, everything is fine.
For example: Resting on the couch is more comfortable right now than going out to exercise. Checking your mail is easier now than doing that project you’ve been postponing. Eating chocolate cake is tastier now than eating the vegetable salad you promised.
We overestimate our future productivity.
We think it’s okay to postpone things because we’re going to do it later, without any excuse. We blindly believe that the perfect time will be later, not now. But when that future comes, we still can’t finish, or worse yet, we can’t start.
Our expectations don’t match reality
Many times we think that the activity will be very easy, and when we start, we realize that it is not so, which generates a resistance to continue.
And on the contrary, sometimes we have the expectation that a task is very complex and requires a lot of effort, and that is why this resistance appears before we begin.
The fear of failure paralyzes us and makes us leave an important task or activity for later, in order to avoid a possible failure in the future.
The most perfectionist people are sometimes the ones who tend to procrastinate the most. They prefer to avoid doing a task they feel they are imperfectly executing or ending.
Although it may sound strange, some people are also afraid of success, unconsciously thinking that succeeding in some way will lead them to take on more tasks and have more responsibilities that they actually want to have.
The reasons can be very personal, too, but what is true is that we are all at different levels of procrastination – what level are you at?
The perfect strategy to stop procrastinating
I’ve always imagined that procrastination becomes like sea waves crashing into a dock, again and again, making that dock weaker and weaker.
The only solution is to build a strong wave breaker that controls that tide of distractions, excuses, and unproductivity and prevents the rest of your life from being flooded with procrastination.
And how can you build that wave breaker?
It’s very easy; you only have one rule to follow.
If you’re not working on that important task, which you planned to do or which you know you should do, then you have to freeze!
When we procrastinate, it’s not really that we stop working on something. What actually happens is that we become extremely productive in other tasks that aren’t important at the time.
We exchange that activity for one that keeps us busy; that’s why this strategy works.
It’s a trick. But it’s a powerful trick.
If you’re not working on that activity, then there’s absolutely nothing else you can do.
Before you start answering that unimportant e-mail, watching a video on YouTube, reading an article, or just postponing the planned activity, stop and freeze.
If your mind wants to go to the clouds for a moment, and you cannot advance or start with that task, that’s fine, but don’t do something else instead.
In this way, you become more disciplined: if you aren’t doing what you have to do, then you won’t do something else instead.
When you follow this strategy, you stop being productive in other activities, which forces you to do and finish that pending activity.
It seems like a waste of time because you’re not doing anything at all, but really, it’s training for your brain. You get to be in control, and when you have something to do, you just do it.
It’s like a strong wave breaker for procrastination and distractions.
10 Practical strategies to stop procrastinating (that fit you)
It is clear that procrastinating is common, as are the consequences, but not all of us postpone the same tasks or in the same contexts.
So, there are people who postpone tidying up the closet and bathing the dog, but there are others who postpone starting a biology project for school or finishing a tedious work report.
The freezing strategy helps in most cases because it strengthens your ability to recognize exactly when you are procrastinating.
However, I think it’s useful to have more than one “wave breaker” against the waves of procrastination; in other words, have more than one strategy.