Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

Joe Weinlick
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Procrastination eats into your productivity and wastes time, forcing you to scramble to finish important tasks at the last minute. Whether you're putting off key projects by browsing social media or by completing less-urgent work, it's important to stop procrastinating before this bad habit impacts your career.

Go Small

Sometimes, a task seems so overwhelming or unpleasant that it's difficult to handle mentally. When that's the case, don't force yourself to dive in completely. Instead, tackle a tiny piece of the project. If you're dreading a long report, for example, spend 15 minutes writing the introduction, and then give yourself permission to move on to something else. Repeat this process until you make significant progress — in many cases, this baby-steps approach helps you overcome the mental block surrounding an unappealing task, making it easier to stop procrastinating and work for longer periods of time.

Identify and Eliminate Distractions

Procrastination can take a variety of forms. You might waste time scrolling through Facebook, chat with colleagues, browse the internet or focus on other projects. To stop procrastinating, identify your default distraction and find a way to interrupt the behavior. If you automatically open a social media profile when you want to avoid work, log out of the account. The next time you open it, the login page can help derail the action and remind you to get back on task. If you tend to do other, less important tasks, make a list of priorities and tape it to your monitor as a reminder.

Find a Buddy

When you can't face the idea of an unpleasant task, consider enlisting a buddy for support. Ask a colleague to spend 10 minutes talking through the project with you, or find a friend who also wants to stop procrastinating and meet at a coffee shop for a work session. Sometimes, a friendly presence can offset the discomfort of the work, making it easier to get started. As an added perk, a buddy can serve as a sounding board or offer a sympathetic ear.

Remind Yourself of the Consequences

If positive reinforcement and behavioral tricks don't help you stop procrastinating, it's time to go negative. Make a list of the things that are likely to happen if you do not complete the project on time. Start with short-term ramifications: you might upset your boss, put your colleagues at a disadvantage or cause the team to miss a client deadline. Then, go wide by projecting the long-term effects, including poor performance reviews, stress-induced burnout or difficulty succeeding in positions with more responsibilities. Keep your list somewhere prominent to remind you of the costs of procrastination.

Putting off tasks increases your comfort in the moment, but it can have negative effects down the road. By experimenting with strategies to help you stop procrastinating, you can reduce mental stress and become more productive.

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