How to Stop Procrastinating
We’ve all done it – putting off important tasks for less important activities that provide instant gratification. Procrastination is extremely common, with studies finding 95% of people struggle with it to some degree. However, chronic procrastination can take a serious toll on your productivity, stress levels, and success.
This comprehensive guide covers the neurological and psychological causes of procrastination, along with highly effective strategies backed by scientific research to help you kick the habit for good.
By understanding what drives distracting behaviors and implementing tailored solutions, you can eliminate procrastination from your life.
The Neuroscience Behind Procrastination
Recent studies have provided valuable insights into why we procrastinate on a neurological level. When facing difficult tasks, our prefrontal cortex (responsible for self-control) struggles against more impulsive subcortical regions associated with immediate gratification.
MRI scans show postponing weighty responsibilities activates our brain’s reward system similarly to drugs, sex, and food. That makes checking email, social media or other mindless activities chemically ‘rewarding’ escapes from stressful obligations.
Additionally, our basal ganglia underestimate how long tasks will take, so looming deadlines seem safer to ignore. With triggers rooted so deeply in our biology, beating procrastination requires strategic overrides of these natural impulses.
The Psychology Behind Delaying Behavior
On a psychological level, procrastination stems from perceptions of boredom, lack of interest, or inability due to low self-efficacy. When tasks seem unimportant, difficult or lack clear value, we justify putting them off subconsciously.
Additionally, scarcity mindsets convince ourselves problems are too big to start, while fixed ability views assume gifts rather than growth. This learned helplessness breeds further avoidance. Perfectionism also fuels delays due to unrealistic visions of flawless execution.
By understanding how procrastination manifests both neurologically and psychologically, you can specifically target the thinking patterns and perceptions driving postponing behaviors at their root.
16 Effective Tips to Beat Procrastination
1. Avoid Temptation with Environmental Control
Our homes are filled with distractions primed to override willpower during important focus sessions. Procrastination-proof your environment by removing temptation sources shown to activate delay impulses.
Leave phones in other rooms or switch to ‘do not disturb’ mode. Close unnecessary browser tabs and apps not contributing to your goals. Declutter distracting clutter and tailor your space solely to productive activities until tasks are complete.
2. Make Progress Visible
Charting advancement boosts motivation through tangible proof accomplishments exceed avoidance. Throughout long-term projects, celebrate mini-milestones by checking off subtasks on calendars or visual trackers where each completed step demonstrates momentum.
Physical evidence that progress outpaces delay builds confidence and habits of fulfillment versus leaving work half-done due to temporary escape impulses.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Procrastinate Mindfully
Rather than beating ourselves up for unproductive downtime, allow short mental replenishment breaks – but consciously. Schedule 15-minute procrastination sessions focused solely on escapism to satisfy cravings without shame or guilt.
Consciously bounded downtime prevents burnout after extended sessions and excessive unwinding from devolving into distracting marathons sabotaging important agendas.
4. Use Accountability Partnerships Wisely
While oversight from supportive friends, family, coaches or colleagues encourages responsibility, relying too heavily on external accountability breeds dependence over intrinsic discipline.
Choose partners committed to occasional check-ins as peers rather than authorities policing behaviors. Retain ownership of growth through self-determined schedules and deadlines, not rigid demands from others.
5. Start with Small, Ergonomic and Engaging Tasks
Minute initiatives are easier to initiate than marathon endeavors, so begin difficult routines through manageably sized jobs. Make the first assignment stimulating or in your areas of strength to lay confident foundations.
Gradually expand with more intriguing portions or minimal extensions on completed sections. Scaling positively injects momentum avoiding burnout from diving straight into depths of heavy lifting alone.
6. Remove Unfair Expectations and Pressure
Internal unrealistic demands promote frustration fueling avoidance. Permit reasonable approach through step-by-step solutions rather than perfectionism.
Forgive mistakes as learning through non-judgmental lenses. Unshackle needs for flawless execution permitting continuous effort towards improved outcomes versus paralysis from unattainable fantasies.
7. Use Rewards Consistently to Reinforce Progress
Celebrating little achievements through occasional rewards conditions our brains through positive reinforcement. Schedule small treats like favorite meals or fun hobbies only after the pre-determined and earned stages of assignments are complete.
Just be sure recreation doesn’t dominate over work obligations. Strategic incentives rewire neural habits linking fulfillment and productivity versus linking escape and procrastination.
8. Implement an Accountability Software Program
Apps like Forest, Freedom and Cold Turkey offer new tools beyond willpower alone by blocking distracting websites and programs for designated durations. Pair self-discipline with modern assistance tailoring environments for peak performance.
By blocking excuses, these solutions automate focus through rules set in advance before willpower can hesitate. Leverage technology responsibly for additional support beyond personal resolve.
9. Reflect on past successes
Take time to think back on projects or tasks you completed successfully in the past without procrastinating. Reflect on what factors contributed to your ability to focus and stay on track. Revisiting past wins can boost confidence to take on new challenges.
10. Use planning techniques
Try laying out your week or day in a structured schedule or planner. Techniques like backward planning (starting with the deadline) or Parkinson’s Law (filling your time) can help you allocate suitable time blocks for tasks. Having a plan provides the structure that makes it harder to procrastinate.
11. Turn tasks into habits
Consistency is key to stopping procrastination for good. Strive to develop regular work routines by treating important tasks like non-negotiable habits at the same time each day without question. Cue yourself with reminders so habits are automatic.
12. Limit decision fatigue
Too many open-ended choices drain the mental bandwidth we’d rather use to work. Simplify decisions surrounding tasks by setting defaults for clothing, meals, commutes, etc. so you spend less time deciding and more time doing.
13. Optimize your environment
Ensure your workspace has comfortable seating, good lighting, minimized distractions and motivational cues or reminders visible. An optimized environment makes focusing easier and procrastination harder.
14. Track your progress
Keeping a log of how long you work each day without distractions visually reminds you of progress and holds you accountable. Apps like Toggl, Rescuetime and Moment track your time and apps to provide valuable data to improve habits.
15. Use relaxation techniques
If stress or tension causes avoidance, try relaxation methods before or during tasks like deep breathing, stretching, brief meditation or relaxing music. A calm mindset is better positioned for focus than a stressed one prone to escaping through distraction.
16. Be kind to yourself
Forgive setbacks without judgment, shame or extended self-criticism which fuels avoidance cycles. View slip-ups as feedback to improve your system rather than personal failures. Self-compassion is key when forming any new habit.
Procrastination stems from complex interactions between our neurobiology, psychology, environment, and habits. While avoiding tasks feels instinctually rewarding in the short term, chronic procrastination sabotages the achievement of important goals and impacts health in myriad negative ways.
By understanding triggers and implementing tailored solutions, you can permanently overcome postponing behaviors at their root causes. With consistent application of evidence-based strategies, you can eliminate distraction and steer momentum solely towards determined accomplishment. Learn here more about self-growth for entrepreneurs.