9 Ways To Tackle Procrastination

9 Ways To Tackle Procrastination

How should procrastination, a phenomenon affecting many people in an epidemic-like manner, be defined? According to various online resources and my own opinion, it’s the postponement of an important task in favour of something enjoyable or lesser in urgency. It’s scrolling through twitter when an essay is due in a matter of hours. It’s watching ‘just one more episode’ and settling for an all-nighter to prepare for next morning’s presentation. A more subtle form? Answering emails, writing needless lists, updating social media. These things feel like work, but when done in excessive amounts, reduce the time available to invest in mentally demanding tasks. You oscillate between short-term gratification and valuing your long-term goals, which is why procrastination is accompanied by anxiety which increases at an exponential rate as you approach your deadlines.

Beat procrastination

Some proponents of ‘hustle until you drop’ deem anything unrelated to your long term objectives a waste of time. You decided to watch a film to end your Friday? You must be a lazy procrastinator. I’ve seen someone call skincare a highly covert form of procrastination. I, however, have to disagree. We are not emotionless machines. Self-care and entertainment exist for a reason – as humans, we need leisure and emotional fulfilment. Cultural involvement is a crucial aspect of self-development, and spending time with our loved ones – an intrinsic component of the human experience. For sure, we have different staminas and rhythms: some people thrive off 14 hour days, others seek a calmer lifestyle. However, going past your individual limits proves counterproductive. Becoming sluggish, you are vulnerable to procrastination and poor time management.

Overcome procrastination and get more things done using these 9 practical and effective strategies!

Whether something is ‘procrastination’ as opposed to leisure time is a matter of intentions and priorities. Let’s address intentions first: have you created an extensive skincare routine to take better care of your skin (in which case the latter category applies), or to put off a daunting task? Postponing something which has to be done sooner or later makes your schedule more overwhelming than it needs to be.

An inability to prioritise also results in wasted time and avertable stress. Watch films and spend time with loved ones in a balanced and sensible manner, not with the sole intention of postponing homework and subjecting yourself to tighter deadlines.

Procrastination has never been a major problem for me is because I’ve taught myself the value long-term payoff, and dread the chance of missing a deadline as an outcome of my own choices. Frankly, procrastination gives me anxiety. I cannot calmly scroll through social media when there is a half-finished blog post lurking in my drafts. I force myself to do my hardest tasks first in light of how my productivity declines towards the evening. During study leave before our IB exam, some of my friends would spend the whole day doing anything except for actual revision, and complained about stress. Sure, exam-related stress is natural, but can be reduced with sufficient preparation. Rounding off my to-do-list and then treating myself to a relaxing book felt much more rewarding. Moreover, I like to be intentional with my choice of leisure activities and the value they deliver beyond postponing necessary evils.

Productivity tips

How to stop procrastinating

Of course, I am far from perfect. No one is a flawless productivity guru. All of us at some point in our lives will find ourselves in the tenacious fingers of procrastination. There are, however, certain steps you can take to ensure this highly paradoxical and counterproductive phenomenon remains marginal in your life.

1. Just do it

This may not work for everyone, but oftentimes the dreaded event associated with not getting something done is enough to force action. Do you find yourself substituting difficult, but pressing pieces of work with random tasks that create the illusion of productivity (i.e., responding to emails when there is a report that needs to be written)? In that case, quite literally force yourself to sit down and do the former. Think about how good finishing the task will feel, and use that to motivate yourself. After a while, ‘just doing it’ will become a habit. Harness your fear to propel you towards your goals.

2. Understand why you procrastinate

The causes of procrastination are varied and complex, going beyond simple ‘laziness’. Listing them all is outside the scope of this blog post, but finding the underlying, deeper issue is key to overcoming any problem. Do you simply not enjoy what you must nonetheless complete: for example, homework in your nemesis subject, or a tough cardio session? Or is there a deeper reason? In my experience, two things are responsible: a) overwhelm (not quite knowing where to start) and b) perfectionism. Be honest with yourself, and optimise your solution based around the identified cause.

3. Break tasks into manageable fragments

If you feel overwhelmed by the scale of a task, do what is needed to make yourself start. Starting is the hardest part. Afterwards, you will gain momentum and tie together the pieces. Set smaller goals and complete them either in sequence or separated by other tasks (I opt for the former to keep my flow intact). A common problem is facing a word count of several thousand words, all of which have to be coherent and intellectually sound. If you find yourself paralysed by 2000+, give yourself a goal of 200. Once you get there, give yourself a small reward and keep going for 200 more. This method achieves much more than pottering around and not starting at all.

4. Practice good prioritisation and time-management skils

Everyone loves to-do lists, and for a good reason. They can be a lifesaver in stressful times. Find a strategy that works for you. Evenings are an ideal time to plan to lessen the chance of waking up in a state of disarray, without a clear goal of what needs to be a accomplished, a state in which you naturally fall towards easier tasks at the expense of those demanding urgency. Prioritise tasks according to difficulty and deadlines, keeping in mind the sense of relief associated with finishing something ahead of time. Afterwards, schedule in trivialities and leisure time for a wholesome daily routine.

Word of warning: make sure writing to-do lists does not become an act of procrastination in itself!

Productivity and procrastination

5. Change your mindset

This is a critical step if you want to rid yourself of the procrastination habit in the long run. In particular, changing how you think is key if you think perfectionism may be your underlying cause. Switch ‘if I don’t revise for a certain amount of hours, I will fail my exam’ to ‘having gone over the syllabus, the paper shouldn’t feel too difficult’. Instead of thinking: ‘everything about this piece of work has to be perfect’, opt for: ‘all I must do it try my best and complete the first draft because I can go back and fine tune it later’. Positive thinking can help eliminate the dread surrounding a task, making you less likely to engage in avoidance.

6. Reward yourself

This isn’t something I personally do because the long-term result of getting things done in a timely manner, and even the initial satisfaction, count as a reward. However, many people say that treating themselves to a piece of chocolate after every 500 words of an essay or an item of clothing to celebrate a deadline is enough to push them through low motivation.

7. Physically rid yourself of distractions

Identify your ‘preferred’ methods of procrastination, and make them inaccessible. While working, I like to place my phone downstairs: this way, the effort of retrieving it for five minutes of twitter isn’t worth it. Switch off your internet or block websites you may be tempted to browse. After all, procrastination is pretty hard when all you have access to is work-related materials.

8. Evaluate the value of each task

Sometimes, we start procrastinating without notice and write it off as something other than procrastination. Before doing something, question must thus question intentions. Does the activity tie into your long-term goals? Does it make you happy, or enhance your wellbeing? Is there something you should be doing instead? Come to a well-reasoned conclusion and adjust what you are doing at a given moment if you deem it an unproductive use of your time.

9. Don’t overdo it!

This is a no brainer. If you’re heading to burnout, if your brain is constantly functioning on overdrive, your stamina and ability to work efficiently will suffer, prompting you to reach for those feel-good activities which in turn soak up further time and energy. Set aside some time for yourself and the things you enjoy on a regular basis because writing fifty things on your to-do list is not a sign of productivity, especially if you’re going beyond your means to avoid the hardest ones. Productivity is all about quality and sustainability, after all, not quantity.

To summarise: procrastination has a multitude of causes. Catching yourself in the act and fixing it is difficult, but with plentiful determination and an understanding of why you’re prone to wasting time, you can achieve greater efficiency in your life. Adopt a strategy which tackles your root cause, while searching for balance in your life and a creating habits that fill all you do with intention and energy.

Let me know in the comments: do you struggle with procrastination? If so, how do you go about tackling it?

Struggling with procrastination? Use these nine strategies to overcome it and get things done with greater efficiency

Much love, Maria ♡

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  1. October 9, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    I love that you addressed that being constantly on the “go,” can backfire. I like to do #3 & #4 to get my undesired tasks done. My sister likes to study all day. Literally all day. She’ll take a few breaks in between and eat, but to me that drives me crazy. So, I like to break it down and write it out in my planner day by day, so I’m not spending more than 4 hours on that task a day. Great post!

    Natalie | http://nataliesalchemy.wordpress.com

    • October 9, 2017 / 7:17 pm

      I have tried revising for literally 14 hours a day and it completely backfired because after a certain point it stops being productive studying and starts being you just staring at the page and hoping for the best!! I am so glad you enjoyed my post Natalie 😊 Happy Monday ❤️

      • October 10, 2017 / 3:13 pm

        oh my gosh! haha, but I know what you mean because sometimes I do that with studying, and then I just end up confusing myself and freaking myself out before a test.

  2. October 9, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    I definitely agree with making tasks more manageable. I find that if I say to myself to start off doing 10 minutes then I can have a break, I usually get into it and keep going anyway!

    • October 9, 2017 / 7:52 pm

      Yes that is exactly the prninciple I like to follow – and time seems to go by much faster that way!

  3. October 9, 2017 / 8:27 pm

    I’m definitely person that is always super busy with everything, so I kinda stop doing things that I need to, so it’s procrastination. I decided to stop doing that because it is so bad, so these tips will help me out so much. Great post dear. xx

    • October 9, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      I am so glad that you found my post helpful! Thank you so much for reading, I am sure you will be able to overcome the habit of being too busy:) <3

  4. October 9, 2017 / 8:54 pm

    Great advices! I am an organized person so i always like to schedule my day to avoid procrastination! But sometimes, it doesnt help so i will try those other tips xx

  5. October 9, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    I procrastinate with a lot of things. Nice to see how you avoid it. Great post!

    • October 10, 2017 / 4:07 am

      I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you very much for reading:)

  6. October 9, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    I follow something my grandma always said-if someone gives you a task- do it immediately then you can play:)

    • October 10, 2017 / 4:08 am

      Those a true words of wisdom – I like to delay things as little as possible myself and it helps tremendously!

  7. October 9, 2017 / 11:55 pm

    All these tips are great! I like that you point out that some strategies might not work for some people. Everyone will find different ways to cope woth procrastinating. I’m the Just do it kind. If i tell myself to enough in my head, I’ll get up 😂

    • October 10, 2017 / 4:11 am

      Yess I think that is definitely true because we all procrastinate for different reasons! That is so similar to what I’m like – regardless of how unpleasant a task may be, I’d much rather have it done than have the though floating around in my head endlessly hahah. Thank you very much for your comment! 🙂

  8. October 10, 2017 / 12:08 am

    Great and helpful post Maria, I need to get better at procrastination – I’m good in some way and terrible in others 🙁

    • October 10, 2017 / 4:14 am

      I’m glad you found it helpful Sarah:) And I think that is completely normal as we all have our good and bad days – best of luck!

  9. October 10, 2017 / 4:00 am

    This was such a great article with many helpful points! I find lists to be helpful especially in keeping my wandering mind focused. I also make time to do things throughout the day I find less intimidating to balance out all the stimulation. Thanks for sharing with so much great detail!

    • October 10, 2017 / 4:16 am

      Wow that sounds like a really good strategy! Lists in particular are really helpful if we know we are prone to getting distracted. I’m so glad you liked my post, thank you for reading! 🙂

  10. October 10, 2017 / 7:58 am

    Love this post!! I really like to be organized and I love doing lists but I do have these moments where write down to do lists and never end up actually doing them… 😉 xx

    • October 10, 2017 / 1:22 pm

      Hahaha I am so guilty of that – writing pretty to do lists can be a time waster in itself!! Thank you so much 😊❤️

  11. October 10, 2017 / 11:21 am

    You are a goddess among mortals! What an absolutely brilliant post; we have a very similar mindset when it comes to procrastination. Personally, I like to just get things done as much as possible because otherwise it builds up and I feel overwhelmed – but procrastination is something I used to indulge in when I was younger. xx

    • October 10, 2017 / 1:27 pm

      Mia you are genuinely the kindest!! Thank you very much for your lovely comment and I am glad to hear you can relate – leaving things for a long time can definitely leave you feeling worse off in the long run when you find yourself with fifty unifished tasks.. hope you’re having a lovely week so far!! ❤️

  12. October 10, 2017 / 11:36 am

    Love this!! Amazing post as always .xx

    • October 10, 2017 / 1:28 pm

      Thank you dear! I am glad you liked it xox

  13. October 10, 2017 / 3:56 pm

    These are great tips. I tend to schedule in fun breaks if I’m struggling with a task and give myself rewards, which helps me stay more focused.


    • October 10, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      Omg yes that is a fantastic idea -in general, having something to look forward to is a great way to make yourself power through a task! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading ❤️

  14. October 10, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    Those are some great tips! I have realised that in some situations the hardest part is getting started and once you do, you realise it wasn’t as dreadful. I love having a to do list, i don’t know how i used to live without one haha, but now i need to make ato-do list for everyday and i feel so much more productive that way! xx

    • October 10, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      I think that they’re particularly useful when you have a lot going on in your life and need to have everything in front of you to clear up your mental space – and it feels great when you manage to tick things off as well! Thank you so much for reading ❤️

  15. October 10, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    Admittedly I can procrastinate doing tasks, but when I eventually do them, I am so committed and passionate. Unfortunately for me, my best work tends to be at the last minute when I am rushing. I really agree with your ethos though. I think a lot if is to do with working towards your goals but also finding the time to relax after – like you said.

    A really good post and perfect tips! xxx

    • October 10, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      Omg sometimes I definitely end up in the same situation and I think pressure can definitely drive efficiency! I mean, at times I will leave a blog post until the last minute and end up producing something better than one I might have spent hours on.. and yes, relaxation is so important especially when it accommodates your long term goals! Thank you so much for reading xox

  16. October 10, 2017 / 10:44 pm

    Yes especially to #6!! After doing something for example after 15 mins, you can treat yourself for a chocolate. Simple things like that give you motivation and not procrastinate 🙂

    • October 11, 2017 / 5:36 am

      Haha I am so glad you agree! Chocolate is the best motivator tbh;) thank you so much for reading xox

    • October 11, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Thank you so much Laura:) I am glad you like it! xox

  17. October 11, 2017 / 7:43 am

    Hats off head to you Maria! I try to do everything to avoid procrastination, but I still struggle with my time management… Loving your tips though. Especially the one about making procrastination impossible… I think I will install an app on my phone disabling all the social media apps between 10 and 6 pm, so I could focus on doing more beneficial things than scrolling facebook feed.

    Thanks for sharing! Happy Wednesday! <3

    • October 11, 2017 / 10:44 pm

      Woow that app sounds so useful – sometimes I am doing research on my phone or using it for non social media related purposes so it can be quite tempting to check instagram, so having like that sounds like a great idea! I am so glad you liked my post, thank you very much for stopping by and for your lovely comment:) <3

  18. October 11, 2017 / 6:48 pm

    Love these tips!!! I think time management and also that reward part is KEY. I break up tasks I really don’t want to do by spending about 30 minutes or so on them, then taking a 5-minute break. Makes it so much more manageable!

    • October 11, 2017 / 10:39 pm

      That is a really good way to approach everything – I simply cannot sit down for three hours at a time and work on the same thing, my brain switches off hahah. Thank you so much for stopping by! xox

  19. October 12, 2017 / 1:42 am

    Very well put (: I love making lists and checking them off cause it makes me feel accomplished and pushes me to get EVERYTHING done!

    • October 12, 2017 / 6:23 am

      Thank you so much! And yes ticking things off a to do list is always super fun!!

    • October 12, 2017 / 6:24 am

      That’s definitely one of my favourite techniques, love that it makes it impossible to procrastinate!

  20. October 12, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    I am guilty of procrastination so these tips really helped me! Thanks for sharing 🙂 By the way I watched your youtube video and it was awesome to see that you can have delicious and nutritious food as a vegan.

    • October 13, 2017 / 4:51 am

      Yay I am so glad you found it helpful! And omg that means so much to me – I completely forgot I even had a YouTube lol so thank you so much for watching xox

  21. October 13, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    This is actually really useful for me because procrastination is my middle name…..I’m definitely coming back to this post if I ever procrastinate! xxxx

    • October 13, 2017 / 5:13 pm

      I am so happy to hear you found it useful – that is always my goal:) Thank you so much for reading xox

  22. October 15, 2017 / 11:53 am

    What an interesting read! It is a quite comprehensive article about procrastination based on your own experience. I like your tip of changing the mindset and I can’t agree more! Negative thinking always adds to our negative feelings and emotion towards what we procrastinate on, which may further lead to avoidance of completing tasks. On the contrary, thinking of what can be achieved and gained by completing the task can set up a positive attitude to deal with the task.

    I am doing a campaign to encourage students to overcome procrastination. Check my posts if you are interested in the topic.

  23. October 19, 2017 / 1:27 pm

    I live by lists. Pretty sure they’re the reason I was able to graduate college… These are great tips!

    • October 19, 2017 / 9:36 pm

      Lol I can definitely agree with this in regards to all my studies. I am glad you liked this post! 🙂

    • October 19, 2017 / 9:35 pm

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment:) Scheduling is definitely important and helps so much with prioritisation:) xox

  24. October 19, 2017 / 4:22 pm

    Loving all of these tips!!! I definitely this time-management is key/making the task more manageable – my proscrastinating comes and goes in waves, but I find that i’m most productive when I work on something for a little, then take a break, then go back to it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • October 19, 2017 / 9:35 pm

      I’m so glad you liked this post:) Yes I definitely agree with that if I do end up procrastinating it comes on in a wave and then subsides after a while. And that is definitely a good way to approach a task rather than trying to do hours all at once! Thank you so much for reading:)

  25. October 23, 2017 / 11:29 pm

    Thank you for this post – it is just what I needed to read today. So many great tips!

    City Brewed

    • October 25, 2017 / 5:47 am

      Omg I am so happy you found it helpful! Thank you very much for reading 😊 Xox

  26. November 2, 2017 / 4:38 pm

    Great post! Emphasizing the longterm payoff usually works for me. And eliminating distractions, of course. 🙂

    • November 3, 2017 / 9:05 am

      Yes the long term payoff is definitely super important much like removing distractions! It’s great that you found a technique that works for you 🙂

  27. November 3, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Making tasks more manageable is a huge reason why I can stay so productive. For example, if I’m doing a blog post I’ll split it into sections. Instead of just whacking “do blog post” on my to do list I’ll break it down to “write post, take photos for post, edit photos etc”. Much less daunting (: xxx

  28. November 7, 2017 / 9:55 pm

    Great post! I tend to focus too much on short-term gratification. I also tend to get overwhelmed by thoughts of incomplete assingnments and failed exams and I loved your tip on changing my mindset to focus on the positive outcomes when prioritizing long-term outcomes. I feel like I haven’t really mastered balancing work and pleasure.

    • November 8, 2017 / 7:45 am

      I am so glad you liked this post! Changing my mindset has definitely helped more than anything else. And I can definitely agree that I am far from perfect when it comes to work life balance, but all we can do is try our best!

  29. November 8, 2017 / 4:48 pm

    This came to me at the right time because I’m currently procrastinating. I needed it. Good points!

    • January 9, 2018 / 8:49 pm

      Omg yes exactly! I feel like if you are truly passionate about something procrastination is much easier to avoid 🙂

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