Tips On How To Stop Procrastinating

Published by Julie Anne Byrne on

Yes, it’s that dreaded P-word, the biggest enemy of all, robbing us of quality time. Procrastination!

Quality time

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We have all experienced it at some stage in our lives and in some cases constantly suffer from procrastinating. So how do you stop procrastinating?

Understanding Procrastination

According to research procrastination is a pervasive and pathological delay, where we put off doing something that needs to be done despite expecting to be worse off for not having done it.

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Whenever we procrastinate, we are fully aware of what we are doing. There is no such thing as procrastinating by accident, sorry!

Procrastination is a conscious decision. Intentionally putting off something you know you should be doing.

According to further research as humans, we spend on average 45 days a year on procrastination that’s a lot of wasted time when you add it all up. 45 days less a year working on your goal.

Procrastination is a TIME TAX – and no one likes to pay tax!

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The time is lost, gone forever, you can NEVER get it back.

“Procrastination is the thief of time”~ Edward Young

Why Do We Procrastinate?

There is no real cause to procrastinating and most who procrastinates do so for different reasons.

It’s a multi-faceted problem. Basically, we prefer to do more pleasurable things than to do less pleasurable things. In almost all situations we choose pleasure over pain.

So because there is no real cause, procrastinating is difficult to beat because it’s a constant battle against a natural human weakness.

Procrastination_monster

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Fighting Procrastination is akin to fighting a monster within who never dies. What you need to learn is how to overcome it, as it CANNOT be cured.

Identify Your Triggers

As we are all unique it stands to reason we will all have various different reasons for procrastinating.

However, there are five procrastinator personalities which I will outline below and which might help you to identify which one resonates with you and what your triggers might be;

Know your triggers

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Polly The Perfectionist – nothing is ever good enough for Polly. She finds it difficult to finish things as everything needs to be perfect. Polly cannot move on until each piece is perfect, so she is caught up in the never-ending cycle of additions, edits and deletions.

Polly is afraid to let go and move on because perfectionists fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible.

David The Dreamer – the devil is in the detail, and David does not like details. David enjoys the idea of making a plan but not putting the plan into action. David has great dreams of how his plans will turn out but finds it difficult to get started on making those plans a reality, so the plans stay as a dream and never turn into anything worthwhile.

David is afraid to start the task and resists the actual reality of sitting down and doing the hard work. The “getting there” completely escapes him and so he continues to dream.

Sally The Self-Saboteur – a deep fear of making mistakes means Sally avoids starting – so she can’t do anything wrong! She desperately wants to fulfil her goals, but Sally’s mind tells her she will fail. She suffers from past negative experiences and her default position is averse to risk. In Sally’s mind doing nothing means bad things won’t happen.

Sally is afraid to fail so she avoids making decisions or starting anything that might result in a failure. She is afraid of the unfamiliar.

Chris The Crisis Junkie – an adrenaline junkie Chris tells himself that he enjoys working under pressure and that he performs best that way. He constantly pushes back doing work until the very last minute. Unfortunately, Chris also underestimates the time needed to complete a task and often ends up burning the midnight oil.

Chris is afraid of spending too much time on any one project and pushes everything to the last minute. He is overconfident in his ability to finish.

Breda The Busy-Bee – Saying No is not in Breda’s vocabulary and so she often ends up with way too much on her plate. She’s not great at setting boundaries and as a result, there’s never enough time to do it all. Breda gets carried away in completing small tasks that often don’t contribute much to the end goal. She loves to tick tasks off a list and therefore longer tasks become major obstacles for her.

Breda is afraid of giving too much effort on any one thing. She says yes way too often and she avoids prioritising tasks and establishing priorities. She is a prime contender for burnout.

So which personality(s) are you?

Form Your Line Of Attack

So now that you have an idea of which personality you might fall in under it is time to set up a plan of action to combat your triggers.

Polly Perfect while being afraid of finishing needs to identify what perfect means to her. In most cases, this might not be a clear definition or idea.

Polly needs to appreciate that it’s her perfectionism, not external standards that make her do what she does. She needs to set realistic (not idealistic) goals before starting, clearly define what is a tangible output and how she will measure when she has obtained it.

Polly should focus on progressing towards her goals. Engage in positive self-talk all the while and set time limits for each task.

Polly learn to make mistakes—really—do so deliberately and see what happens!

Dreamer David – afraid of starting and making a mistake, making a commitment that he may not be able to keep. David has no idea where to start and so it becomes a cycle.

David needs to try turning some of his dreams into concrete goals and spend time on them regularly. He needs to focus on those goals and figure out how success can make him feel good about himself and his goals Clarity makes things clear and he will realise it is not as daunting as he first thought.

David do not wait for the spirit to move you; learn to harness your energy.

Sally Saboteur should break down her task into chunks to see what is involved and how progress will happen. Start with a tangible objective that is measurable. Turn your vision into objectives.

Sally you need to ask yourself what time you are willing to invest. Break it down again – set milestone and break those down into targets. Remember that not to decide is to decide; delaying decisions changes the course of your life. Turn nerves into excitement, not everything has to feel overwhelming. Break bigger projects into pieces.

Sally answer your “what ifs” with a plan and hang out with optimists.

Crisis Chris your milestones should have continuity so you can visualise your journey. Set your tasks to take no longer than an hour, otherwise, mental resistance sets it. Take away any excuse to start and commit to a deadline to make a start.

Chris you need to think about the multiple reasons to do an assignment and not the last-minute stress. Recognize that you don’t know if you’ll enjoy an assignment until you start it. You’re not a victim; see tasks as opportunities.

Chris you should reward yourself for getting started earlier. Get your adrenaline going with other activities.

Busy Breda your plate is overflowing because you can’t say no or set appropriate boundaries. As a result, there’s never enough time to do it all, how could there be!

Breda you need to remember to prioritise your tasks and decide what is most important. Your success comes first before making others happy. You’re in control—take control. Learn to say no.

Breda you are entitled to relax without feeling guilty. Be more proactive than reactive. Ask for help!

MoSCoW Method

The MoSCoW method is a prioritisation technique used in time management to reach a common understanding on the importance of the delivery of each task or goal that is set. In simple terms it means the following;

Must have – these are critical in order to achieve your objectives and to be successful.

Should have – also important but not critical in order to achieve your objectives.

Could have – these are nice to have but not necessary and no negative impact will be felt without.

Won’t have – agreed at the outset that not appropriate at this time, these are either dropped or included at a later stage.

Overcome Your Procrastination

Once you have identified your trigger it’s quite possible that you might then evolve into another procrastinator personality, if so, you may need to update your action plan to combat that trigger and so on.

After all the end game is to overcome your procrastination, that is the basic requirement, and nobody wants to turn into a workaholic.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is more time to do the things that you want to do.

Time is limited. If we break it down into three sections it might look like this:

  1. Things you need to
  2. Things you want to do
  3. Things you don’t need and don’t really want to do

The trick is to spend as little time and energy on what you need to do but don’t really enjoy versus as much time on what you want to do.

Focus System

That trick is to Focus it’s not a super brainpower, but it is a skill that lets you do more by doing less.

We all need to develop our ability to focus on action. Doing less does not mean settling for less it just means doing fewer higher-value things with high quality.

There are three pillars to the Focus System.

Focus Purpose clarity in your intention to set high-value goals.

Focus Time maximise your precious resource, use it wisely

Focus Execution the action part, spending your energy and time efficiently to get things done.

Focus is a skill that takes daily practice and the more you practice it the better you get at it. You may never completely master it but you can just practice some more and it will be worth it.

In the end, you’ll learn to focus on the important stuff and on things that matter to you most!


10 Comments

Nate MC · January 20, 2020 at 11:01 pm

Great tips. I firmly believe that people’s time should be focused on productive things because it is without a doubt our most precious resource. 

And setting high-value goals is essential in order to be successful. Too many people don’t focus their time or energy on positive and productive things. 

But if they are consistent and shift their mindset, then things can become easier. 

    Julie Anne Byrne · January 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Nate, 

    Thanks for your feedback appreciate your comments and agree a mindset shift is necessary in order to keep procrastination at bay! 

    All the best, Julie Anne 

Dave · January 20, 2020 at 11:04 pm

Everyone is a procrastinator at some point in their lives surely, even the most focussed of people would do it. I believe it goes hand in hand with our paradigms.

One would have to take absolute control of their mind to be able to control paradigms and avoid procrastination. 

I think this can be achieved, but would take a lifetime’s worth of diligent effort 

    Julie Anne Byrne · January 21, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You are correct of course, we all suffer from procrastination at some stage in our lives. We are after all human. 

    It would take laser focus to be able to avoid procrastinating and even then I’m not so sure, but at least we know it is a short term problem which can be overcome 😉

    All the best, Julie Anne 

Juan Saladin · January 20, 2020 at 11:09 pm

Procrastination is one of the worst things you could get use to in your personal and professional life. We should pursue excellent rather than perfection. 

I must admit I can relate to the Self-Saboteur (Being around toxic people all the times makes this happen).

You have figured out a funny way to present the reasons for this great modern problem. 

I’ll be following your recommendation in order to get the best possible result this 2020.

Thanks for a great post!

    Julie Anne Byrne · January 21, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Juan 

    Thank you for your thoughts I am glad you found my post useful and that you can identify with the personality traits of typical procrastinators. 

    You might need to re-think some of your relationships if you are around a lot of toxic people, that is not good and you need to take care of yourself and seek out like-minded individuals. 

    I hope 2020 is your best year yet! All the best, Julie Anne 

Leon · January 20, 2020 at 11:20 pm

Great article on how to stop procrastinating. Indeed, procrastination is the greatest thief of time and we really need to combat this. People procrastinate for no reason. I believe this is just a part of human weakness. We tend to allow it to control our being.

I think I fit into the procrastinator personality of Polly. I intend making anything that I’m doing or working on to be perfect. Even if I’ve gotten what I wanted, I will still find myself trying to adjust again. And true, this usually makes me unable to complete my work in a timely manner.

When we know our triggers, we will be able to form our line of attack just as you’ve discussed. There are other useful things you said that we can use to overcome our procrastination.

This is very helpful.

    Julie Anne Byrne · January 21, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Leon

    Thanks for your comment and sharing your thoughts. 

    I am glad you can identify and hopefully you can take on board the suggestions to overcome your Perfect Polly traits 😉

    Do let me know how you get on, all the best to you, Julie Anne 

Robert · January 21, 2020 at 11:29 am

I can actually say that I can identify with all of these but fortunately not all at the same time. 

I think my problem now is that I sometimes act like Crisis Chris and put things off to the last minute because I sometimes can be a Busy Breda.

I am someone who always likes helping others and this eats up a lot of my time, which in turn makes me push things to the last minute. 

I need to learn to say no to others when I know it will affect what I need to get done for me first.

Thank you for pointing these out and giving us solutions.

    Julie Anne Byrne · January 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Robert

    Thanks for leaving a comment and sharing your traits with me. It is not unusual to suffer from multiply traits of procrastination at the same time, and often once we have overcome one trait, we can develop another. 

    You seem to be able to identify why you are one way over another and given this insight you may well be able to overcome both simultaneously 🙂 now that would be productive! 

    Glad you found the solutions helpful, wishing you all the best, Julie Anne 

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