Procrastination is a common millennial malady, but fortunately there are a number of ways you can overcome it.
In this three-part activity, you will be challenged to identify your common procrastination pitfalls, write and reflect, and then come up with a solid plan to help make your life procrastination-proof.
First, read the statements below and check off your most common procrastination pitfalls:
- Perfectionism. For many, a desire to do things when fully rested and energized, or when inspiration hits, can be a major cause of procrastination. They need to be in the perfect frame of mind, but even if this happens, they may feel the work itself is never done or good enough.
- Task Ambiguity. It is common to be assigned a task, even be excited about it, but realize you don’t fully possess the skills or knowledge to complete it. For example, maybe you need to produce a pamphlet, book, or other publication. Even if you know the content (or know where to search for it), it may not be until you get a template or sample that you understand how to do the task and feel comfortable approaching it.
- Over-Dramatizing a Task. We all know that person: They bring their laptop to their one and only vacation, are on a conference call during a pedicure, and have their earpiece in at the gym. The semblance of being so busy or so important can actually impact procrastination. That’s because you dramatize or make a task out to be much bigger than it is. In turn, you keep putting it off and tell others you can’t go out as you have
“that big project” to complete—but you never actually work on it.
- Underestimating a Task. You finally sit down to complete a task and are overwhelmed that it’s actually far more time-consuming than you may have thought. Perhaps you did not budget enough time and panic sets in. This leads you to completely avoid the task altogether.
- Technology Distractions. Social media, texts, emails, Netflix, you name it. You intend to browse through your phone for ten minutes, and that quickly turns into hours. You keep putting off the dread of the task for the momentary pleasure (and guilt) of indulging in technology.
- Boring, Uninteresting, or Uninspiring Tasks. Many times, the reason for procrastination is quite obvious and self-evident: The task is of little to no inherent interest and feels like busy work. It can seem like you’re hardly making an impact when you’re assigned tasks not related to your skillset or job description. In turn, you may feel underappreciated at work or may even be considering a job change.
- Fear of Failure. Oftentimes, a fear of not performing well prevents people from attempting a task at all. Maybe a promotion is riding on a project, or you were hired as the new young hotshot and are scared you’ll disappoint everyone who went out on a limb to hire you.
Now that you have read through and checked off some of the most common sources of procrastination, spend some time reflecting on your answers and record any additional thoughts, observations, or insights regarding your procrastination.
Now, get ready to make some changes! While there are hundreds of books written on the topic, there are a number of key factors that can significantly help with procrastination. While you are ideally working through this workbook with a therapist, getting support is key to unlocking the particular combination of factors that could be impacting you. For some people, procrastination is related to perfectionism, while for others it’s related to boredom, so there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach.
The steps listed here are just some factors to consider in tackling your unique brand of procrastination.
Step 1: Start with Compassion Be kind to yourself!
The essentials are simple: By watching your self-talk and being kind and patient with yourself, you set yourself up for success. If you are already feeling stressed or upset about your procrastination, a negative frame of mind only makes things worse. So start with a positive and healthy mindset and attitude.
Step 2: Get Support
Whether a therapist, best friend, co-worker, or partner, enlisting others to help us can make a major difference. Maybe you’ve been wanting to go to the gym and never quite make it—get a workout buddy. If a work project has been a bear, get an empathic co-worker to coach you on, and you can help keep them accountable too.
Step 3: Optimize Your Environment
Buy that multicolored keyboard cover or crazy mouse pad. Turn on the ocean waves track you have in your music files, and light that candle already. Do whatever it takes to get into your work-mode. In fact, it can be very Pavlovian. Whether or not you are in the mood, if you always brew the same type of tea, put on the same tunes, or do any number of ritualistic things, it can help convince you to get to work.
Step 4: Go Tech-Free
Hands down, one of the most common procrastination pitfalls is technology. You went online to email your boss and remembered your favorite store was running a limited sale, so now you’re online shopping. Or, you hop on Insta to check how a work-related post is doing, and then you end up scrolling through your personal account and going down a rabbit hole of endless articles, pages, and stories. Cut the tech, cold turkey. If you have a deadline coming up, do not go on the Internet. Instead, put your phone on airplane mode, silence all alerts, and do whatever you need to do for a several hour block of time until you complete the task. Then, have at it. In fact, there are productivity apps that will force you to go off certain social media sites
and technologies if you can’t do it yourself.
Step 5: Maximize Time Management Skills
Maybe you are an organizational master, or perhaps it’s one of your worst skills. If procrastination is an issue for you, then you must learn to manage your time. Maybe you start using a planner or calendar to plan out your week, or you program your phone to send you alerts when you need to switch tasks and move onto something else. Technology can be your friend in the right doses and can be used to help keep you on track. In an ideal world, a paper calendar can help you see an overview of the month and quarter ahead so you are never scrambling at the last minute to get things done or figure out when to do certain tasks. Organization can even help you build in a buffer for those days when you practice kindness and allow yourself a tiny bit of a detour from your task.
Step 6: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
It can be tough to get work done when you are hungry, thirsty, or—even worse—under the influence. Whether it is a hangover from the night before, or you have been sitting for hours on end without getting up to stretch or exercise, taking care of your body is a key factor in helping your productivity. How many times have you been about to exercise or start a task when you realize your stomach is rumbling? Making sure to prioritize your basic needs can go a long way in fending off procrastination.
Step 7: Take Breaks
By the time some people get to working, they start to take on a somewhat obsessive stance and don’t want to stop until the task is done. They are fueled by high doses of caffeine (bottomless cups of coffee or sodas), junk food, and whatever is fast and convenient so they don’t have to break the “zone” they worked so hard to finally get to. While bursts of productivity are amazing and to be commended, martyrdom is certainly not a prerequisite for major accomplishments. So make it a habit to build in rest breaks, whether it’s taking a few minutes to stand and stretch or even do some yoga.
Step 8: Reward Yourself
Many millennials survive a task only to move onto the next mountain before them. They don’t take time to savor their successes or congratulate themselves for hard work. Or, if they do, it can involve unhealthy amounts of alcohol, junk food, and other indulgences that don’t nourish their bodies. The next time you successfully complete a major task, consider planning a healthy and meaningful reward you can give yourself to celebrate. Can’t think of one? Consider asking a therapist, friend, or partner who knows you well. They are often more than happy to help you come up with a joyful and healthy celebration.
Now that you have learned about ways to help with procrastination, write your personalized plan to help you overcome this common concern.