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Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off important tasks that we know we should do.  This procrastination is often the avoidance of doing something important that has a deadline attached to it.  When you procrastinate, instead of working on something crucially important you choose to do something else of less importance.  If you’re a procrastinator, you’re probably familiar with the frustration, stress and overwhelm that goes hand in hand with procrastination.  Whether it’s a looming deadline, an important project or a new capability you want to develop, learning how to avoid procrastination will save you time and energy and help you get more focused.  

In this article I’ll share thoughts on what procrastination is, why people procrastinate and provide 6 simple tips to help you learn how to avoid procrastination and get into focused action. 

If left unchecked, procrastination can stop us from achieving our biggest goals or starting exciting new projects because we worry that we don’t have the right capabilities or can do everything needed.

When we procrastinate it’s easy to feel stuck, frustrated and trapped.  If you want to stop procrastinating, read this article to get 6 tips on how to avoid procrastination.  

What is procrastination? 

Procrastination is delaying or failing to take action on an important task, project or deadline you know you should take action on.  We also procrastinate when there are things, projects or tasks that we know we shouldn’t do but still do them anyway.  The critical word for procrastinators is “should”.  When someone says they should do something or shouldn’t do something, you know they are procrastinating.

Many procrastinators only take action when a deadline is looming and will waste time doing anything else apart from taking action and moving forward on the project or task they have to do.

Alpha Efficiency shared an article where they identified four types of procrastinators and how you could beat the specific type of procrastination they all faced:

  • Anxious procrastination
  • Fun procrastination 
  • Plenty of time procrastination
  • Perfectionist procrastination

Why do we procrastinate?

People often procrastinate for a number of reasons, but why do we procrastinate?  Below are the main causes of why we procrastinate.

Fear of failure 

We procrastinate because we worry that we won’t achieve a desired ideal, or feel like we don’t have the capabilities to achieve it.  This fear of failure comes from a lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem.  

Goals not being exciting enough  

We procrastinate whens goals, tasks or projects are just not exciting enough.  We aren’t emotionally committed or engaged in the project or the end result it will achieve, so we find other things that are more interesting to do.

Don’t know the first step to take

We procrastinate when we are trying to figure our how to do something.  We may be unclear on the first step to take or feel we don’t have the capability to move forward.

Perfectionism 

A common cause of procrastination is perfectionism.  Rather than taking action, perfectionists spend hours, days and even weeks tweaking and perfecting their work.  This is often caused by having impossible ideals and a fear of failure.

Lack of focus 

We procrastinate when we don’t have a clear focus on where we should invest our time and what’s most important to us.  Instead of being focused on the most important work, procrastinators waste time on low value activities.

James Clear goes into more detail on why we procrastinate

6 tips on how to avoid procrastination

If you want to start avoiding procrastination, there are a number of proven things you can do to help you avoid procrastination.  Here are 6 powerful ways to help you stop procrastinating.  

 1. Get clear on your goals

When we procrastinate we lose focus.  You can’t get focused on your most productive work if you’re not clear on the outcomes you want to achieve.

It’s easier to avoid procrastination if you feel energised and excited about the work you’re doing.

Start by laying out five specific, measurable goals you want to achieve in the next 90 days.

Then come back to today, and lay out the first action step you want to take for each of the five goals.

2. Set specific deadlines to avoid procrastination

Procrastinators get trapped in a cycle of should do or I’ll do it someday.

To avoid procrastination, you need to set specific dates to complete goals, projects or tasks.

If there is no deadline attached to the work you’re doing, you will procrastinate and put it off.

If there is no excitement or energy to the work you’re doing, then it will be put off in favour of activities that you enjoy far more.

Get in the habit of setting deadlines, be that daily, weekly, monthly or having 90 day goals

3. Remove distractions 

Procrastinators love distractions as it takes them away from taking action on their most important projects.  It’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so your most important projects.

Otherwise it’s very easy to get distracted, whether that’s people, social media notifications or other stimuli.

If you find your environment is not conducive to getting things done, avoid procrastination by changing things up.

Work in a coffee shops, in a park or anywhere else where you the space and time to be distraction-free.  

4. Work in time blocks to stay focused

 If you want a fantastic habit that will show you how to stop procrastinating learn to work in time blocks.

You can use a Pomodoro or some other platform or app that allows you to track time.

I use the 60-60-30 method to help me avoid procrastination.

Decide on an important project or task to work one.

Set your timer for fifty minutes and work until the timer goes off.

Then take a ten-minute break.

Work for a further fifty minutes and then take a further ten-minute break.

Then take a thirty-minute break to recuperate.  Go for a walk, have some lunch, talk to a friend, whatever works.

Then start the process again with the same task or new task.

This simple productivity habit will reduce procrastination and help you stay focused.

5. Take more breaks

A key part of time blocking is taking lots of breaks.

Whatever you’re doing it’s essential to take lots of breaks from the work you’re doing.

Taking breaks keeps you energised and focused, and ensures you don’t procrastinate because you have no energy or are fatigued..

6. Stop procrastinating with an accountability partner

For many people working alone, true accountability is hard to achieve.

You have so many things you think you should do, or people have suggested you should do, which makes it easy to go down rabbit holes that take you further away from your goals.

To avoid procrastination, find someone to hold you accountable, cheer you on, motivate you and inspire you.

They will also help you stop procrastinating.

It’s beneficial to have someone as an accountability partner.

This could be a business coach like me, mentor or close friend, who will hold you accountable without succumbing to your excuses.

Their purpose is to give you clarity and focus on the road you’re travelling on.  And ensure you don’t procrastinate.

They can help you learn how to avoid procrastiunation, keep you energised and ensure you get over the finish line.

Conclusion 

To learn how to avoid procrastination, take a moment and identify the most important projects you want to take action on and the one challenge or obstacle that is causing you to procrastinate and stop taking action.   

Then commit to identifying the first step you can take to get into action.  Take that first step, and then identify the next step.  This will help you stop procrastinating and get into focused action.

You will now have a simple process for avoiding procrastination whenever it strikes.  Don’t let procrastination stop you making progress towards your goals.  Take action today.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What’s your number one tip to avoid procrastination and get more done?

Which one thing causes you to procrastinate?

Either way, let me know in the comments.

Procrastination articles

How to overcome procrastination: 5 simple ways 

How to stop procrastinating in 7 steps 

5 ways to overcome fear of missing out 

How to overcome perfectionism: 4 simple ways 

Overwhelmed at work? 10 strategies to beat stress

About the Author

Mark Pettit is a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results. 

Get more articles, tips and tools to help you simplify your time and stop procrastinating on the blog.

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