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If you want to learn how to stop procrastinating, the first step is to recognise that you’re procrastinating.  The second step is to stop punishing yourself for procrastinating.  The more overwhelmed and stressed out by procrastination you are, the harder it will be to stop procrastinating.

In this article I’m going to share the primary causes of procrastination and show you 8 ways to lean how to stop procrastinating. 

Let’s get started with a definition.  Procrastination is the act of putting things off, delaying or avoiding important tasks by choosing to do something else less important.  Procrastination is also a habit, that can become a consistent pattern of behaviour if left unchecked.  When we procrastinate, we put off important projects to the last minute, waste time on unimportant tasks and choose to do something we know we shouldn’t be doing. 

We can also procrastinate because tasks or projects we’re doing seem too daunting or not exciting enough.  If you don’t stop procrastinating,  you can feel stressed, unmotivated and bored.

Learning how to stop procrastinating will help you feel clearer, more confident and more motivated to take action towards achieving your biggest goals. Let’s get started. 

Procrastination meaning 

Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task by focusing time and energy on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead.  Continued Procrastination can restrict your potential and lead to stress, frustration and an inability to move forward and take action.

We often procrastinate when we’re fearful of failure or have trouble getting started in the first place.  Procrastination is different from laziness because procrastinators choose to do something else, while laziness is the unwillingness to to anything.

Constant procrastination can cause you to always be late with delivering something important or stop you taking action in the first place.

What causes procrastination?  

There are many causes of procrastination.  Procrastination can feel complex and complicated in the moment.  Procrastination can become a habit, that will continually repeat unless action is taken to stop procrastinating. 

People often procrastinate because they’re afraid of failing or don’t feel like they have the self-confidence to take on the task.  This procrastination may be caused because the work is boring or unpleasant.  We procrastinate when we don’t have the capabilities to take on the work.

People procrastinate when a deadline is due or an important event is about to happen and they have to take action. This causes them to waste time and energy doing everything other than getting started on the project or activity they’re procrastinating about.

We’ve all experienced procrastination. If you want to learn how to stop procrastinating, recognise that you procrastinate in the first place.

Then identify the reasons behind the procrastination.  Finally, forgive yourself for procrastinating.  Everyone procrastinates. 

Here are 8 primary causes of procrastination. 

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Tasks are too daunting 
  3. Low confidence
  4. Lack of focus
  5. Low energy 
  6. Tasks aren’t exciting 
  7. Perfectionism 
  8. Lack of motivation 

How to stop procrastinating 

Here are 8 ways to stop procrastinating. 

1. Set smaller goals   

We procrastinate because our to-do list seems too daunting or overwhelming.  The way to stop procrastinating is have measurable, achievable goals to work towards that inspire you to take action.

When we have no clear path to follow we procrastinate.  When we don’t have a destination to work towards, we can feel confused, stuck and powerless, which causes procrastination.

To stop procrastinating, set smaller but achievable goals that include your objectives and some concrete action steps to reach them.

If you’re procrastinating, start by setting short-term, exciting goals.  When you have exciting goals to work towards, you’ll be more likely to stop procrastinating.   Read more about how to achieve your goals.

2. Take action  

We often procrastinate because we don’t know the first step to take.  

When we set big goals, the goal may be bigger than previous goals you may have achieved.  The bigger goal may feel scary and out of reach.  This causes procrastination as you lack the confidence to take the first step. 

This kind of procrastination causes overwhelm, confusion and a feeling of being stuck.  If you feel this way, you will procrastinate and put off starting because you don’t know the first step to take. 

To stop procrastinating, get clear on the outcome you want and lay out the first step you can take, however small.  Then commit to taking action. 

Overcome procrastination by focusing on doing the work, not avoiding the work.  Write down the tasks you need to complete and specify a deadline for completing he task in.  This will help you stop procrastinating.  Read more about setting measurable goals.

3. Get organised 

We procrastinate when we have big goals we want to achieve in the future, and that future result seems so far away from where we are right now.   

To stop procrastinating, get out of the future and bring your mind back to the present moment.  When you have a present focus, you have the capability to break down the small action steps you need to take right now.  

We start procrastinating when we focus on the enormity of the goals, rather than the component parts of the goal.  Learn to stop procrastinating by breaking goals down. 

We can avoid procrastination when we organise our time each day to a small number of important activities that will move us closer to our goals.  

When we have less to focus on, it becomes easier to stop procrastinating.   

James Clear talks about how to stop procrastinating using the 2-minute rule.  Read more about how being productive can eliminate procrastination.

4. Recognise you’re procrastinating 

The first step to stop procrastinating is to recognise that you’re procrastinating in the first place.  Procrastination happens when we create an impossible vision of a future we want to create for ourselves. 

When we create a vision, we set goals and actions to help get us achieve it.  Two things happen.

Firstly, we set up ideals or goals that are so far ahead of our current capabilities and confidence that the outcome we want feels impossible to achieve.

Secondly, we create these ideal or goals without really thinking about them.  We aren’t emotionally and intellectually engaged enough and excited enough about achieving the goal.

In both instances we get stuck, start procrastinating and avoid taking action.  Our ideal gets further and further away from where we currently are.  

To learn how to stop procrastinating, stop setting impossible ideals that you simply can’t reach right now.  Start setting better, achievable goals.  If you want to set better goals use my goal setting guide.

5. Stop thinking you’re not good enough

Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand.  When we have perfectionist tendencies, we waste hours and days tinkering, amending and changing things trying to make it perfect. 

We start procrastinating by comparing ourselves and our performance to others.  When we compare ourselves to someone else, it’s easy to start procrastinating. 

This procrastination may be caused by fear of failure or a worry that our performance might not measure up.  

If you want to stop procrastinating, don’t compare yourself to others.  Set goals that are important to you and stay on your own path.

Ditch perfectionism and continually tweaking, shining and changing things to make them perfect.  Leave an item on your to-do list if you don’t get to it that day.

To stop procrastinating, ask your yourself if perfect is really what’s needed or whether what you’ve produced is good enough.  

Read more on overcoming perfectionism.

6. Get rid of distractions 

We procrastinate because of distractions.  When we don’t feel motivated or confident about what we’re doing, it’s easy to get distracted, and start procrastinating.    

When we’re not clear why we’re doing what we’re doing, and why it matters, we get distracted and find less important things to do.  This causes procrastination.

Stop procrastination by getting clarity on what you’re trying to achieve and by understanding the difference achieving that result will make in your life.

When you’re emotionally engaged in the outcome you want to achieve, you’re more likely to stop procrastinating.  

Try this.  The next time you get distracted, ask yourself why you’re doing the thing you’re doing.  Get clear on the result you want.  This motivation can help you stop procrastinating. 

Read more about how to get motivated.

7. Cut your to-do list

We procrastinate when we have too much on our minds and too many things to do.  When we’re not clear where to focus our time and energy, we procrastinate.  To stop procrastinating, cut back your to-do list so you have a smaller number of activities to do each day.  

When we have a smaller number of goals, it’s easier to cut back our to-do list.   A long to-do list without clear priorities can cause us procrastinate.  By simplifying your to-do list to three or four key tasks, you can avoid procrastination and free up your energy and focus.  

If left unchecked, a long to-do list will constantly distract you from reaching your goals, and cause you to procrastinate.  

This procrastination creates more and more complexity which makes it harder to get clarity on the next step to take.

Stop procrastinating by simplifying, and then simplifying some more.  Read more about how to work smarter, not harder

8. Use accountability 

We often procrastinate because we don’t know what to do, or how to take action.  A simple way to stop procrastinating is to use accountability to get into action.  When we feel confused, isolated or powerless we procrastinate.  

Accountability is essential for goal success and to help us stop procrastinating.

This accountability can come in different forms including coaching, peer groups, friends, accountability partners, mastermind groups or mentors. 

Having someone to help you get clear on your goals, understand the obstacles you face and help you build strategies to overcome them will help you stop procrastinating.

If you want to learn how to stop procrastinating, identify an exciting project, find an accountability partner and take that first step on starting that project now.  Read more about the benefits of accountability coaching.

Conclusion

When we procrastinate it’s often because we know we should be doing something or shouldn’t be doing something else.  Procrastination can cause us to feel stuck, trapped and overwhelmed if we let it. 

If you procrastinate, the tips I’ve shared will help you simplify your time, energy and focus so you can start taking action on what’s most important in your business and life and help you learn how to stop procrastinating on the things that aren’t.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What one thing causes you to procrastinate the most? 

Which one tip that I’ve shared today will you implement first to help you learn how to stop procrastinating?

Let me know in the comments.

Procrastination articles

Still procrastinating? 5 ways to overcome procrastination

How to defeat perfectionism: 4 simple ways

Overwhelmed at work? 7 Strategies to beat stress

5 Ways to Leverage Time to Increase Productivity 

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 stop procrastinating on the blog.

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