If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of procrastination and laziness. However, there are ways to overcome these struggles.
The following are some strategies recommended by experts to help you be more productive:
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Success Coach, PsychWisdom | Author, “How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age“
Identify your procrastination style and how to overcome it
Feeling lazy? Procrastinating on stuff that needs to get done? Well, of course, we all do from time to time – especially when what we need to do is not particularly interesting or exciting!
But what exactly is procrastination? Is it just being lazy? Sorry, not true. The crux of procrastination is an unresolved “approach-avoidance” conflict.
A part of you knows you need (or even want) to do a task, but another part of you resists doing it. Like a Hamlet in the world of action, you’re torn between two impulses: “to do or not to do, that is the question!”
Ambivalence makes it tough to choose a clear commitment to action. So, you start doing a task but lingering resistance means you work at a snail’s pace. Your positive energy remains dammed, damning you to yet another setback.
When you avoid tackling tasks you need (or even want) to do, you create a void, an emptiness, in your life. And guess what that emptiness will be filled up with? Yup, disappointments, discouragement, even despair!
But doesn’t everybody procrastinate? True, people aren’t perfect. Procrastination happens. A messy closet remains that way, though you promised yourself you’d get to it. A response to a request falls through the cracks. For many, however, procrastination isn’t something that happens on occasion. It’s a chronic, pervasive, deeply rooted pattern.
If you’re one of these people, you know you have a built-in tendency to let things slide, not only with challenging tasks but even with simple ones. Since procrastination is driven by strong emotions and tenacious personality traits, it’s tough to change.
If it were a simple matter, like “making resolutions” or “just doing it,” surely mom’s nagging or teachers’ scolding would have cured you of it years ago.
Yes, it’s tough to change an embedded habit. You need to implement specific skills and strategies tailored to your personality style. This is essential, as the right advice for one is the wrong advice for another. One change program does not fit all.
My research has uncovered six distinct styles of procrastination, each one generating a hallmark “but” excuse. Read on to enlighten your understanding!
- The Perfectionist: “…but it’s not perfect!”
- The Dreamer: “…but I hate dealing with those annoying details!”
- The Worrier: “…but I’m afraid to make a change!”
- The Crisis-Maker: “…but I work best under pressure!”
- The Defier: “…but why should I do it?”
- The Pleaser: “…but I have so much to do for others!”
Recognize yourself in any of these styles? If so, know that I have created a unique change program for each style. Yup, it’s important to have different strokes for different folks as what works for one personality doesn’t work for another.
So, here are two ideas for each style:
- Give up aiming for unattainable perfection. If it’s an important task, set a goal to strive for “excellence.” If it’s a mundane task, set a goal to strive for “good enough.” Yes, sometimes “good enough” is good enough.
- Change your “shoulds” to “coulds.” Perfectionists adopt harsh and burdensome “shoulds” that they’ll never achieve. “Could” is empowering, carrying the mature message that you have the right, capacity, and obligation to choose what task you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Amazingly, when you start doing what you “could” do, you get more done than agonizing over your “shoulds!”
Related: Why Done Is Better Than Perfect?
- Ground your thinking by asking and answering relevant questions that begin with “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.” Though dreamers have creative ideas, they avoid doing the details that’ll make their dreams come true.
- Limit your use of dreamy, vague phrases like, “I wish,” I’d like to,” “I’ll try to.” As you begin to speak more definitively, you’ll act more definitively. “I’m starting my report now and will complete it by 5 pm,” provides you with a specific time frame to aim for.
- Recognize that not making a decision is, in fact, a decision. If you’re so worried that you can’t decide what to do or when to do it, you place yourself at the mercy of others. Is this your aim? Do you really want others to make decisions for you? If so, it’s time for you to start building up your confidence!
- Telling yourself, “I can’t,” leaves you feeling hopeless. No choice, no power, no options, you’re screwed! Rather than remaining in this powerless position, shift the focus away from what you can’t do to what you can do. “I can’t …, but one thing I can do now is….” Then do it!
- Rev your juices up to tackle a boring task instead of waiting for the last minute to do it. Invent a game or create a contest and a boring task becomes an interesting one. Beat the Clock is a great game for revving up your juices and doing a task as quickly as you can.
- Identify other motivators besides last-minute stress to get you moving. Ask yourself questions like:
- Will doing this task enhance my career prospects?
- Will it help me feel better about myself?
- Will it help develop my independence and maturity?
- Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t say what others want to hear just to appease them. Don’t commit to doing a task if you don’t intend to do it. If you do commit, then change your mind, take responsibility for the change and tell the person involved.
- Strive to act, not react. Acting is making a choice, not defiantly nor compliantly, but because you’ve given it thought and made your decision. Reacting is responding reflexively and often negatively to what others want.
- Don’t hesitate to say “no” to others when you don’t have the time or energy to take care of your own responsibilities. When pleasers reflexively say “yes” to what others want, they have no time to take care of their own responsibilities.
- Say goodbye to the Superman/Superwoman myth. No, you can’t do it all. So make day-by-day choices about the best use of your time and energy. Readjust your priorities when you notice you’re neglecting an important aspect of your life.
Psychotherapist | Author, “Words to Eat By“
Procrastination has been given a bad rap. It is often associated with being lazy when it is really a motivational problem based on internal conflicts and an ineffective way of resolving them.
To understand what procrastination is actually about, we need to stop being judgmental and become curious about why people put off doing what they say they want—and often do want—to do.
At its core, it’s wanting to do something and not wanting to or wanting to do this and also that, and therein lies the dilemma.
There are three major causes of procrastination:
- Perfectionism and fear of failure
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
People avoid tasks because they fear they can’t do them perfectly. Perhaps they got berated as children when things weren’t just so or even severely punished. Now, when they attempt tasks, they unconsciously act out this fear.
They are also afraid to out and out fail, which might bring them shame and humiliation. The antidote to the fear of not being perfect is not aiming for it and developing a sense of what’s enough based on a situation.
The antidote for fear of failure is recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and that this is part of being human.
Related: Overcoming Fear of Failure (Avoid these 3 Mistakes)
Be in touch with your dislike of being told what to do
None of us likes being ordered around. The more that happened in childhood, the more we want to rebel against demands and deadlines. However, what was an interpersonal problem back then becomes an intrapsychic conflict now when we want to do something but feel pressured that we should.
The solution is to be in touch with your dislike of being told what to do (even when it’s yourself doing it!) and realize this is an old score you’re trying to settle.
When talking to yourself, it helps to avoid external motivators such as:
- I should
- I must
- I need to have to
- I ought to
- I am supposed to
Instead, use internal words such as:
- I want
- I prefer
- I wish
- I desire
- I would like
Seek professional help
Many people who put things off do it because they have this neurodevelopmental disorder, which is when a person is easily distracted, has a poor memory, and has a combination of inattention and hyper-attention.
People with ADHD have trouble sticking with tasks which may make it difficult to complete them. Alternately, they often appear unorganized and unmotivated and frequently develop poor self-esteem because of their difficulty with follow-through.
The best way to deal with ADHD, even as an adult, is to get professional help.
Sonya Zappone RYT, C.MI, C.LAC
Life and Success Coach | Author, “The Soul Doesn’t Need a Million Dollars”
Use the power of daily lists
Here’s a secret: You can harness your personal power with lists. Lists provide a way for you to direct your energy and focus.
We all know that what we focus on grows, so why not grow your lists and overcome procrastination and laziness? Learn to get pumped about making and completing lists. Try using some healthy aggression to give you that “can-do” push.
As a transformational life coach for over a decade, I mentor my clients to use the power of daily lists. This is a simple and basic tool that anyone can use to improve productivity. A simple pen and paper will do, or if you’re technically inclined, you can use your phone and the notes feature.
But, list-making doesn’t require technology; you can take a break from electronics and keep things very simple. Lists keep you on task for what’s important and provide the reminders we all need. Organization is one key to success. You can organize your thoughts and “to-dos” with lists.
When you are:
- Goal setting
- Using lists
- Knocking out tasks
- Checking off your accomplishments
- Being productive
The energy and momentum you gain can make you step out of laziness and into your best self. Your lists can evolve into larger project lists that carry to greater success.
Go from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to yearly, and you will be creating goals and visions for yourself that can bring you into becoming the best you can be.
Lists may be precisely what you need to quit procrastinating
Lists are the best way to see what needs to be done and have personal accountability. They also give you a sense of accomplishment when completed – or even partially completed. Lists might just be the visual you need to stop procrastinating.
I create lists of “to-dos” each morning with a box in front of each item for a checkmark. That way when I am done, I simply slam the check markdown, which brings me a sense of satisfaction with a job completed. The fact is that being successful on a personal level is a way to launch yourself into greatness.
Install the habit into the hard drive of your mind
Master your life with list mastery. Install this healthy habit into the hard drive of your mind. Make it something you do every day. Be sure to create a fresh list for each new day.
I recommend ripping up the list at the end of each day. For me, there’s no better feeling than tearing up the completed list and throwing it away. I do this at the end of the day. All the important things (and also the menial tasks) that I needed or wanted to get done are mostly finished and checked off.
Ripping it up feels like I am “tearing it up” daily. I get pumped! I also get the opportunity for a fresh start the next day and things don’t get stale. The way I organize this is: anything that doesn’t get done gets an arrow instead of a checkmark. Any item on my list with an arrow gets transferred to the next day. Hey, after all, we only have so many hours in a day.
Don’t beat yourself up or feel bad if you can’t get to everything—just move it to the next day!
Organize your list for more effectiveness
Once you have this list-making habit down, learn to section your day on your list. You can develop a plan of top-to-bottom approach which keeps you even more organized.
Remember: organization is the key to success.
By following your mapped-out list, you easily flow from the morning stuff to the afternoon stuff. By making lists, you not only map out your day, but you map out your life! A list provides you with direction. So, go ahead. Start now! Make a list.
How to get started
Get a piece of paper. What two things could you do by the end of the day? Write them down. See how easy this is? Be sure to put a box or a bubble for that checkmark you will put in later.
Do you need to get a 30-minute workout in? Want to read a chapter of a book you haven’t picked up in years? Write it down. Then, do it, and check it off when you are done. Tear the list up at the end of the day after brushing your teeth. Start tomorrow morning again with a list of 10 things you need or want to do.
You can even prep by putting the paper and pen on your nightstand or top of your computer. Create this healthy habit and get out of the procrastination and laziness cycle. You don’t even have to wait until tomorrow! Start now!
Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA
Laziness is a term I never use – neither for myself nor my clients. Rather we look together at what the resistance to the task might be.
What is the fear? Is it that the task will be long and difficult? Then “chunk it” – which means breaking it up into small digestible sections of 45 minutes or so, with 15-minute breaks in between.
Identify your difficulties to get the help you might need
If we actually start on the task, we’re better able to assess whether or not there will be difficulty and access any assistance we might need. Sometimes my clients, especially those in college, are concerned they might “feel stupid” if they can’t do an assignment.
I explain to them that starting and seeing what their difficulties might be is the best way to get any necessary help they might need (either through online research, consulting with a friend, their professor, or even a tutor) and then be able to do the work successfully.
Stop avoiding your tasks
We wonder “what-if” we miss a deadline, or won’t be able to do the work, and cruelly label ourselves in advance for any difficulty we may have (“stupid,” “incompetent,” etc.) rather than giving ourselves the opportunity to assess the task, give it the time and attention it needs and succeed.
Telling ourselves “we can do it” and “all we need to do is try” are among many mantras that can help us move forward, rather than procrastinate – the latter being a painful practice that creates a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Let’s start by letting go of the idea that you’re “lazy.” It’s important to shift the perspective from the belief that you’re lazy or a procrastinator to simply having a human experience of procrastinating.
Externalizing (rather than internalizing) and reframing help us get outside of any feelings of shame that may arise around the normal experience of putting things off. We all do it! Rather than getting stuck in a shame spiral around the idea of “laziness,” honor your body if you’re feeling tired.
That being said, approaching tasks in manageable doses can help to counteract the tendency to avoid or procrastinate.
Break it down— one thing at a time
Just starting with one small piece of whatever it is you may be avoiding can take away some of the sense of overwhelm we often feel when uncompleted tasks are looming.
Setting “SMART” goals is a great place to start. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. The specific piece is key, because general goals (often in the form of New Year’s resolutions) can be too much to envision tackling.
Instead of taking on the idea that you have to get it all done at once, figure out which is most important to you (without judgment!) and start there.
Build in some structure
Again, just choose one specific thing to start with. Assess where you’re currently spending your time and whether you can make space to complete the task you’ve decided to prioritize.
Say you typically read several news articles prior to responding to emails. Once you’ve read one article, can you get to one or two of those emails? Try it out and see how it feels.
Give yourself some grace
Take in the rewards inherent in accomplishing (even small!) goals. Rather than focusing on which parts are not yet complete, shift your mindset to the benefits you’ve gained from completing even part of something. And watch out for any negative self-talk that can creep in when we don’t meet our goals the first time we try.
Take one thing at a time and remember that the way we talk to ourselves makes a huge difference.
Allison Gervais, LMFT
Mental Health Empowerment Lecturer | Psychotherapist, Marin Mental Wellness
Understand the root cause of your procrastination
There are myriad of reasons why a person might procrastinate. This includes fear of failure and success, anxiety, depression, guilt and blame, and perfectionism. Understanding the root cause will help a person decrease procrastination.
But what if you’d like to tackle it today? I lean toward using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to help clients make short-term changes now.
Notice your unhelpful thinking styles to build awareness
Perhaps you tend to use “should” statements. This results in guilt and anxiety. “I should be working out instead of binging shows.“
Another example is labeling. “I am lazy because I’m not cleaning my apartment.” All-or-nothing thinking sounds like, “I will flunk all of my classes.” And an example of catastrophizing is “If I don’t exercise I will gain weight, never find a partner, and get married and be alone for the rest of my life.” This makes the situation worse, and hard to get your head in the game.
How to combat this? First, notice you’re doing it. Awareness is half the battle. If you can recognize it, you can change it. One way is to go on a fact-finding mission.
Ask yourself, “Is this 100% true? What are facts that support it?” Remember, discern between a fact and a thought. If you realize it’s an assumption, label it as such. Then use a visualization technique. Imagine putting that negative thought on a passing cloud or on a leaf in a stream floating by.
Or perhaps you’re more of a logical thinker. Create a balanced thought, “Although I am binging tv, I worked out yesterday and have a class scheduled tomorrow.” Notice there’s a compliment and action plan tucked in there. Recognizing even a small step as a victory can quell your all-or-nothing thinking.
Identify your top values
Another way people work through procrastination is by using values. Values guide us to do what’s important to us in life.
- First, identify your top values. A good resource for this is to take the free quiz at VIA Character. Ask yourself, “Am I moving toward or away from this value?” Procrastination is typically an action that moves you away from values.
- The next step is to list consequences and gains. At every fork in the road, you can ask yourself, “Am I moving toward or away from my values?” Moving toward your values increases happiness and an overall sense of well-being.
If my values include health and enjoyment, perhaps I allow myself to watch a few shows and then clean my bedroom. I’m moving toward both of these values.
While procrastination can be a symptom of a bigger issue, you can do something today to get yourself into action.
Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Specialist, OK Rehab
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying action by getting involved with another activity. Perhaps the most common example is when we scroll social media to avoid working, but procrastination comes in many forms and can be much more subtle than this.
In fact, we can even procrastinate by doing a task that still benefits us – have you ever procrastinated going out by cleaning the house?
Is procrastination normal?
Procrastination is certainly normal. We all have tasks we’d rather not do, so procrastinating is a way of avoiding this. However, if you find that you are procrastinating to the extent that you can’t get anything done, something deeper may be going on.
This could be anything from stress that prevents you from being proactive to ADHD that causes a dopamine deficiency.
Tips for avoiding procrastination and laziness:
Write a to-do list to bring you back to reality
Without a to-do list, it’s very easy to pretend you don’t have any tasks to accomplish. However, if you write a detailed to-do list, it will bring you back to reality as you will be able to see how much you need to get done.
As you tick tasks off your to-do list, you will feel accomplished which may motivate you into being even more productive, so to-do lists can perpetuate a healthy cycle of productivity.
Set alarms to remind you to do things throughout the day
Some people genuinely forget to complete their tasks each day, so if this is the case for you, set alarms to remind you to do things throughout the day.
A top tip is to make the alarm sound as jarring as possible so that you won’t want to let it ring for long. Of course, many people will simply keep snoozing the alarm, but it will get increasingly frustrating to hear the ringtone, so it’s likely you will end up starting on a task so that you don’t have to hear it anymore.
Reward yourself for completing tasks
If you set up rewards for completing tasks, you will most likely feel encouraged to be productive. For most tasks, these rewards will have to be quite small, but you can gradually build it so that you have a big reward at the end of the week.
Here are examples of some rewards you could use:
- a 10-minute social media scroll after cleaning the house
- a tasty treat after working for an hour
- a long hot shower after cooking dinner
- a weekend full of socializing after a busy working week
Set a Pomodoro timer
Pomodoro timers are amazing for generating productivity. You simply set a timer (usually for 20 minutes) and work for this length of time without procrastinating, and then you take a break (usually 10 minutes). As you are only working for 20 minutes, a break is always round the corner, so you are less likely to get overwhelmed by the tasks you need to complete.
Certified Integral Coach
There is already a lot of excellent insight and advice on what we can do to change our behavior, but we often overemphasize the role of willpower. Willpower is an essential tool, but it’s a relatively weak muscle that tires quickly.
So what other options do we have?
Negotiate reasonable timelines and take time offs
Being overworked can set up a procrastination cycle that is hard to escape. This is especially true for people who find themselves on the couch bingeing Netflix instead of making progress against a daunting to-do list.
Improving work-life balance by negotiating reasonable timelines for deliverables and taking actual time off on weekends can tame this type of procrastination.
Related: Why Is Work Life Balance so Important in Today’s World?
Find an accountability buddy
Others procrastinate because they struggle to create a structure for themselves. They may benefit from setting up regular check-ins with a boss to monitor progress or working in an office rather than at home.
Finding an accountability buddy or team that provides structure can also make a difference.
Be more proactive and honest
Procrastination can be a tool we use to protest and express our resentment at a situation that we feel trapped in. Perhaps our procrastination is telling us that we need to negotiate a more fair division of labor at home or work. Maybe it is telling us that our job is not aligned with our core values.
At an extreme, our procrastination can force someone else to make a decision we are afraid to make, like leaving a relationship or firing us from a job. Being more proactive and honest about what we truly want in life can motivate us to create an exit plan that works for us.
Treat procrastination as a symptom of stress
Folks who have long-standing procrastination patterns may need to recognize that these patterns may never entirely go away. In this case, treating procrastination as a symptom of stress can open up new approaches.
It is worth exploring if your tendency to procrastinate improves when you create healthy habits like getting enough rest, exercise, and nutritious food. Does it improve when you reduce the amount of time you spend with people who drain you? What other patterns can you identify?
Timebox your procrastination
A final strategy is to give yourself permission to procrastinate but also timebox it. If you usually procrastinate for a day, try procrastinating for half a day.
Once that feels easy, you can shorten the period again until you find a balance between enough procrastination to manage your stress, but not so much that it gets in the way of things you want to accomplish in life.
Procrastination behavior may look similar on the surface, but each person procrastinates for a different reason. By understanding our individual motivations for procrastination, we can pick the most effective strategies to help us get unstuck.
CEO and Lead Therapist, Naya Clinics
First, you must understand that although everyone may procrastinate, not all are procrastinators. For those who are actually chronic procrastinators, their tendency to put things off really has nothing to do with time management – it’s actually a coping mechanism.
In this case, coping means avoiding unpleasant tasks and doing other stuff that can give our mood a boost, even if just temporarily. We give in to feel good. What makes it worse is that the guilt and shame of failing to do what we should be doing can only make us procrastinate even more.
This is why emotional regulation is the key to solving your procrastination problem. Here’s how to do it:
Accept the reason why you’re procrastinating
You have to acknowledge the root cause of procrastinating, which is fear.
Being afraid of success, failure, and not being perfect can make us feel anxious when we are pushed to do things that we are not comfortable doing. So the tendency is to put them off or avoid doing them no matter what. You can only fix your emotions if you first learn how to face them.
Related: How to Overcome the Fear of Success
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s not surprising to find out that procrastinators are less compassionate towards themselves. Forgiving yourself for doing it and practicing self-compassion will lessen the guilt you have for procrastinating.
Because guilt is one of the main triggers for procrastinating, you actually end up eliminating this trigger when you forgive yourself.
Just do it
It’s more than just a Nike slogan. It’s also an important step to solve procrastination. You can’t wait all the time for your emotional state to be compatible with the task at hand – sometimes, you just really have to do it, whether you feel like it or not.
But if saying to yourself, “just do it” sounds stressful, you can go for “just get started” first, which connotes less pressure. Break down a hefty task into small ones to make it easier for you to accomplish. Once you get used to accomplishing even just a series of small tasks, you will get a boost in your self-esteem and will reduce your desire to procrastinate.
Joy Gandell, MScA, ACC
Parenting and Learning Coach, SETA Coaching & Training
There is no such thing as procrastination or laziness; Procrastination and laziness do not exist; Procrastination and laziness are social constructs; Overcoming procrastination and laziness means learning the messages they are communicating to us.
I want to be clear; I am not saying that everything is all in your head, and get over it. I have learned that there is no such thing as procrastination or laziness. Society has created these labels to describe behaviors we observe in ourselves and others. We can become trapped and victimized by them.
Identify the root cause of your current motivation
I am telling you are motivated; you are just motivated to do the opposite of what you want to do. You are motivated to do whatever you can to avoid doing what you had intended. The only way to understand how to become motivated to do what you intended to do is to identify the root cause of your current motivation.
How do you do this? You start by examining your emotions around whatever you are avoiding.
Do you feel dread, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, resentment, sad? It is possible to experience more than one at once. Are there others you are experiencing? Once you identify your emotion(s), you can learn the message they are sending to process them.
It is important to note that you are not always looking to eliminate all negative emotions around a task. There may be times when you have to sit with uncomfortable emotions while executing. We have to build our capacity to do things that make us uncomfortable. Courage is being able to do something while experiencing uncomfortable emotions.
Emotions can drain us of energy or give us the energy we need to move forward. When they drain our energy, we have to start thinking about ways to replenish the lost energy to have enough to get the task done. What can you do to recharge your lost energy?
After processing the emotions, the next step is to dissect the task to make it easier to approach. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can you break down the task into smaller, more manageable chunks?
- How can you make a timeline to get those smaller tasks done?
- Who can you speak with to help you with this?
- Is there someone who can help you hold yourself accountable (accountability buddy)?
- Who can you turn to if you need emotional support to complete the task?
- What motivating messages can you tell yourself?
- What benefits can you identify that you will gain from completing the task?
- Once completed, what emotions can you predict feeling?
- Are there other questions you can ask yourself about this task that might help you move forward?
Remember, there is no such thing as procrastination and laziness, just a motivation to avoid something you perceive negatively. Understanding what is going on beneath the surface will help you move forward.
Founder and Certified Coach, Conscious Weight Loss
Understand where your procrastination originates from
The various degrees of resistance we all experience in life are ambivalence, procrastination, and self-sabotage.
Ambivalence is what you feel when you’re experiencing uncertainty, doubt or indecision, and you’re hesitant to engage in actions to better your situation. “I don’t care” is the self-talk that often comes up here, when the more truthful observation would be “I’m disengaged.”
Procrastination is what you do when you have some intentions about the actions you want to take, but doing so might result in discomfort for you. “Laziness” is the label you might use here, but this is an unfair characterization of the emotional part of you charged with protecting you from discomfort.
Self-sabotage is what happens when you take those actions to get out of your comfort zone, but you haven’t properly prepared yourself for the progress you’re now experiencing.
It takes a different set of skills to get out of struggle than it does to live from joy. “Fear of success” is what you might think here but the real reason is you haven’t developed your capacity for joy.
Move beyond procrastination to create a self-fulfilling momentum in your life
Use these three steps to break the spell of inertia:
Step 1: Name the discomfort your mind is anticipating
Procrastination often feels non-specific, but in reality, it’s quite explicit. Maybe the organizational task you want to do seems “overwhelming,”; or the resume you’re about to submit might lead to “rejection,”; or the health effort you want to make appears “physically taxing.”
All of these represent potential discomfort, which will always keep you stuck. What’s needed is a shift in perception.
Step 2: Visualize the finished task as well as the first 60 seconds of that task
Procrastination has you avoiding taking action but the mental load of the obligation still weighs heavily. This may have you escaping into harmful behaviors or addictions (e.g., junk food, excessive tv watching, endless internet surfing).
Holding the finished task as a contrast to the potential discomfort provides the needed shift in perception and the first 60 seconds provides an entry point.
Step 3: Get out of your head and into your body
Procrastination keeps you in your head, where the energy required to get into action always appears greater than it actually is.
Placing your body physically in the task for those first 60 seconds – while still preserving the choice to step out of it – is key. But once your mind realizes this is not the herculean task it made this out to be, you’ll begin to relax and lean into the task, creating momentum for even more.
Sat Kirtan Kaur Khalsa
Speaker and Consultant, Invest in Yoga | Author, “Bye Bye Stress in 9 Minutes or Less“
Yoga and meditation can help to ground you
Let’s start with a little theory. Fear and procrastination are usually two sides of the same coin. They both take us out of the present moment. They cause us to seek refuge, either in the past or they start of scenarios of what might or might not occur.
That’s where yoga, meditation, and mantra come in. Yoga can help to ground you.
Meditation develops your neutral mind, where you have the ability to elevate from being a victim of emotion. A mantra can cut through your thoughts to serve as a wise witness and choose our actions, rather than becoming the victim of emotion.
So, what can you do to avoid procrastination and laziness? Let me share my simple three-step recipe with you, to inspire you.
Step 1: Acknowledge that you’re procrastinating
To avoid procrastination and get things done, you need self-awareness. Becoming aware of the fact that you’re distracting yourself by being busy with less important tasks, is the first step. Once you’re aware, you can take responsibility for your actions and transform.
Step 2: Look at the fear that’s causing you to procrastinate
So now you’re aware of the fact you’re procrastinating. The first thing your mind will do is probably, make you feel guilty about it. It comes up with all kinds of ‘you should….’. That’s not going to help you, in fact, it will only make it worse, as you’re literally shooting yourself.
It’s much more mature and helpful to look at the fear behind the procrastination. Is it the fear of success? The fear of rejection? The fear of not being good enough? Or maybe another fear?
Sit down and listen to your inner voice, what is the story that’s going on within yourself that’s holding you back and causing you to do anything, but the thing you needed to do? Write down your story and read it out loud. After that, ask yourself, “Is this true?” “Is this supporting me to believe this story?“
Step 3: Write an uplifting story for yourself and go!
Once you’ve heard yourself tell your story out loud and hopefully found something to laugh about in it, take a deep breath and embrace your fear. Embrace yourself. Acknowledge this story, be grateful for it, as it took you to where you are now.
Tell your mind that this story is no longer supporting you. Close this chapter of the book and move on to the next one. It is now time to listen to a new story. A story that uplifts you and makes you want to get things done. One that inspires you to get out of bed and into action modus.
Listen to that story, within your mind first and once you feel comfortable, write it down and read it out loud to yourself each day, as long as it supports you in your growth. As long as it uplifts you.
Believe in yourself, see the light within yourself and act from love. That will support you and allow your dreams to be manifested.
Content and Marketing Manager, Speaking Nerd
Understand your triggers
Every habit has some triggers. For example, some people engage in biting their nails whenever they feel nervous. Similarly, psychologists say that procrastination and laziness are also habits that have certain triggers. One of the most common triggers is the brain feeling incapable of accomplishing a task.
Having said that, to avoid procrastination, you should first understand your triggers. For example, if you find yourself procrastinating to work on your project, introspect and see what’s going inside your mind? Are you afraid of failing? If yes, then you have to work on your fear and not the act of procrastination.
This way, by understanding your triggers, you can resolve the underlying issues and overcome procrastination and laziness.
Find ways to experience the psychological state of flow in whatever you do
In the words of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” The psychological state of flow makes an activity so enjoyable that you feel tempted to do it for its own sake.
This implies that you can overcome procrastination and laziness if you can find ways to experience the psychological state of flow in whatever you do. Now, what is the key to experiencing this state of extreme enjoyment in an activity?
According to Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the authors of the International Best Seller, ‘Ikigai,’ there are three basic strategies for cultivating a state of flow. They are:
- choosing a difficult task but not too difficult
- having a clear, concrete objective
- concentrating on a single task
Each of these strategies has been discussed below.
Choosing a difficult task but not too difficult
You should choose a task that is slightly out of your comfort zone. If the task is easy for you, you’ll get bored quickly. But, if it challenges you slightly and you utilize all your might to accomplish it, you’ll be very likely to experience the psychological state of flow.
There will be no looking back once you start enjoying this state, as enjoyment will drive you forward.
Having a clear, concrete objective
Playing video games and board games in a balanced way triggers the psychological state of flow as the overall objective is clear, i.e., to beat your rival and earn the reward. All your energies are concentrated on that only.
Similarly, if you set clear, concrete objectives in whatever you do, you can find the bliss of working and beat procrastination. For example, if you have to finish writing a book of 100 pages in a month, challenge yourself to complete four pages in a day.
Concentrate on a single task
This is one of the best strategies to experience the psychological state of flow. But, today, we all tend to multitask and needless to say, we feel stressed rather than enjoying what we do.
This happens because our brain can take millions of bits of information per second but can only process a few dozen. So, multitasking obstructs flow. To experience it, you should concentrate on a single task at a time.
Follow the Pomodoro Technique while working
If you tell a child to read an entire book in one sitting, he’ll start throwing tantrums. But, if you tell him to read just one page and after that, he can play for 5 to 7 minutes, he’ll most likely, sit quietly and start reading. The same is the case with our brains.
When we plan to accomplish huge tasks in a go, it starts throwing tantrums in the form of procrastination and laziness. Whereas, if you choose to work for a short interval of time, it feels motivated to achieve the target soon and then relax.
This implies that to avoid procrastination and laziness, you should work for small time intervals. The Pomodoro Technique can help you in this regard. It inspires you to work for a dedicated interval of 25 minutes and then take a 5 to 7-minute short break before resuming again.
Try this technique the next time you find yourself procrastinating. Believe me, it really works.
Founder and CEO, WorldWise Tutoring LLC
Come up with creative ways to work around the challenge
Instead of feeling stuck or unable, come up with creative ways to work around the challenge. Rather than the overall task or concept, it may be the process or method that needs a new perspective or approach.
Contrary to what you may be told, there is not only one way to do something or learn something, and it is not true that you “get it,” or you don’t. Seek out alternative methods if you don’t “get it” the first time.
Develop your own action plan for improvement
This puts you in charge of developing your own skills and abilities.
Set weekly individual goals, then reflect on why you did or did not meet those goals. This encourages you to think deeply about your behaviors and abilities.
Use positive affirmations and mantras
- “I will be accepted to my #1 college.”
- “I am capable.”
- “My words have power.”
- “I overcome my challenges.”
- “I believe in myself.”
- “I can make a difference in the world.”
- “I like myself for who I am.”
- “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan)
- “Failure is success if we learn from it.” (Malcolm Forbes)
- “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” (Henry Ford)
- “Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.” (Virgil Garnett Thomson)
- “Nothing will work unless you do.” (John Wooden)
- “All things are difficult before they are easy.” (Thomas Fuller)
Set a designated study space and remove distractions
Set aside a specific designated study space organized with all needed materials and without the clutter of distractions. Removing “distractions” may include turning off notifications on electronics. Maybe use the StayFocusd Chrome extension (limits the amount of time spent on time-wasting websites) or any of the digital detox apps discussed here.
Tips for workspaces:
- Put items where it makes sense (not necessarily where it looks best)
- Make them visible (especially the things used regularly)
- Put things beside each other rather than behind
- Get rid of stuff that isn’t needed
- Include a whiteboard where you can write down important dates, goals, and motivational quotes
Remember the basics:
- Adequate sleep
- Proper nutrition
Set a routine you can stick to
The daily routine should include time for homework, study breaks, and any other activities. Start work at the same time every day. Use clocks to see how much time has passed, how much is left, and how quickly it’s passing.
Set a timer to go off periodically as a reminder to check if you are paying attention and understanding. Try a Pomodoro Timer (25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break), the Flora app (a gamified Pomodoro Timer), and the Focus ToDo app (combines the Pomodoro technique and task list).
Investment Expert | Founder
Procrastination and laziness come down to one thing – habit. For something that is so crippling and all-consuming for some people, there is a real simple answer to avoid these. Habit.
Create new habit loops
This may seem overly simple, but we are simple creatures in many ways. We respond to a cue, craving, response, and reward ‘habit feedback loop.’
Say, for example, when our phone buzzes, even if we are doing great work, we have the urge to check it and won’t be satisfied until we have. This is the habit loop at work. The cue is the phone buzzing, which signals to our brain and creates an urge. The way to satisfy the urge, in this case, is to check our phone.
The reward is that we see who has messaged us or what Instagram comment we have a response to. It is that simple. Without the cue, we wouldn’t create the response and without the reward, our response would be different.
This can be applied to procrastination and laziness. We don’t want to be lazy or procrastinate, so why do we do it? It is because we have developed these habits.
Let’s say you want to do some work. The thought makes you anxious (which is the cue); you then crave not being anxious. The response is to watch TV or check Instagram, Facebook, or a sports website because you know this will make you feel relaxed again (the reward). The loop is complete and the habit is cemented further.
We are just responding to our environment and the habits deeply programmed.
Studies have shown that people who have stopped smoking have found that certain environments will still trigger cravings for cigarettes even years later. This is because you never rid yourself of old cues. Instead, you have to create new habit loops that become more powerful.
Related: How to Change a Habit with Physical Movements
Commit to a specific time and date
The first thing to do is set a day and a time in which you will exercise. Say your goal is to exercise 3 times a week. Studies have shown that people who commit to a specific time and date are much more likely to follow through with a task than someone who is vague (such as ‘I will start working out on Monday or next week).
The following are steps in creating a new habit loop:
- Make it obvious. Lay your workout equipment out on your couch before you go to bed.
- Make it attractive. Set yourself targets to beat or start with an easy workout to get you going.
- Make it easy. Don’t try and run flat out on your first run, or try some crazy yoga positions on your 3rd day. Keep it easy and rewarding so you don’t get disheartened.
- Make it satisfying. If you enjoy the workout and don’t feel like you have failed, then your reward will be the fact you have done it!
These sound simple, but it can be applied to anything. If you take little steps over and over again, eventually, you will have formed a new habit and you won’t have to fight each day! You can overcome laziness and procrastination by just taking small actions each day!
Start your day on track
One practice that has helped me avoid procrastination and laziness through the years is to start my day on the right track. What I mean by this is figuring out ways to channel focus and motivation, so any notion of procrastination goes right out the door.
I have a daily ritual that helps me achieve this goal. After some quiet time in the morning, I write down all of my to-dos for the day, and then I immediately work on several of them. It doesn’t matter what these tasks are. It’s more important that you start the workflow process to unlock the potential of your day.
It’s amazing how productive I feel when I’ve accomplished several important tasks first thing in the morning. It lays the foundation for the rest of the day, and I’ve found that this builds and creates long-lasting productivity.
Finish difficult tasks first
Another habit that I practice is finishing the most difficult tasks first. This is a great way to bust through any resistance, hesitation, or laziness you might be feeling towards accomplishing a big goal or task that might be demanding or intimidating.
The key to this one is just diving into the task at hand, no matter what it is. If it’s something you’ve been avoiding for any reason, you should jump on it and start making progress. Even if it’s just bit by bit, this progress will slowly begin to build, and soon you’ll have that monster task dealt with and out of the way.
I can’t tell you how many times this simple rule has helped me out over the years. If something feels daunting, but I still dive right in, I always end up feeling outstanding and more motivated to handle anything else that might be on my plate. Perspective is key, and when you see yourself accomplish something difficult, those everyday things are all the easier.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Procrastination and laziness can happen to everyone. Even the highest performers out there struggle with it from time to time. The difference is that high-level individuals have figured out how to navigate those feelings without getting them worse.
A vital piece of this is not being too hard on yourself. If you hit a wall with work or feel lazy, that’s ok. Go shake it off and attempt again later. I always like to get some exercise in or spend time in nature when this happens. It’s a simple reset that always helps me put things in perspective.
If you beat yourself up about every misstep, getting back in the flow of things will be more challenging.
Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up
Founder and Owner, Hypernia
We aren’t all lazy, but we all procrastinate from time to time. Saying “that’s just the way I am” is a lame excuse you should avoid if you value your time and want to accomplish anything.
Fortunately, you can completely overcome your procrastination tendencies and become more productive at home and work!
This guide should be able to help you become more productive and less likely to procrastinate, whether it’s a dreadful super-important task at work, homework that you keep putting off until it’s almost too late, or just chores that you kind of don’t want to do but still have to.
Allow me to share with you these tips for getting rid of your procrastination habit.
Remove all the distractions that mess up your focus
You may not even realize how much time you waste during the day being distracted by your phone or how much time you waste on innocent interruptions by family members.
Constant distractions, context switching, and multitasking have a cumulative negative effect on your:
- Attention span
- Mental health
Hearing wise words from others, especially those who have actually accomplished something in their lives, can be just the motivation we need to stop procrastinating and get to work.
Incorporate a positive mindset
The majority of the successful people I follow cite a positive attitude as a non-negotiable component of success. Although not everyone actively works on it with things like positive affirmations, I’m sure they all start their days with a smile and excitement.
Simply commit to completing a small task
If you are feeling stuck, simply commit to completing a small task, any task, and writing it down. Finish it up and give yourself a reward.
Put only what you can completely commit to on your schedule or “to do” list, and if you write it down, stick to it. By doing so, you will gradually reestablish trust in yourself that you will do what you say you will, which many procrastinators have lost.
No need to outline the entire project from the beginning
If you’re working on a large project, you don’t have to start by outlining all of its upcoming steps; in fact, doing so can be counterproductive. Instead, it’s often preferable to begin by determining only the next few steps that must be completed and then add new ones once you’ve made sufficient progress.
Procrastination is a difficult problem to overcome, but if you’re willing to take the necessary steps to develop a good plan of action and then put in the effort to follow through on your plan of action, you have a good chance of succeeding.
Overall, the most important thing to internalize is that you cannot be passive in dealing with your procrastination. You must actively strive to improve yourself; you cannot keep making the same mistakes and promising yourself that things will be different if you do not make any changes.
Smita Das Jain
Personal Empowerment Life Coach, Empower Yourself
Be clear about your goals
The first step to stop procrastinating is getting clear on what you want from every single area of your life. This clarity empowers you to look past distractions that may throw you off course and gives you a direction to build a mental picture of life.
Knowing the underlying reason for doing something provides you a sense of purpose for staying focused long term.
Chunk down your big tasks
We often procrastinate because the task ahead seems intimidating to start. Break the big tasks into pieces and take it small step at a time. Focusing on climbing Mount Everest will put you off immediately, but the goal appears more achievable if you focus on climbing seven small mountain sections.
Don’t forget to acknowledge yourself and celebrate after climbing each mountain.
Get a support partner
Sometimes you put off tasks because they seem too intimidating to do alone. No man is an island. Ask for help. Form a mastermind group, find a mentor, join a support group. You need not do it all by yourself.
Founder and Certified Business Coach, ThinkTyler
Improve your environment
Your surroundings can either help or impede your productivity. Be especially cautious of technology, such as your email or messenger that is constantly pinging to notify you that someone has contacted you.
Social media can cause procrastination, internet “research” that takes you off course, and phone calls. So, during your scheduled block of time for working on a specific task:
- Close your email and IM
- Turn off your phone or at least set it to “Do Not Disturb” and put it out of sight
- Don’t allow yourself to go online until you’ve completed the task
- Postpone any necessary internet searches until the end
Get started right away
Have you ever arrived at work and said, “Oh, let me just check social media first“? If so, you’re probably aware of how rapidly time may pass. So frequently, we sabotage ourselves by doing other things before work when getting started is the most difficult aspect, especially if you suffer from chronic laziness or procrastination.
Just get started! However, you can mislead your mind into commencing work first. Try convincing yourself that you’ll just work for the first 5 or 10 minutes before checking social media, email, or whatever else comes to mind. You’ll probably discover that those things can wait.
Time blocking is an excellent method
An excellent method that can help to get out of the endless loop of procrastination and get things done is time blocking. It’s a time management format in which you set aside blocks of time for specific tasks.
As a result, you break your day into segments dedicated to doing one type of work instead of trying to do it all at once. The rule is to not give in to the urge to multitask but to focus on a single thing.
Work in sprints and take regular breaks
Another recommendation of mine, similar to time blocking, is to work in sprints and take regular breaks. In 2014, DeskTime’s study found the golden work-break ratio, which is shared by the 10% of the most productive people: 52-17.
The secret of this method lies in having 52 minutes of purposeful work, which is followed by a well-deserved 17-minute break. Smaller chunks of work make it more digestible and your focus better.
Vice President, National Karate Kobudo Federation
When we are feeling lazy, it’s because doing nothing often means avoiding the possibility of failure, stress, or injury. It’s not that you don’t think you’ll achieve your goals; it’s a deeper belief that you won’t achieve the results you want. Having a mental battle with yourself often leads to defeat and depression, with a sedentary state result.
The key is accountability
When you have someone that depends on you, now you have no choice but to do the things that you don’t want to do. When you have friends in a hobby, club, or sport that depend on you showing up, it’s hard to convince yourself not to go. It’s easier to block out the mental beast that holds you back.
Now, focus on the goal that you want to achieve and which you’ve been feeling lazy about. Visualize the time it will take to achieve it, whether it’s three days, three weeks, three months, or three years. Ask yourself if it’s possible to pick a date and time each day to do this task.
For example, I like to write blogs about my hobby from 7 am to 8 am while I drink my coffee.
Now, find a bigger reason to attribute your goal that extends beyond yourself. Make your goal less self-centered. Are you looking to get in shape so you’ll feel better about your body image?
Let’s make that goal focused on building a healthier body for the sake of your loved ones and your personal longevity. Perhaps you’d like to draw each day to improve your skills, now pick an hour to teach your daughter or nephew, etc., and bond with them for an hour.
When you involve your family, friends, or community in your life, it creates accountability and strengthens relationships that will fill your heart and reward you in ways you never imagined. Make your goals bigger than yourself and the rewards will become bigger as well.
You will soon turn procrastination into motivation.
Tutor, My Tutor Source
Laziness and procrastination are just bad habits that can change with time and by following certain strategies. Internet is filled with plenty of tips to overcome procrastination and laziness, and here I am, sharing two suggestions from my personal experience.
Use the 2-minute rule
I have been using the 2-minute rule for so long, and to be honest, It has made my life quite organized and productive.
Here’s how it works: Whenever you feel like putting off your tasks for later, question yourself, how long will it take? If the answer is 2 minutes or less, do it immediately.
This rule is for long or short tasks because it takes only two minutes to make up your mind and set it in motion.
Make honest decisions
I know you all must have read set goals, deadlines or prioritize your work and get rid of distractions. But not all actively work on them, and it is all about mindset and positive mentality.
That’s why I suggest you take a break, allow yourself to relax, and make honest decisions. Get track of everything and due dates. Make a framework, calculate the future cost of your current decision and hold yourself accountable for everything.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is laziness the same as procrastination?
No, laziness and procrastination are not the same things. While both can lead to a lack of productivity, they have different underlying causes.
Laziness refers to a general unwillingness to do something, while procrastination involves putting off certain tasks or responsibilities. Procrastination is often triggered by anxiety or fear of failure, while laziness is more related to a lack of motivation or goals.
Understanding the difference between these two habits is essential to effectively address them and improve your productivity.
What are the types of procrastination?
Classic procrastination: This involves delaying tasks until the last minute or beyond the deadline.
Perfectionist Procrastination: This involves putting off due to fear of failure or the belief that the task must be perfect, leading to indecision and inaction.
Overwhelmed procrastination: This form of procrastination occurs when a person feels overwhelmed by the sheer number or complexity of tasks, leading to avoidance and procrastination.
Avoidant procrastination: This is procrastination due to fear of discomfort, such as unpleasant feelings or physical discomfort associated with the task.
Arousal procrastination: This occurs when individuals find that they work best under pressure, which leads them to put off tasks until the last minute to create a sense of urgency and arousal.
Complacency procrastination: This is procrastination due to a sense of complacency or satisfaction with the current situation, resulting in a lack of motivation or urgency to take action.
Is procrastination a sign of poor time management?
Procrastination can be a sign of poor time management, but that isn’t always the case. While procrastination can definitely lead to poor time management and missed deadlines, many other factors can also contribute to this habit.
For example, procrastination can be triggered by anxiety or fear of failure that has nothing to do with your ability to manage your time effectively. External factors such as unexpected interruptions or competing priorities can also affect your ability to manage your time well.
However, improving your time management skills can reduce procrastination and increase overall productivity.
How can one differentiate between procrastination and taking a break?
Procrastination and taking a break can seem similar, but some crucial differences exist.
Procrastination is about actively avoiding tasks or responsibilities that need to be completed, often due to feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Taking a break, on the other hand, is a conscious decision to withdraw from work to rest and refresh the mind.
One way to distinguish between procrastination and taking a break is to set clear boundaries for yourself. When you take a break, you should have a concrete plan for how long you will rest, what activities you will engage in during the break, and when you will return to work. Procrastination tends to be open-ended and unstructured.
Another way to distinguish the two types is to pay attention to your internal state. When you procrastinate, you may feel guilty or anxious about not working. When you take a break, you should feel refreshed and energized, not guilty or stressed.
It’s also important to consider the context of your behavior. If you have been working for an extended period without taking a break at all, the desire to take a break is likely the result of burnout or fatigue rather than procrastination.
However, regularly avoiding tasks that need to be done even when well-rested may be a sign of procrastination.
What role does self-discipline play in overcoming procrastination?
Self-discipline plays a significant role in overcoming procrastination. Procrastination is often triggered by a lack of motivation, fear of failure, or the tendency to prioritize short-term pleasures over long-term goals.
Developing self-discipline is about cultivating the ability to resist immediate gratification and focus on long-term goals. This can include making a plan, setting specific deadlines, and holding yourself accountable for keeping your commitments.
With self-discipline, individuals can develop healthy habits and routines that prioritize productivity and work toward achieving their goals rather than being distracted by procrastination.
While developing self-discipline can be challenging, it’s an important skill to overcome procrastination and succeed in various areas of life.
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