Best Ways to Prevent Procrastination: 5 Experts Weigh In
Procrastination is something that everyone deals with. Sometimes it’s just easy or more convenient to put a task to the side for a while.
However, if you make a habit of this, it can become a big problem.
Procrastination can have many negative effects on your work, your personal life, and your health.
Overcoming it is not easy, though. Procrastination is a bad habit that has deeply-rooted psychological factors that take lots of time and effort to overcome.
In this article, we’ve included tips from licensed psychologists and clinical mental health therapists to help you beat procrastination, one small but effective habit at a time.
Sources of Procrastination
Resistance to working
One of the primary sources of procrastination is the resistance to working or getting things done.
As depicted by Tina Marie Del Rosario, a Clinical Social Worker/Therapist, “When procrastinating it is important to recognize where the resistance is coming from. Is it that you’re tired or burnt out? Is it that the task at hand is boring or tedious? Is it the task at hand challenging?”
Resistance can come from burnout, repetitive tasks, boring tasks, or very difficult tasks. If your work fits any of these categories, it might be one potential source of your procrastination.
If you find out where your resistance is coming from, that can help you overcome it.
Another source of procrastination can be additional health issues. Mental health issues can lead to procrastination and make it more difficult to get work done.
“Prolonged procrastination may be a sign of something more serious, like depression or anxiety. When we're struggling with our mental health, it can be hard to find the motivation to do anything,” says Dr. Harold Hong, a board-certified psychiatrist at New Waters Recovery.
The reason you are procrastinating could be due to underlying issues. Addressing these issues is step one of overcoming your procrastination habits.
How to Prevent Procrastination
The first step is finding the source of your procrastination. Whether it is due to resistance, underlying health issues, or something else, once you find the source of your procrastination, you will be able to slowly make changes that can help you control and reduce your procrastination habits.
Forming positive habits can help you prevent procrastination, although it is a slow process. We’ve listed 8 of the most effective habits below that you should start today in order to prevent procrastination.
Split up your tasks
One of the most simple, yet effective, things you can do to prevent procrastination is to split up your tasks. Whether it is a big task split into different sections or small tasks categorized by the type of tasks, splitting up your tasks can be very beneficial.
Splitting up tasks “will lessen the feeling of overwhelm by giving you an instant win each time you complete a chunk. The more chunks you complete, the more you will be motivated to finish up the rest of it because you’ll realize you’re getting nearer to your goal,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., CEO, Global Keynote Speaker, and Concierge Coach.
If you split up your tasks, it will not only help you get things done, but it will also boost your motivation, which helps you avoid procrastination.
Create a work schedule that works for you
Creating a work schedule can help you avoid procrastination, as the routine and set schedule can help train your brain to be okay with doing work.
“Schedule tasks in your calendar, at a realistic date and time, not during a day when you have many other goals to accomplish,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist Jay Trambadia.
Having a schedule helps you stay on task and motivated to get work done. If you spend time creating a detailed schedule, you will be able to get things done while avoiding procrastination.
Allow time for breaks
It might sound counterintuitive, but not doing work can actually help you boost your productivity and prevent procrastination. If you take breaks, it helps you avoid burnout and stay on task.
The Pomodoro Technique is the most popular, and effective, way to take breaks and work productively.
With the Pomodoro Technique, you work for a set amount of time, take a short break, and then do more work.
Doing this helps you avoid burnout and prevent procrastination by creating a reasonable balance between getting work done and taking time for yourself.
Check out our Best Pomodoro Timers piece to learn more about how to start using the Pomodoro Technique to prevent procrastination.
Get “rewards” for completing tasks
One way you can use psychology to combat procrastination is by giving yourself “rewards” for completing tasks. This can help convince your brain that doing work is good, and even boost your motivation.
Rewarding yourself with a break, a snack, a few minutes of screen time, or something else you enjoy can help you be more motivated to get stuff done and, in turn, avoid procrastinating.
Create a distraction-free work environment
Another factor that impacts procrastination is your work environment. If your work environment limits distractions, you will procrastinate less.
The opposite is also true; if your work environment isn’t empty of distractions, you will be more likely to procrastinate.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while optimizing your work environment:
Limit distractions by putting your phone on silent, only using your work computer/browser, and working away from your TV.
Find a quiet space that you can work in without too much noise to distract yourself.
Get comfortable and find a work environment that you can comfortably work from.
Remove clutter by cleaning up your workspace and keeping only the essentials on your desk.
To get straight to the point, multitasking is not a good idea. It spreads your attention too thin, creating opportunities for mistakes and distractions.
Instead, you should focus on one task at a time. If you can get it done quickly, go ahead and do it.
“I use the five-minute and one-minute rules respectively. So basically, if something takes less than a minute to do, just do it now,” says Licensed Mental Health Counselor Nirmala Bijraj.
If you have a small task that takes less than five minutes, go ahead and do it. It won’t take long, and you can check it off of your to-do list.
If you use the five-minute rule and focus on one task at a time, you will find that you are less likely to procrastinate.
Finish a task before starting a different one
One common habit that chronic procrastinators have is switching to different tasks before finishing the one they are working on.
This is a bad habit to have, as it just distracts you and leads to you not getting any tasks actually completed.
So, make sure to finish the task you’re working on before you start something else. Even if you can’t get it all done in one sitting, make sure you get to a reasonable stopping point before switching to something new.
Finishing one task before moving on to the next can help you avoid procrastination because you get motivation from completing a task, and you are more likely to keep working if you finish something as opposed to working for hours without completing any tasks.
Take mental health days and ask for time off
As we previously mentioned, sometimes not doing work helps you to actually do work.
If you have a healthy balance between working and taking time off, you will be less likely to procrastinate since you will avoid overworking yourself and getting burnt out.
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