If you’re constantly struggling with how to stop procrastinating, you’re not alone. It’s a common struggle for many guys which can be a real pain. When we put things off, stress and anxiety start creeping in. The more we delay, the more tasks pile up, creating a never-ending cycle. We become less productive and efficient, feeling guilty and frustrated for not getting things done earlier. Then we end up rushing through tasks at the last minute, and the quality in many cases suffers.
In this blog post, you’ll get practical tips to tackle procrastination head-on. However, you’ll also be invited to take a positive perspective on procrastination that you might not have considered before.
What Is Procrastination
To avoid confusion and ensure clarity, I like to define terms before discussing them. Let’s start by looking at how dictionaries define procrastination:
Cambridge dictionary defines procrastinate in a sentence that says:
At dictionary.com the meaning of procrastination is:
And Mariam Webster chooses to define procrastinate in a sentence saying:
All three definitions convey the notion of intentionally delaying tasks that need to be done. But the reasons for why we procrastinate are different so let’s go deeper to see – why do people procrastinate?
Causes of Procrastination
If we look at all the reasons why procrastination happens we can sum it up in these three points:
Diffictly to get organised
Poor organisational skills and trouble planning can contribute to procrastination. When we struggle to prioritise and stay focused, it becomes harder to start and complete tasks on time.
Seeking instant gratification
Our brains are wired to seek pleasure, and certain activities release feel-good chemicals like dopamine. If we find ourselves engaging in enjoyable distractions instead of tackling important tasks, it can lower our motivation and make procrastination a habit.
Procrastination often happens because we struggle with negative feelings about a task. If something feels difficult or unpleasant, we tend to put it off to avoid those uncomfortable emotions. We might feel temporary relief by procrastinating, but it only prolongs the cycle.
A new perspective on procrastination
My perspective on procrastination has changed over time. I used to get frustrated with myself for not knowing how to stop procrastinating. It felt like everyone else had it figured out while I kept putting things off. As I dealt with depression in my teen years until 2010, I saw procrastination differently.
It’s important to recognise the negative consequences of procrastination. No doubt. But it’s also worth acknowledging that there can be hidden benefits in certain situations. Knowing these benefits lets you handle procrastination better and use it effectively in your daily life.
Here are three examples:
Being on the right path
At times, putting off a task could be a sign to pause and reflect. Are you on the right path? Your subconscious might be nudging you to take a break and reevaluate. By taking that pause, you could realise if the task is leading you in the wrong direction. You might find that there’s a completely different and more relevant direction you need to take. This might feel daunting initially, but listening to your inner voice sooner rather than later assists in building the life you desire.
Your personality type
Some individuals thrive under pressure. The impending deadline can spark a sense of urgency and inspire creative ideas or problem-solving approaches. For certain people, the pressure of a looming deadline serves as motivation. The rush of adrenaline and urgency that accompany last-minute work can fuel productivity and help them stay focused. If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up for procrastinating. See it as motivation instead if it fits your style.
Finding a better solution
Before you get frustrated and ask yourself how to stop procrastinating, consider whether it’s truly procrastination. What if you see it instead as a choice to get yourself more reflective time. What we often consider as procrastination can actually be an opportunity for valuable reflection. When you delay taking immediate action, you give yourself time to subconsciously process the task or problem. This period of mental incubation can lead to unexpected insights and innovative solutions. Those might not have surfaced if you had rushed into the task right away.
Strategies to Overcome Procrastination
If you’re on the right path and you’re wondering how to stop procrastinating, here are a few simple tools that can help. Choose the ones that you believe will work best for you and have them ready for when you need them.
Focus on the next step only
Instead of getting caught up worrying about the entire task, focus on the immediate next action. Forget about the big picture for a moment and concentrate on taking that one small step forward. By doing this, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed and build up momentum.
Ask yourself this question
What’s the one thing you can do which will make everything else either easier or unnecessary? When I first heard this question in a podcast I found it super helpful and have been using it since. We often overwhelm ourselves with big mountains to climb when in reality one phone call or an email can remove a lot of pressure and bring us back to see a clear road ahead.
Focus on up to three major tasks per day
At the start of each day choose a number of tasks, not more than three, which you fully commit to accomplish. Make sure that you are realistic about the size of the tasks and the time you have. If they are too big you can move some to another day. The tasks don’t have to be big. They just need to move you another step forward.
Create distraction free time blocks
Set specific time blocks for tasks, minimise interruptions, and remove distractions like your phone and notifications. Consider using apps that restrict access to certain websites and apps for a chosen duration. This helps maintain productivity and prevents frequent distractions, such as checking emails or browsing news websites.
Break tasks down
If you get stuck with a task it might just be too big to handle. Big tasks can be overwhelming, so break them down into smaller, manageable steps and focus on tackling one step at a time. Celebrate your progress with each completed step. It’ll keep you motivated and push you forward.
Be kind to yourself
Practise positive self-talk when facing challenging tasks, reframing them as opportunities for growth and progress towards your goals. Forgive yourself for past instances of procrastination and focus on taking productive actions in the present.
Use mindfulness practices
Take a breather and incorporate some mindfulness techniques into your routine. Pause for a moment, do some relaxation exercises, and practice focused breathing. It’ll help you stay present and focused on the task at hand.
Use your body
To get unstuck mentally, get your body moving. Do push-ups, go for a run, or try some star jumps. Taking action like this can shift your emotions from frustration and anger caused by procrastination into focus and motivation to move forward.
Reward your progress
Our brains love rewards, so use that to your advantage. Set up a system where you reward yourself after completing specific parts of a task. Treat yourself to a small break, enjoy a tasty snack, or do something you love. By giving yourself these little rewards, you’ll stay motivated and reinforce those productive behaviours.
Your next steps
Now you have some simple tools that you can use the next time you’re attempting to overcome procrastination. Remember, procrastination isn’t necessarily always negative. So, if you’re consistently struggling with procrastination even when you’re motivated to take action, it could indicate that you’re on the incorrect path. If you’re seeking assistance in discovering a more suitable direction, our offerings at On Being Men can provide support. We help ambitious men align with their purpose, transforming the feeling of being stuck into actions that hold purpose and meaning.