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Procrastination: a 4-step guide to overcoming the habit

Article • 5 min

If you’ve ever read or watched the historical romance Gone with the Wind, you must remember the phrase Scarlett O’Hara used to say: ’I won't think about that today — I'll think about that tomorrow’. Well, she must’ve seen where this trend is going.

The thing is, your productivity batteries need constant charging and unplugging, just like your phone. But what if your brain and body simply refuse to do anything, especially when you have important tasks at hand? 

Getting rid of procrastination is no easy feat. But once you track the moment when your energy is down, you’ll be able to get over procrastination and stay productive. Life coaching sessions with guidance of a productivity coach will come in handy when doing things timely and becoming the new Elon Musk. There are also a few things you can do right now to stop procrastinating, so keep reading.   

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Procrastination in retrospective

A lot of people think today's reality is at fault for making procrastination come into fashion, but that’s a wrong assumption. The habit of putting things off existed centuries ago – the golden time of the world's most famous chronic procrastinators. Take Leonardo Da Vinci, for example. He worked on the legendary Mona Lisa for 16 years! If only one piece took him so long to finish, can you imagine how many other masterpieces he could have created? Even Mozart was lazy enough to write the intro for opera Don Giovanni, so he left this task till the morning before the opera premiered. 

But why are we procrastinating anyway? 

Like most problems we face today, procrastination is a coping mechanism that stems from our mindset. There are multiple reasons behind a failure of self-regulation, starting from perfectionism and ending with low self-esteem. And for each type of procrastinator, there is a set of psychological patterns that define it. So let’s dive deeper into the most common procrastination styles most people adopt to justify their reluctance to do anything.      

The 4 types of procrastinators

The perfectionist - ‘My plan should be flawless’

For perfectionists, everything should be in the right order without missing a single detail. When asked to sign a document, these people will draw each line flawlessly, like their life depends on this task. Such an attitude often distracts perfectionists from actually doing anything productively, as the very thought of doing it wrong scares them.    

The dreamer - ‘I can imagine my plan, it looks awesome’

Unlike perfectionists, dreamers prefer not to think about the complexity of a task at hand, and especially its details. Instead, they focus on the creative side and come up with ideas that often end up on a shelf because it’s hard for them to implement these ideas. Dreamers excel at thinking about a house but not at building it. This prevents them from getting things done from start to finish.

The crisis-maker - ‘I’ll work on my plan later’

Crisis-makers postpone their tasks till the last possible moment. They turn into alarmists only when deadlines are burning and there’s no way back. Time-sensitive tasks ignite their sense of responsibility as they believe only limited timing can motivate them to act. Hence, crisis-makers are convinced that they can achieve the best results only under pressure. 

The avoider - ‘Do I really need to work on my plan?’ 

Avoiders deliberately run away from their tasks because they feel emotionally drained by even thinking about their duties. The palette of emotions can range from anxiety to hopelessness, which results in huge effort to even start doing any work. Avoiders would rather do anything that brings them pleasure instead of diving into the pool of indefiniteness and work-related stress. 

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How to ditch the habit of putting things off?

The best way to get rid of procrastination is to change your perception of it. Our brain enjoys following the old good behavior that doesn’t get us out of our comfort zone. But your brain will be grateful if you bring some novelty to its life and start reframing your attitude to work. Productivity coaches at RiseSpace help their clients using a transparent and effective scheme – they ask navigating questions to understand what causes their procrastination and develop an action plan to stimulate productivity. As always, the first attempt is the most challenging one, but with enough devotion and support, you can learn to do more in less time. Meanwhile, here are some steps you can take now to deal with procrastination:

Step 1. Let your perfectionist take a rest 

Whenever a new task emerges, focus on the end goal of this task and forget about details. For example, if you need to create a business plan, concentrate on its essence: figures, numbers and accurate calculations. You need to estimate the value of your business and return on investments instead of the perfect visual part of your presentation. Also, it’d help if you set a timer to make sure your procrastinator mode is off. This way, you’ll be able to set the right priorities for your task.

Step 2. Stop daydreaming and just do it

Visualizing things in your head is a great exercise for imagination, but not for achieving real goals. To start working on your plan effectively, break the task at hand into several chunks and complete each part of it at specified time. To manage your tasks effectively, try the Pomodoro technique and watch yourself grow from a dreamer to a self-regulation guru. 

Step 3. Isolate yourself from all distractions

When you come to the office knowing you have a project to work on, find enough strength to avoid scrolling your email list or Instagram feed first thing in the morning. Turn off notifications so that no messages pop up on your phone screen and start working on your project. You can start small and do some research first, and then you’ll notice how your level of involvement naturally increases.    

Step 4. Start working earlier

Repeating the habits of Mozart and Leonardo Da Vinci will only bring you stress. Even if you believe in the power of last-minute productivity, it doesn’t mean there’s no other way for you to do the work better. You can change this tendency and start doing anything by forming up a schedule that’s comfortable for you.

For example, try to do some work early in the morning, then return to your tasks a few hours before dinner and keep working until you feel like you’ve done enough for today. At first, you’ll find this habit hard to follow, but as you motivate yourself to work in a schedule that best suits your productivity cycles, you’ll notice the progress. You’ll even start finishing your work earlier as you’ll naturally do more work in the same time period.     

Staying productive is easier than you think 

When it comes to procrastination, it’s hard to stop this habit on its tracks. However, you can learn how to cope with it as long as you keep track of psychological barriers holding you back. Good luck!