Are you that guy who always waited until the night before to write his 10-page term paper? Do you spend hours on YouTube or Facebook rather than preparing for a big meeting? If so, you may be part of the 20% who identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. Scientists define procrastination as the voluntary delay of an action even when you’re aware of negative future consequences. Rather than getting the job done, you may choose a short-term pleasure (hello social media) instead. While it may seem like a common, inconsequential habit, researchers believe chronic procrastination can lead to significant issues in relationships, jobs, finances, and health — not to mention the constant stress it causes.
Even if you’ve procrastinated ever since you received your first homework assignment in elementary school, you can still beat the cycle. It just takes a little determination and some simple steps to get you started.
1. Plan it out
Take five minutes to plan out your day and make a list of the things you want to accomplish. Write down the tasks you want to accomplish and assign each with a set date and time to hold yourself accountable. By making specific and detailed plans, you are placing real deadlines on the things you may normally blow off for more appealing distractions. By writing down the goals you have for the day, week, or month, you are putting those items front of mind, lowering the chances you’ll forget about the not-so-fun tasks you need to accomplish.
2. Break it up
Rather than worrying about that giant project looming over you, break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. Take your list of to-dos and break each into smaller chunks so instead of sitting down to prepare an hour-long presentation you are simply starting the PowerPoint document and choosing a theme and style. When the task feels manageable, you’re more likely to do it. You can do this at work, school, or even with your personal life. Make sure you take the time to prioritize based on deadlines.
3. Get rid of distractions
If you get to know your regular procrastination pit stops, you can make efforts to eliminate them. Maybe you choose to surf the internet rather than work. If so, make it one step harder to go online by turning off your laptop’s Wi-Fi or forcing yourself to log in to your social media accounts each time you want to access them. By making your go-to distractions one step harder to get to, it’ll help you stay on track.
4. Get it over with
Rather than putting the worst task at the bottom of your to-do list, move it to the top. By getting the task that intimidates you or stresses you out done first, you are getting rid of that dark cloud hanging over your day. Focus your energy on getting it done, remembering that by doing so you are freeing yourself for the rest of the day. Once you get it done you will feel relieved, relaxed, and proud of yourself, making the rest of your day and the smaller tasks ahead seem easy.
5. Reward yourself
Its important to remember when you procrastinate you are actually fulfilling legitimate needs and desires. Maybe watching TV provides you with relaxation or choosing to spend an hour on Instagram rather than work gives you a sense of freedom. When you take steps to stop procrastinating it is important to reward yourself with those feelings of relaxation, freedom, distraction, or entertainment you got from choosing to procrastinate. Choose to take care of important tasks first, but don’t neglect the reward phase when you allow yourself incentives for a job well done.