Procrastination can become a habit. The tasks that you are avoiding aren’t even that unpleasant; you just don’t know how to approach them. It isn’t a sign of laziness, but more a type of denial.
You know there will be negative consequences for not doing the things you need to do, but you attach negativity to that activity, and somehow every other task on your to-do list seems more appealing.
When we procrastinate, it isn’t just that we sit and do nothing, we often make ourselves very busy taking care of things that aren’t urgent, or that don’t really need doing at all. We do this to avoid the negativity that we associate with the task, even though the negative consequences of not doing it will likely be much worse. It’s an avoidance of immediate discomfort.
When we avoid the task, we feel better for a short while, and it is this feeling that we remember, and that causes procrastination to become a habit or a cycle. Deep down we’re still stressed about that task, and we might need to face up to the consequences of not doing it, which isn’t a healthy way to live. Here are 3 tips to stop procrastinating with specific examples.
The Intimidating Task
It often helps to get to the bottom of why we don’t want to complete a particular item on our to-do list. One common reason is that a task contains an element of the unknown, or is so serious that we don’t feel up to the challenge. Self-doubt can creep in and persuade us that we can’t do it, which leads to us finding other things to do.
One example of this could be dealing with your finances and taxes. Perhaps you have some unfiled taxes, or you are facing your first income audit. You know that dealing with it head-on will help, but you just don’t know where to start. The best way to deal with this intimidating task is to acknowledge that it’s new to you and that you don’t know everything.
Once you accept that it is an intimidating or daunting task, you’ll cut yourself some slack. This is the first step to getting the task done without feeling bad about it. The next time you are browsing online, take a look at a website that can give you some more information. Knowing where to go or who to ask for help will make a big difference.
The Unpleasant Task
It might seem obvious when it comes to understanding why you don’t want to complete an unpleasant task. It involves doing something you don’t want to do; it will require time and effort, and might not make us feel great while we do it. The main consequence of these tasks is that we’ll have to do them eventually, or someone else will, which produces guilt.
These kinds of tasks can include cleaning the bathroom or washing a large stack of dishes. There are twenty other things that you can think of doing that will be more pleasant than this task, and so you end up ironing your shirts rather than pulling on your rubber gloves. Finding a task that is more unpleasant than the one you need to do only transfers the procrastination to another task.
One of your best options here is to admit that the task isn’t fun, but agree with yourself that you can try to make the most of it. Try teaming up with your partner or flatmate to make the experience more enjoyable. Another option is putting on some music to help distract you and make the time pass quickly, or setting up a reward for once you are done.
Fear of Failure
Sometimes there are tasks we won’t go near because we have to put our money where our mouth is. It could be our idea of other people’s expectations, or it could be just ourselves that we are scared of disappointing. These tasks aren’t unpleasant, but they can fall into the intimidating category.
There is something more to our procrastination here. We are frightened of the results. Many people don’t take steps towards things that they have dreamed of because it might mean letting go of that dream. It could be sending your book to a publisher, performing your music in front of an audience, or taking the first steps to change your career.
This form of procrastination involves many excuses. We’d rather cling to the possibility of what if than to find out for sure. Admitting that we are scared is a difficult but necessary step. One path includes a possibility for success, and the other is sure to head to failure. That is the route of procrastination.
One of the most important parts to get around procrastination is to admit to ourselves that we do it, to not be too harsh on ourselves, and to face up to what really makes us feel uncomfortable. It isn’t easy, but neither is the alternative in the long run.