Do you tend to put off until tomorrow what you can do today? While many of us put things off occasionally, avoiding tasks on a chronic basis can rob you of valuable time and even affect the quality of your life.
Like all habits, procrastination can be changed if you’re willing to put some effort into it. To break the cycle, first try to understand why you put things off. Ask yourself:
- Does the task seem too large? If you feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin, break down the task into smaller steps. Avoid the “all-or-nothing” trap by focusing on one step at a time.
- Do I object to the task? There are many things in life we have to do that we’d rather not. If this is one of them, focus on getting it done and moving on to something you like, rather than getting stuck in your objections. Build in rewards for yourself along the way, and give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
- Do I lack confidence? Ruminating on possible failure won’t help. Interrupt negative thoughts and replace them with more encouraging ones. Instead of thinking, “It’s too hard,” try thinking, “I won’t know until I try. I can always ask for help if I need it.”
- Am I striving for perfection? Perhaps you sometimes say to yourself, “If I can’t do it perfectly, why bother?” Try to have more realistic expectations (around deadlines, quality, etc.), and focus on what you need to do next (rather than the finished product). Accept that you may make errors along the way, and that you can learn from them.
- Am I wasting time with distractions such as idle chitchat? Hold off on these activities and use them as rewards for completing tasks. You’ll still get to enjoy the activities–without the guilt.
If procrastination is interfering with your personal or professional life, consider meeting with a counselor.