5 Tips for Overcoming Procrastination and Feeling Overwhelmed

Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, according to a 2007 American Psychological Association study, between 80% and 95% of college students procrastinate when it comes to completing their assignments and coursework.((American Psychological Association study: Study finds up to 95 percent of college students procrastinate))

And, from my experience as a life coach, I’ve come to believe that this percentage range continues beyond college and into working life.

You may be surprised to hear, but… I was a super-procrastinator when I was young!

At the time, it felt good and normal to put things off to the very last minute, such as studying for my exams or preparing for an interview.

However, while a procrastination mindset ‘might’ get you through college — it won’t work when it comes to your career.

That’s because the vast majority of jobs involve teamwork; and if you continually promise things but fail to deliver them (such as a project plan or briefing notes for a meeting), your colleagues will quickly notice. And, they’ll quickly become frustrated and annoyed by your lack of actions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a time and place for procrastination. For example, if you’re given a high-priority task to complete, you’ll probably need to delay working on a lower-priority task (this is actually a good time management technique). However, if you procrastinate with all your tasks — then you’ll need to find a way to break free from this productivity-killing habit.

But, let’s pause for a moment, and ask the question: Why do most people procrastinate?

Well, according to Alexander Rozental, a procrastination researcher and a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden:((Time: Psychologists Explain Why You Procrastinate — And How to Stop))

“People procrastinate because of a lack of value associated with the task; because they expect that they’re not going to achieve the value they’re trying to achieve; because the value is too far from you in terms of time; or because you’re very impulsive as a person.”

Do you recognize yourself in any of those points? If you do, don’t worry, as help is at hand.

Check out my 5 tips for defeating procrastination and getting your life back on track:

1. Get Started

Whether you’re cleaning a closet or planning your team’s next quarterly goals — getting started is half the battle towards completion.

Many writers have learned this the hard way. They often suffer from something called “writer’s block,” a psychological condition which causes them to be unable to produce any new material. There are numerous opinions on how to overcome this, but the best way by far, is for the writer to simply start writing! 

You’ve probably noticed something similar in your own life. When you finally get started on something, you get it done much more easily or quickly than you initially planned. In other words, it wasn’t as hard as you thought.

As Laotzu once declared: 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

So don’t hesitate. Take that first step. And put yourself above and beyond procrastination.

2. Don’t Be Dramatic 

Are you putting off something that would honestly take you 15 minutes to complete?

If so, my advice to you is… just do it!

This will ensure the task is done and that you also stop wasting time fretting and stressing about it.

Personally, I believe that people spend more time procrastinating than they do on completing their tasks. It’s true. Just think of how long you put off washing your car or preparing your tax returns. If you’re like most people, I guarantee that you think for days and weeks about doing these or similar tasks, before actually doing them.

It’s easy to dramatize the things you need to do — but it’s much better to just do them.

3. Schedule Your Time 

Are you in control of your time?

Whether you answered yes or no to this question, try this test:

You’ve just finished your dinner, and you’re enjoying browsing the latest posts on your favorite social media channel. Suddenly, your partner calls over to you and asks you to help clear up the kitchen.

Do you…

  1. Say you’ll do it in 10 minutes or so.
  2. Put your phone down and get into the cleaning straightaway.
  3. Pull a face and say, “I’m not doing it!”

Hopefully, you didn’t choose option 3! Option 1 is better (at least you’ll get the task done). But, option 2 is the one you should be aiming for if you want to be productive and successful in life.

That’s because it neatly illustrates the power of prioritizing your time. Sure, you want to check your social media feed, but that’s not as important as making sure your kitchen is clean and tidy after your meal.

If you have something you’re procrastinating with, my recommendation is to schedule an hour or so within your calendar to complete it. Google calendar works well for this, as you can set up reminders. Then — when the time comes — dedicate your focus solely to completing your task.  

4. Break It Down 

Often we feel overwhelmed because a task is just too overbearing. In this case, break the task into small, bite-sized chunks that can easily be checked off.

For example, if you have to create a newsletter for your company, don’t be defeated by the scope of the work. Instead break it down:

  • Decide on table of contents
  • Research on topics
  • Draft the copy
  • Put the copy into layout software
  • Print
  • Distribute

And, here’s the best part of breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones: As you check off each task, you’ll build a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you progressively chip away at your end goal.

Breaking down your tasks can save YOU from breaking down!

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Don’t dwell on the past and how much time you’ve already used up. You won’t get it back; so it’s pointless to despair. Instead, focus on moving forward and doing better next time.

Nobody is perfect, so it’s unfair and unproductive to put yourself down each time you fail. And, remember, you’re not going to defeat your procrastination habit overnight. But, by starting now, you can begin turning the tide in your favor.

Take the tips I’ve shared with you today, and put them into action in your life.

When you do this, you’ll begin to muster up the motivation to tackle the tasks you need to do. And before long, you’ll be caught up with everything, and ready to take on the world!

One final warning about putting off tasks…

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”  — Christopher Parker

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