Procrastination plagues us all at some point in our lives. Whether out of fear, stress, or avoidance, we all reach a point where we need a game plan for powering through those tasks we just haven’t gotten around to yet. But figuring out how to stop procrastinating and actually get things done can be a daunting task, especially if you have tried many times before. Luckily, you are not alone.
Psychologist Piers Steel, Ph.D., at the University of Calgary, completed a 5-year study on procrastination. At the conclusion of his work, he found that 95 percent of the people he studied reported a habit of procrastination which interfered with their quality of life and mental clarity.
In the long term, failing to figure out how to stop procrastinating led to other problems in financial, personal, and emotional realms of their lives.
Ending the Cycle
You may be thinking that you have heard these tips before, and you always end up procrastinating anyway. Or perhaps you believe that you work better under pressure. Maybe you feel like you will never really know how to stop procrastinating because you just don’t have time to get everything done when you want.
In order to end the cycle, you must focus on starting, rather than finishing.
For example, the task of dieting, losing weight, or just eating better is an enormous undertaking that requires a lifelong commitment. If you focus on starting the process of making better choices (better, not perfect), you will find those moments where you slip up and indulge in something sweet nothing more than a chance to start over.
Think to yourself, “I ate that donut, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. Let me start again. Right now.” This is how you stop procrastinating and start making better choices. You will not only continue to see steady results, but you will also save yourself the mental anguish and self-doubt that comes with telling yourself you failed.
Once you have embraced the idea of focusing on starting you are ready for some concrete steps to help you along the way. These steps come at the recommendation of successful members of the Forbes community.
1: Break Your Goal into Chunks and Address Each One Separately
Learning how to stop procrastinating means taking a hard look at you’re your goal is. If your goal seems so large that you can’t even see where to start, you need to break it down into smaller bits. Don’t get hung up on knowing every single small step you need to take, many of these steps will present themselves along the way and will be easier to complete when they come up organically.
One way to break goals into small pieces is to only write down tasks you can accomplish in 24 hours or less. For example, “Lose 20 pounds” could be broken into, “write a list of foods I’m willing to give up.” The next step might be, “Reduce sodas in a day from three to two,” then “reduce sodas in a day from two to one,” and so on, until you have reduced or eliminated your consumption of all the foods you listed in step one.
2. Give Yourself a Deadline
Not all tasks can be done in 24 hours. Avoid putting a deadline on a large goal unless absolutely necessary. Instead, set a reasonable deadline for each of your smaller goals. For the example from step 1, you may give yourself one week to consistently drink two sodas a day instead of 3, before you allow yourself to move to the next step.
3. Visualize the End
When you feel the thoughts of putting things off rolling in, stop everything and imagine how you will feel when you finish the task. Imagine how the people around you who support you will react when you give them the good news about your next move, or how your family will feel when you have met a financial goal.
4. Address Your Fears and Control Them
Fear of failure or fear of the process itself leads us down a road of excuses. Take a moment to write down or speak out loud to a supportive listener what you are afraid of before you start a task. Being honest with yourself will help you get control of that fear.
Once you have verbalized your fear, think of how you will feel if you do not complete your task at all. What will the consequences be? Then return to the start of the task, and focus on beginning again until you are able to actually start.
5. Reward Yourself
Another important step in learning how to stop procrastinating is finding a way to reward yourself along the way. If you are just starting to end the cycle of putting things off, you may want to reward yourself with a treat every time you begin a task. How often you reward yourself depends entirely on you and your resources.
6. Build a Support System
You will need them while you are learning how to stop procrastinating. Positive, supportive people who are willing to help you stay on track and remind you of how far you have come. This may include checking in daily or weekly with them, informing them of your progress, and talking with them about the next step needed to complete your task.
7. When You Get Distracted, Start Over
Instead of giving up on a task when a life event has taken you away from it for a while, remember that it is about the beginning before it can be about the end. You can’t get a grip on how to stop procrastinating until you learn how to stop stopping.
If you have successfully stopped the cycle of procrastination, we would love to hear from you! Tell us your ideas on how to stop procrastinating in our comments section below.