According to some studies, over 90% of us suffer from procrastination once in a while and around 20% of us suffer from it frequently. In this article, you will learn how to stop procrastination.
How Can I Know When I Am Procrastinating?
You usually procrastinate when:
- There is a list of tasks that is pending.
- You postpone a task for a long time before you start handling it.
- You wait for the right mood to start the task.
- There is an important task to do, but you instead take out your phone, to play games or go on social media.
- You would start an important task and then you go on a coffee break after a short while.
All in all, you know that you are procrastinating when you have an important task at hand. It could be something that you hate or not thrilled about. And you choose to do something that is less important and irrelevant instead.
Here is a fun fact – in 2002, the total amount in tax over payments caused by procrastination was $473 million in the United States alone!
You can see that we all suffer from procrastination at times.
How Do I Stop Procrastinating?
You might have come across several tips to overcome procrastination that have mostly been ineffective. But don't worry, in this article, you will learn the one and only effective way to overcome procrastination.
But before we get there, in order to overcome procrastination fully, we must first answer to the following questions:
Why is procrastination so natural and so very common?
Why does it happen to everyone out there?
Once we know the answer and understand the reason, we will know how to stop it completely.
Many of our psychological properties have physiological reasoning and advantages. In fact, we inherited them after 1000s of years of evolution. That is why; we can see similar behavioural traits in animals too!
2 Main Reasons for Procrastinating
1. The Hamster Effect: If you ever had a hamster, then you’d know what I am talking about.
If you approach a hamster’s cage quickly, what does the hamster do? The Hamster senses danger and it realizes that it needs to do something. At the same time, it is overwhelmed and unsure on how to get away from this potential danger.
So what does it do now? It starts doing a secondary and momentarily irrelevant activity – cleaning itself (although it is a useless activity at this time)!
This is similar to what happens in our lives. Instead of handling the important or big problem at hand (whose solution we are not sure of), we start doing more pleasant and secondary things.
In a study where students were asked about procrastinating, most of them said that they procrastinate because either other things distract them, or they get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
2. The Dog’s Territorial Instinct.
Let us explore the dog’s territorial instincts as an analogy before going further. Dogs have instincts to protect their territory. In most situations, if a stranger enters the dog’s territory, the dog will attack the intruder.
However, at times, when another dog is present near the boundary of the territory, the dog is confused as to what he should do. Should he still be protecting his territory because the other dog is just near the boundary? He does not know whether to fight or ignore it.
So what does the dog do? He starts digging the ground! Since there is an additional stress of conflict of interest, the dog starts doing some other irrelevant and contextually meaningless act.
Humans do the same thing when there is a conflict of interest. At any given time, we might have more than one task to do:
- one that is important to be done now,
- one that is important for the future,
- one that is pleasant/fun to do,
- one that has been given to us by others
When there are multiple tasks at hand, there is conflict of interest. We are not sure which task we should prioritise and which ones we must keep for later.
In such situations, we tend to do the least significant and the least challenging tasks rather than address the bigger problems.
To sum up, the two main reasons for your procrastination are:
(i) You are overwhelmed and so are unsure about how to solve the problem.
(ii) There is stress created by the conflict of interest.
Now that you know the reasons for your procrastination, let’s get to the fun bit –
What Is the Most Effective Solution To Our Procrastination Problem?
This solution contains only one additional thing (that too, a very pleasant addition)! There are two steps:
In the beginning of the day, ask yourself this question –
“What is the 1 most important task that I have to perform today?”
Start your day doing this task for about an hour at least.
At first, this advice might seem trivial. But on a closer look, you’ll realise that with this habit, you will avoid potential conflict of interest, and will therefore, not get distracted by lesser important things.
Moreover, we often procrastinate from doing important tasks because they overwhelm us. This tip will avoid that, as you’ll be working on this task for only 1 hour every day.
Knowing for a fact that your effort might not yield results for years might discourage you. So by keeping it simple and working on it for 1 hour every day, you’ll make gradual but steady progress towards your goal.
Plan a reward that you will give yourself for doing this task. Do this also, at the beginning of the day. The reward can be anything – an activity that you like doing or food that you like to eat etc.
Usually, when we procrastinate, we replace the harder thing to do with more pleasant things like coffee breaks, using the phone, playing games etc.
So, by following the suggested sequence of steps, you are not taking the reward away from yourself. You are just using the reward to motivate yourself to work on a more important task, even if it is unpleasant, for just an hour.
To overcome procrastination, there is one simple yet effective solution. It involves two steps:
Step 1: In the beginning of the day, ask yourself this question –
“What is the one most important task that I have to perform today?”
Start your day by doing this task for about an hour at least.
Step 2: Reward yourself for Step 1.