Updated: Jan 17
While many people think procrastination is a result of laziness or apathy, it can actually be a coping mechanism for some other underlying issue or life stressor. With that in mind, finding the right tactic to overcome procrastination depends on the root cause. From there, you can dig deep and find a solution that works for you.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination stems from the Latin word “procrastinare,” which means to put off until tomorrow. Dr. Sirois and Dr. Pychyl of the University of Sheffield stated that procrastination is a “form of self-regulation failure that involves the primacy of short-term mood repair and emotion regulation over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” In other words, we push off things in the short term to feel better and avoid any negative feelings that may result from doing the work.
Why do we procrastinate?
If you want to overcome procrastination, you should start by peeling back the layers to understand why you procrastinate, or the root cause. Procrastination can stem from emotional issues such as fear (including fear of failure), self-doubt, burnout, and even health conditions. Studies have shown that procrastination can be the result of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and stress. If you fall into this bucket, it’s important to speak with the appropriate medical or mental health professional to properly diagnose and treat your symptoms. Other times, procrastination can result from deeper feelings or aversions to the task at hand.
How to Stop Procrastinating
So now that you have a good understanding of what procrastination is, how do you overcome it? Here are a few of our tips to help you overcome procrastination:
Box Scheduling (or timeboxing) is a timemanagement and productivity hack that involves setting specific time frames for specific tasks (or categories of tasks) to be completed. Timeboxing allows you to batch items in your to-do list according to different categories of tasks, and allot a specific amount of time to complete each one. To make box scheduling effective, it’s important to take your list from your handwritten to-do list and onto your calendar. Schedule your task blocks on a calendar alongside all of your meetings and other obligations to ensure that you are being realistic about what you can get done, and ensure that you are accountable to start and stop each task on time.
Take a Break
Sometimes all you need to beat procrastination is a break. While that may sound counterintuitive, procrastination can be a sign of burnout, and if you’re burnt out what you really need is a break. Give yourself time to relax and recharge so that you can stay motivated about conquering your to-do list rather than dreading it.
Break your goals down into manageable tasks and milestones
When life gets overwhelming, our stress response can send us into fight or flight mode. Procrastination is definitely flight mode. Taking life one step at a time, one moment at a time can help make your goals feel less intimidating and more manageable. Rewarding yourself for reaching different milestones along the way to reaching your ultimate goal can help keep you motivated while allowing you the opportunity to celebrate the small wins.
Follow your bliss
Many times we procrastinate because we’re not interested or passionate about what we’re doing. When we’re living authentically and pursuing passion, we are more likely to stay focused and committed to the task at hand. The advice here is to operate in your genius zone and find a way to either delegate or eliminate the rest.
Be mindful of your diet
Our diet has the power to make or break us, and different foods have been linked to feelings of stress and fatigue, which we know can lead to procrastination. Among these foods that drain your energy are processed foods, refined and added sugars, industrial seed oils, fried foods, and artificial sweeteners. On the contrary, foods that may help you fight fatigue include probiotics, prebiotics, low-GI carbohydrates, healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, saffron, turmeric, and Vitamins B9, B12, B1, B6, A, and C.*
Work with a professional
When motivation is the issue, you might want to consider working with a life coach to keep you on track and accountable to reach your goals. If a mental or physical health condition may be getting in the way, you would benefit from talking with a doctor or health professional to help you understand your underlying condition and treatment options.
Focus on opening your creative channel
This is about learning to receive creative inspiration. Many times when we are attempting to overcome procrastination we react by forcefully trying to push or act. Pushing yourself when your brain or body isn’t up to it will only frustrate you. When you go in the opposite direction and open yourself to receiving whatever comes over you, you allow yourself the opportunity to be inspired. One way to do this is by meditating.
In the age of hustle culture and receiving praise for being perpetually busy, multitasking reigns supreme. However, the truth is that you can’t really do two things at once; in fact, when you’re trying to “multi-task” you’re less effective at each task you’re trying to complete, which can not only lead to a lack of productivity but may also make you feel discouraged and burnt out since you’re working hard but not getting much done. By monotasking, you can devote all of your time and energy to completing one thing at a time and quickly cross it off of your to-do list.
Start your day with intention
When you know your reason, you have a purpose to lead you and guide you through your day. When your to-do list seems never-ending, remember the reason that you are doing the work in the first place to keep you motivated and inspired to show up and give it your all.
This article is not intended to be or take the place of medical advice.
*Be sure to consult your doctor before making drastic lifestyle changes or changes to your diet or supplement intake.