In order to have a successful life, be it professionally or personally, it is necessary to set some goals in advance. This is necessary if you want to achieve them and avoid procrastination.
Aside from the lack of planning, one of the biggest enemies of a successful life is procrastination. But don’t worry, you are not doing this on purpose.
Why do people procrastinate?
People often believe that procrastination is merely a matter of willpower, but in reality, the situation is much more complex than that.
Accordingly to the Association for Psychological Science, procrastination is an old friend of ours. They write that “the Roman consul Cicero called procrastination “hateful” in the conduct of affairs”.
When we are faced with a decision to be made or a task to be accomplished, we usually rely on our self-control. Our motivation, which is based on the expectation of receiving some reward for our efforts, can provide support for our self-control and make us more likely to do things the right way.
Nevertheless, anxiety and fear of failure can lead us to postpone a task, as well as having to do unpleasant work, or having to work in an environment full of distractions.
In addition, there are some complicating circumstances that interfere with our self-control and motivation, which also makes us more susceptible to procrastination. For example, mental exhaustion, a hard day, etc.
In a nutshell, procrastination is a human condition, linked to the fact that, biologically, you are programmed to conserve energy. Your brain may sometimes work against you in order to save the precious energy, that was once so important to be kept.
We do a great job providing motivational posters to help you to achieve your goals, but you also have to understand why you are procrastinating.
Overcome your procrastination to achieve your daily goals
In general, we procrastinate when our self-control and motivation are overcome by negative factors such as anxiety or dislike of the task.
In order to change this behavior, you can trick your brain. Learn how.
1. Define concrete goals instead of abstract ones
People are more likely to procrastinate when their goals are vague or abstract compared to when their goals are concrete and clearly defined.
For example, some goals such as “workout more” or “start exercising” are relatively vague and therefore can lead to procrastination. On the other hand, a goal such as “going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday right after work and spending at least 30 minutes on the treadmill running at high speed” is something concrete and therefore much more likely to lead you to take that attitude.
In addition, goals that are perceived as highly unlikely to be achieved are perceived as being fairly abstract. If a person believes that a goal is not likely to be attained, this may increase the likelihood that he or she will procrastinate.
2. Reward yourself constantly and as soon as finish your goals
People tend to devalue the rewards that are in the distant future. This means that if a person has a task they need to perform, but knows that they will receive the reward over a relatively long period, they are likely to postpone that task.
Consequently, people often work more when they choose to engage in activities that give them short-term satisfaction, rather than working on tasks that would lead to better results in the long term.
The more in the future a reward is, the less important is the time to accomplish the task, because the perceived value of this reward has been reduced.
Similarly, although there is a big difference between receiving a reward on the same day and receiving it in one year. Lastly, bear in mind that the same concept can also be applied to punishments. Essentially, this means that the farther in the future a possible punishment happens, the less a person may worry.
Break a big goal into smaller ones and celebrate the achievement of each one of the smaller goals.
3. Reconnect with your future self to stop procrastination
People sometimes procrastinate because they perceive their future selves as detached from their present selves.
Essentially, this disconnection between the present self and the future self can lead to procrastination, making them think that their present selves are not responsible for the goals of their future selves.
For these people, the future self is the one who will have to deal with any task being postponed. Or deal with any consequences by not being able to complete these tasks in the present.
For instance, someone can successively postpone getting to eat healthier, even if this was a recommendation from his or her doctor. For this person, the harmful impact of today’s diet seems like someone else’s problem.
In order to overcome this problem, you should constantly remind yourself that the consequences of your choice will be felt by yourself, not by some distant being yet to exist.
4. The best is the enemy of the good
People sometimes avoid acting in the present because they are submerged by the number of choices that modern life offers.
They usually wait and expect for something better to happen, like the better job, the better partner, or the better diet.
Instead of expecting something better that may never come to exist, take advantage of the existing good options available now. Your future goals depend on your ability to start acting now.
5. Don’t be overly optimistic
It seems counterproductive to say this, but the truth is that people sometimes procrastinate because they are overly optimistic about their ability to complete their goals in the future.
For example, a student may decide to postpone the beginning of a job that should be delivered in a few weeks, because he believes there will be enough time to do it later.
In many cases, this form of optimism may occur as a result of underestimating the time needed to complete some task.
6. Limit your choices
People sometimes procrastinate because they are unable to make prompt decisions. This can be a problem when a decision is required in order to achieve goals.
For example, a person may delay dieting because they cannot decide which diet to follow.
The more options you have, the harder it will be for you to choose. The closer your options are to each other in value, the harder it will be for you to decide.
Finally, the more important the choice, the harder it will be for you to choose. Essentially, the greater the consequences of making a decision, the more difficult it will be for you to make a final decision.
The tip here is, don’t get overloaded with too many options. An example: if you need to choose a book to read, pick only 2 or 3 and stop the research until you read one of them.
Do you need more tips to avoid procrastination? See this Pinterest board!
7. Break down your tasks into small parts
People sometimes procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed with the tasks they have to deal with. This usually happens when you have a single task that seems huge or a large number of small tasks that add up.
When this happens, one may simply decide to avoid or postpone duties, but ends up feeling paralyzed for not making any moves.
If this is your problem, break the problem into small pieces and solve them one by one, celebrating every time you conclude a small goal.
8. Deal with your anxiety with professional help
People sometimes procrastinate because they feel anxious about a task they have to deal with. For example, someone may feel anxious just thinking about seeing a dentist and delaying it. But procrastination will not make the problem go away.
This can be especially problematic in cases where the anxiety increases as the result of the procrastination, which can lead to a cycle of responsive feedback that will trigger a phobia.
If you can’t handle the anxiety on your own, ask for professional help.
9. Make the task attractive
People tend to procrastinate because they are sometimes reluctant to perform the tasks they need to do. This happens mainly because the more people find a particular task unattractive, the more likely they are to want to avoid it.
For example, if you need to call someone you don’t like, you can postpone it instead of just finishing the task.
Someone may procrastinate because he perceives a task as frustrating, tedious, or boring, or he may procrastinate because he believes there is a gap between the difficulty of the task and his own competence, which means he feels that the task is very difficult to deal with.
If this is happening to you, try to make the task more attractive. If you hate going to the gym, but love watching Netflix, bring your tablet with you and watch something while you are there.
Includes something that you like after or during the task completion.
10. Ask for the opinion of those who trust in your potential
People sometimes procrastinate because they are afraid to be evaluated or because they are scared of receiving negative feedback.
For example, someone may postpone the promotion of a project they worked on because they are concerned about what other people will think about it.
In many cases, this fear is exaggerated or unjustifiable, either because the chances of receiving negative feedback are low, or because the consequences of this feedback are not as significant as you might think.
Furthermore, observe that in some cases it is possible this same fear can make people less likely to procrastinate, motivating them to do their job properly.
If you are afraid of negative feedback, start by talking to people that you trust. Also, remember that you will not be able to please everyone.
11. Develop your skills
People sometimes procrastinate in order to attribute their failures to their own procrastination, and not to their lack of skills.
A student might procrastinate instead of studying for a test because he would rather know that he/she failed due to his/her procrastination. This is better than recognizing that failure happened due to his/her incapacities to focus and study.
As a result of this defense mechanism, certain procrastinators spend more time procrastinating if they believe they are likely to fail. Especially if they feel that a failure will reflect badly on them.
If you are procrastinating because you don’t feel prepared, focus more on developing your skills.
In a nutshell
There are many other reasons why people procrastinate and don’t achieve their goals.
But the most important thing to retain is that you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself! Your brain will do things that you may not be rationally aware of.
The greatest thing to do is to look for external help whenever you need it. Ask for feedback from people that you trust, motivate yourself and reming you of how great you are.
We already trust in you, but you also have to trust in yourself!