You probably did it in college—procrastination statistics find that 87 percent of students say they do—and you probably still do it to this day. We’re talking about procrastination—putting off until tomorrow (or later) what we know we should do today.
The effects of procrastination go far beyond the stress of having to finish something at the very last minute. It can cause interpersonal issues if your teacher, boss or partner is expecting you to meet deadlines. It can also cost you—whether that's a monetary cost of late fees, or an opportunity cost of not filling out a job application before the deadline.
How to stop procrastination: The psychology explained
Many of us are “situational procrastinators,” who delay working on a specific project or chore. But procrastination statistics find that 20 percent of us are actually “chronic procrastinators,” who have trouble completing most tasks.
The top two reasons college students in particular say they procrastinate would likely resonate with the rest of us: Either they are distracted by something else, or they feel overwhelmed and are not sure where to start.
That ends now.
Your four-point plan for how to avoid procrastination
1. Identify your own time-wasting kryptonite.
Social media? Web surfing? TV? Most of us have a screen-based affliction that makes overcoming procrastination challenging. The key to stopping procrastination of this type is to become aware of it. You can try an app like BreakFree that monitors your screen time, or look for a new feature rolling out for Facebook and Instagram that tracks your time in app. The first step in stopping procrastination is being aware of the severity of your time wasted.
2. Use incentives to help in stopping procrastination.
There’s nothing wrong with good old-fashioned bribery when you are taking on a tough task. Dying to devour the latest celebrity gossip online? Instead of reading it and then diving into your sales calls, tell yourself you will make five calls first, then reward yourself with some screen time (be sure to time it, so it doesn’t overtake the rest of the morning!).
3. Break down the task so it’s more manageable.
It might seem impossible to jump right into a complex, multi-step task head on, but tackling it one step at a time might seem less daunting. So no matter how big or small your project, break it down into bite-size tasks you can accomplish in 15 minutes to an hour. If you’re planning to clean out your office, don’t write “Clean office” on your to-do list as it’s far too unapproachable. Instead, commit to going through the papers piling up on the side table one morning. Tackle a drawer the next day. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the job will be completed when you do one task for a steady 30 minutes and then move on.
4. Do something moderately productive as part of procrastination help.
Are you procrastinating on writing up that sales report that’s due Friday? You know you should just dive in, but if you can’t quite take the plunge, then find a related task that might help get you one step closer to working on it. For example, write the cover memo that will accompany it, or research clever presentation ideas. It can be a good tactic for beating procrastination because while you’re still not quite jumping in, you’re not totally wasting time either.
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared in LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, TheGlassHammer.com and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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