How To Stop Procrastinating

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Staying productive and completing all of your projects or tasks on time can help you meet your goals and feel accomplished. There are several ways to prevent procrastination and stay motivated, including visualising the results of accomplishing your goals. In this article, we'll discuss what procrastination is and provide some tips to help you avoid procrastination at work.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of putting off or delaying tasks until the last minute or past their deadline. It's a form of self-regulation failure characterised by the irrational delay or postponement of tasks despite potentially negative consequences. There are several reasons people may procrastinate their tasks, including:

The tasks are less urgent

Tasks or projects with quickly approaching deadlines are usually easier to prioritise over ones that you can complete at any time. For instance, if your manager asks you to organise company documents and doesn't provide a due date, you may continue to procrastinate since you know it is not a priority.

You aren't sure how to begin a task

You may procrastinate on a complex task or a larger task, as you are not sure how to begin it. Not knowing the steps can be one of the reasons you postpone or delay working on a project or task.

You're afraid to fail

You may feel anxious to work on a task or project out of fear that the outcome may not be as impressive as you expected. This usually comes from setting high standards for yourself that can be a bit difficult to meet.

You work better under pressure

You may procrastinate your tasks if you feel that you can perform better when you only have a short period of time to complete them. You might enjoy the feeling of not knowing whether you will complete the tasks on time, which causes you to work harder or stay up late at night to submit before the due date.

There is an urge to complete other projects or tasks first

Some people procrastinate their tasks because they just don't feel the need to complete them. They may instead feel more excited to complete other tasks or activities that sound more engaging to them.

Related: Conscientiousness: Signs You Have the Big 5 Personality Trait

Tips to avoid procrastinating at work

There are several steps you can take to help yourself stay productive and motivated to complete tasks. Here are some tips to help you stop procrastinating at work so you can deliver high-quality projects or assignment on time:

Establish habits using the two-minute method

The two-minute method can be a great way to motivate yourself to build a habit that becomes a routine. If you complete larger tasks in smaller, two-minute increments, they can be easier to complete. For example, if you have a 25-page project proposal to complete, plan to only work on it for two minutes. Start writing the project and set your timer. By the time you reach two minutes, you may feel engaged with your task so that you want to work on it longer.

By starting with short, simple tasks, these habits can become a routine. These easy tasks can help you get started and may encourage you to complete them, even when the project becomes more challenging.

Visualise your goals

Visualise yourself completing the tasks or assignments on your list. Envisioning the positive and accomplished feeling of meeting your goals and completing tasks can help motivate you to complete them. Think about the goals you want to accomplish and the steps it will take to get there. These goals can be getting a raise or advancing in your career. Visualise yourself achieving these goals as you work hard to complete projects and stay on task.

Related: How to Negotiate a Better Salary

Remember your self-worth

It can be challenging to begin a project or task due to a lack of confidence or fear that it may not impress your manager or even yourself. Before you begin a task, take a moment to remember your self-worth and think about your positive qualities. Remember the positive feedback you gained from your managers and coworkers. This can help you boost your confidence and remind yourself of your capability. Also, remind yourself that even if the outcome of your task or assignment is not as impressive as you expected, you are still a valuable asset to your company.

When a task seems challenging, you can give yourself a pep talk by saying something like, "I'm a very talented employee and can complete these projects just like I have conquered many others in the past." This can help boost your self-esteem and put you back into a positive mood.

Related: Interview Question: “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"

Use the Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time management system that encourages you to work with the time you have rather than against it. It can help your brain focus more effectively. Using this method, you divide your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks.

Spend 25 minutes focusing on your task and when your timer sounds, take a five-minute break to complete easy activities such as browsing the internet on your phone or filling up your water bottle. After four 25-minute intervals of working, take a break for 15 minutes. This can help your mind stay focused for a set period of time to ensure portions of your tasks are being completed with little to no distractions.

Accomplish challenging tasks when you are most productive

Many people feel most focused and productive during certain time periods throughout the day. For example, you may get a boost of energy to complete tasks in the afternoon and less motivated early in the morning. Plan to complete complex tasks during your productive moments and easier tasks when you are less productive.

For instance, if you are less motivated in the morning, complete easy tasks such as responding to emails and schedule your more challenging tasks for the afternoon. Completing projects when you are more productive can increase the likelihood of their completion.

Divide larger projects or goals into smaller tasks

Larger goals can seem less overwhelming when you divide them into small tasks. For instance, if you have a 30-slide presentation due and are not sure where to start, create a to-do list of smaller tasks and set a due date for each one. Your first task might be the simplest to make it easier to get started. For instance, the first item on your to-do list when creating the presentation could be to research and review other presentations for inspiration.

Focus on the final product instead of a perfect product

While working on your project, you might feel stuck as you try to make every section seem perfect. To keep yourself motivated and on task, focus solely on completing it instead of making it perfect. Give yourself a break once you complete the task and return to it feeling refreshed and add changes to it. Your proofreading and editing stage is where you can search for any areas that need strengthening or tweaking to improve the quality of the project.

Reward yourself when you complete challenging tasks

Giving yourself a reward when you complete challenging tasks can help motivate you to finish them. Tell yourself something like, "When I am finished with the project, I will buy ice cream and watch my favourite movie." This can give you something to look forward to and can encourage you to complete it on time.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

You can feel more driven and focused if you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of your body and mind can help you build more energy to feel engaged in your tasks. It can also help your brain focus on challenging tasks and work items. You can do this by:

  • Eating healthy meals

  • Practising a healthy work-life balance

  • Exercising regularly

  • Getting an appropriate amount of sleep

Related: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working from Home

Work in a comfortable environment

You may feel more productive if you are working in a comfortable environment. You can improve your work environment by bringing in lamps to make it well-lit, placing more plants at your desks or decorating it for a more at-home and positive feel. Feeling comfortable while you are completing your tasks can make you feel more excited to come to work.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working From Home

Use a schedule to set deadlines

Integrating your to-do list items into your schedule can make your tasks more manageable and can help you set due dates for yourself. You can either purchase a planner or use an online calendar. Write down your deadlines and block off time to work on certain tasks each day. You can also use task management software to help you organise and build due dates for your tasks.

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