Everyone has days when they put off doing certain tasks, but there are some who go beyond the occasional bouts of putting things off. Procrastination makes it difficult to start on even the smallest to-do-lists, sometimes delaying tasks to the point of destroying productivity, increasing stress and magnifying health problems. It is common for procrastinators to have sleep issues and experience anxiety when they don’t get things done.
Although procrastinators are often labeled as lazy, it is actually a serious problem that affects their self-esteem because of the guilt, and it may lead to serious mental and physical health issues. If you struggle with “putting things off” or resort to self-destructive behaviors that may be the first steps on the path to treatment for alcohol abuse, the following tips may help you fight procrastination.
Break Tasks into Smaller Projects
Large projects can seem overwhelming, which may cause you to put off doing them. Instead of trying to tackle one large project, break it up into smaller tasks. For example, if you have a 1,000-word report due, instead of tackling the entire report, create an outline for each highlight of the report, breaking it up into smaller sections and then give yourself a time limit for each section.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can affect you in a number of different ways, both mentally and physically. To make matters worse, procrastination doesn’t only prevent you from completing tasks, but it may also keep you awake at night.
Procrastination may be the result of a reduced capacity for self-regulation, which means that you aren’t able to control your behavior, including the ability to go to sleep at night, so it’s like a double-edged sword; you’re unable to go to sleep and the lack of sleep affects your ability to focus the next day. Getting plenty of sleep is essential for limiting procrastination for several reasons. A sleep deficit can lead to:
- Lower alertness and concentration
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired memory
- Challenges with learning new information
Reward Your Accomplishments
Accomplishing even the smallest of tasks deserves a reward. Decide on something that you want to do or have and create a list that correlates your rewards with the tasks. For example, if there is a television series on demand that you want to watch, schedule one episode per task. It’s important to not start watching until you have completed each task associated with the number of episodes you are rewarding yourself with.
There are other ways to reward yourself as well. For instance, if you find that you tend to stop working on tasks to go on social media sites, make this a reward instead; for each task that you complete, allow yourself 10-20 minutes on social media, but until you have completed the tasks, turn all social media sites off.
Make a Daily Calendar
The most common statement made by procrastinators is “I’ll do it when I have time.” Unfortunately, these and many other projects tend to never get done. It’s important to create a calendar to schedule a time for each task you need to complete each day. Scheduling tasks will allow you to visually see what and when tasks are due, and it will help you to be accountable for things that did and did not get done. Each morning gather your thoughts, think about what needs to be done, and create a realistic schedule for the day, and put a checkmark beside each task as you complete it.
It’s extremely important to set aside a designated amount of time each day to work without any interruptions. The easiest way to accomplish this is to clear your desk, close all social media and do not open your email until you have reached the goals you have set yourself for the day. You will get a lot more accomplished if you allow yourself to get fully invested in a task without dividing your attention up elsewhere. Eliminate any potential distractions, including not having a television on near where you are working and avoiding stopping to talk to coworkers, family or friends.
Procrastinators tend to put off larger, more detailed tasks until they are pushed beyond their deadline. The best way to avoid the risk of missed deadlines is to choose one priority task — something that is causing you the most stress — and don’t work on anything else until it is completed. Once you have the stressful chores out of the way, the smaller tasks will fall into place.
The most important thing you can do to overcome procrastination is to be realistic in your goals. Keep in mind that most projects take longer than you expect, so allow for extra time. Figure out the time of day that you are the most productive and use these times to fill in your daily schedule. For instance, if you aren’t a morning person, don’t expect to get up and start a difficult task first thing in the morning. Instead, schedule the job for later in the morning or early afternoon.
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