That feeling of just not being able to get into our work is one that we all know too well. As enthralling as those funny cat videos on YouTube are, we really should be getting on with it and be productive. So how do we know when it’s time to stop procrastinating and how do we stop? The answers lie in the science of why we procrastinate in the first place.
Why do we procrastinate?
Studies on procrastination have found that this is actually something that is in our genetic code and can run in families. On the genetic level, procrastination is linked to impulsivity and goal management. But that doesn’t mean that the behavior cannot be rectified. The main reasons for procrastination are stress and anxiety. It is proven that procrastination is the brain’s stress reliever and we form a habit from this. Sometimes a task can seem too daunting and we continually put it off. Or the deadline seems so far away that we think we have enough time to keep putting it off… until we realize that the deadline is suddenly right on top of us.
In some extreme cases, people have been known to put off important life decisions for years, or never making them at all. This happens because there is no deadline for these decisions and the only consequence of doing nothing about it is our own disappointment.
Steps to stop the habit
Although it runs in our genes and every human being is wired on some level to procrastinate as a response to stress, it affects some worse than others and a bad habit forms. Fortunately, as with any habit, it can be broken.
Set small goals
Planning the day, week, or years ahead and clearly outlining what needs to happen can help to keep you focused and won’t allow for anything to be forgotten. For daily tasks, a step by step checklist works best.
Acknowledge the stress
When you have that feeling that you can’t focus and you are tempted to switch to social media, or some other form of instant gratification entertainment, stop and think about what it is that’s stressing you out.
Count to five and start
After acknowledging the stress and the feeling of wanting to procrastinate, count to five and make a mental choice to start your work. Research tells us that 80% of the time, once a person starts their work, they will keep going because their mindset has changed.
Eat the frog
When starting the day, highlight the most difficult things to do and do them first. Usually, it is these tasks that are stressing us out and causing the procrastination in the first place. Getting the hard tasks out of the way first will free up the mind to work peacefully for the rest of the day.
A life filled with unfinished projects and regret does not have to be our legacies. The research on procrastination is constantly making new discoveries. The better we understand it, the easier it is to overcome it. So don’t put it off any longer, use these steps and break the habit. There’s no time like the present, so why not get it done?