Do you find yourself constantly putting off important tasks until the very last minute, causing stress and missed opportunities? Perhaps reading this article in itself means you are procrastinating on something.
Procrastination affects everyone. Whether you’re a student facing a looming deadline, a professional with a stack of unfinished tasks, or someone striving to achieve personal goals, constantly putting things off can prove to be costly.
In this post, we will explore the psychology behind procrastination and provide you with practical strategies to overcome it and start taking meaningful actions towards your financial goals.
Before we dive into the strategies to overcome procrastination, let’s dissect this age-old foe and understand why it’s so pervasive.
So, what is procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying tasks despite knowing that doing so may have negative consequences.
Why do people procrastinate?
There could be many reasons why a person puts things off. It could range from:
- Fear of Failure: This is one of the most common reasons people procrastinate. The fear of not achieving perfection or making a mistake can be paralysing.
- Lack of Motivation: The tasks on hand can sometimes seem dull or overwhelming. Without motivation, you’re more likely to postpone them.
- Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high standards for yourself can lead to procrastination. If you constantly seek perfection in your endeavours, you may delay action out of fear of falling short.
- Poor Time Management: Inefficient use of time can exacerbate procrastination. When you don’t manage your time well, tasks pile up, causing you to feel overwhelmed.
- Distraction and Instant Gratification: Distractions are everywhere. The allure of social media, video games, and other forms of instant gratification can pull you away from important tasks.
Now that we have a better understanding of what procrastinating is and what causes it, here are some strategies for averting it.
Setting SMART goals
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to set clear and SMART goals.
Specific: Start by defining your goals with precision. Rather than a vague statement like, “I want to save money,” articulate a clear and detailed objective. For instance, “I will save $5,000 to establish an emergency fund.”
Measurable: Ensure that your goals are quantifiable. This means you should be able to measure your progress and track your accomplishments. Measurable goals provide tangible evidence of your success, which can serve as motivation and deter procrastination.
Achievable: While ambition is commendable, it’s essential to set goals that are realistic within your current circumstances. Aim for goals that stretch your capabilities but remain attainable.
Relevant: Your goals should align with your broader priorities. Procrastination often creeps in when tasks seem disconnected from your overarching objectives. Ensure that your goals are relevant and serve as meaningful steps toward your ultimate destination.
Time-bound: Establish clear deadlines for your goals. Deadlines create a sense of accountability and prompt you to take consistent action. Using the same example, “I will save $5,000 by December 31st of this year to establish an emergency fund.” sets a specific timeframe for achievement.
This framework gives your plans a structure which can help turn your aspirations into reality.
Read more: How to Save $100,000 by the Time You’re 30
Break tasks into smaller subtasks
Large and daunting tasks are often prime candidates for procrastination.
Break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. This approach makes the task less intimidating and allows you to track your progress more easily. Smaller subtasks also make them more approachable for initiating. It’s often much less painful to keep the momentum than to get the ball rolling.
Many techniques can help you achieve this, including mind mapping, checklists and time-based breakdown. A nice enhancement to whichever method you choose is to allocate a small goal and priority score to each of the subtasks. This is to allow yourself to know which to tackle first and feel the satisfaction of hitting the small goals. The continual feeling of achievement brings you closer to your ultimate objective.
Whether it’s your smartphone, social media or Netflix, there are a multitude of distractions that constantly call for your attention. It is crucial to pinpoint what your specific distraction triggers and proactively address it.
A widely recognised and effective strategy for conquering distractions is to establish a dedicated and clutter-free workspace. Ensuring that this space is quiet, and organised allows it to serve as a sanctuary of focus by creating both a physical and mental boundary between work and leisure.
Moreover, consider making use of digital tools such as website blockers or time management apps to help you stay on track.
Accelerate the repercussions of delaying tasks
Many techniques can compel individuals to confront the consequences of procrastination sooner rather than later.
For instance, when exercising independently, delaying a workout for a week may seem inconsequential as your immediate health doesn’t noticeably deteriorate after missing a single session. However, the true cost of procrastinating in fitness only becomes noticeable after weeks and months of inaction.
Conversely, if you make a pact to exercise with a friend at 7 am next Monday, the cost of forgoing your workout becomes more immediate. Skipping this single session not only impacts your health but also entails social consequences.
In this scenario, procrastination carries the immediate cost of not only neglecting your well-being but also potentially damaging your social reputation, making it a powerful motivator to stay on track and avoid procrastination.
The power of accountability partners
It can mean a world of difference having someone hold you accountable.
An accountability partner is someone with whom you share your objectives, progress, and setbacks. This person serves as both a motivator and a source of support, helping you stay on course and, most importantly, holding you accountable for your actions.
When you know someone is keeping an eye on your progress, you’re more likely to stay consistent in your efforts. Whether it’s investing wisely or completing your PowerPoint slides, having a partner by your side can make the journey feel less lonely and more manageable.
Reward yourself for taking action
Rewarding yourself for taking action is a powerful motivational tool.
It’s essential to recognise and celebrate your progress, no matter how small it may seem. These rewards can serve as positive reinforcement, making it more likely for you to continue to tackle your other tasks with diligence and determination.
Embracing failure is just as important.
At the start of the article, we mentioned that procrastination stems from a fear of failure. Often looked down upon and avoided, failure can be a valuable stepping stone. Rather than viewing it as a deadend, try to see what you can learn from it and can do better the next time round. The next time you procrastinate, ask yourself why it happened and what you can do differently instead of being too harsh on yourself.
Remember that even the most accomplished individuals face failures on their path to greatness.
Bonus: Two-Minute Rule
If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
Should you have an upcoming deadline, this is a reminder to work on it as soon as you finish this article. Alternatively, you could find out some budget-friendly ways to treat yourself.
The “Two-Minute Rule” is a simple but powerful strategy to tackle small tasks promptly, preventing them from accumulating and snowballing into something overwhelming.
Procrastination is potentially a silent killer of success, but it’s a battle you can win. By equipping yourself with the right strategies, you can emerge victorious and take back control of your time.
Remember, it’s a journey, not a sprint. Stay persistent, be compassionate with yourself, and let your newfound strategies propel you towards your goal.