You know what you need to get done, you might have even created a to-do list, but somehow, you feel unable to get started. Before you know it, hours have passed, and your deadline is looming. You may feel stressed, anxious, scared, guilty, or overwhelmed. You might ask yourself, “why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I just get things done on time!”
So how can you stop procrastinating and be more efficient with your time? First, it’s essential to understand what procrastination is and what it might be signaling for you.
What Is Procrastination?
The dictionary definition describes procrastination as the act of “putting off intentionally and habitually.” But that definition does not even begin to scratch the surface of the ways procrastination can impact daily life. Of course, everyone procrastinates sometimes, but how can you tell if your procrastination is chronic or problematic?
It is helpful to take stock of how often you procrastinate and the types of tasks you typically put off. For example, are you simply avoiding tasks you hate doing? Or are you procrastinating across all areas of life? These distinctions can help you determine your next steps in challenging your procrastination and may give you insight into the state of your mental health.
Procrastination and Mental Health
Everyone procrastinates, but what does your procrastination signify in terms of your mental health? Research indicated that 20-25% of adults worldwide struggle with chronic procrastination.
Chronic procrastination can be a sign of an underlying mental health concern, such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD. You may notice you procrastinate more when you’re experiencing significant life stress such as relationship problems or a change in your job.
Chronic procrastination may show up when you feel like you have too much on your plate. Your mind cannot manage everything you have going on, and in that overwhelmed state, it simply freezes. Your nervous system may be overactivated and functioning in a “freeze” stress response.
It is impossible to get anything done in this state, and no amount of pressure will help. To combat procrastination, it’s most helpful to lessen the pressure, regain your emotional regulation, and approach your responsibilities with a sense of gentleness.
Tools to Stop Procrastinating
Beating procrastination can take some trial-and-error. It's important to try different strategies to determine which ones work best.
To-do list got you down? No problem. Try time blocking instead!
Time blocking is a tool dedicated to keeping you focused on individual tasks for a designated period of time. With this technique, you may set a timer for 15 minutes to check and organize your emails.
Rather than opening your emails, texts, and Slack messages all at one - focus on just one thing for a block of time. It can feel motivating to see how much you got done in that window!
This may also help individuals who are working from home. Block specific time to focus on one type of task. Set blocks in your calendar for dishes, laundry, meal prep, and work obligations. This helps the list from feeling overwhelming and can keep you focused.
Listen To Music To Focus
Music can be a powerful tool for enhancing focus. You may be interested in instrumental, low-key study music, or something upbeat and energetic. But, no matter what music you gravitate towards, music can help keep you grounded and in the moment while you work on tasks.
One Thing at a Time
Did you know that multitasking is inefficient? It sometimes feels like you are getting more done when you are focused on multiple things simultaneously, but that feeling isn’t true!
Studies show that multitasking actually makes individuals less efficient and more likely to make mistakes. So instead of trying to manage it all, focus on being more mindful. Complete one task at a time. You'll feel much more productive!
Take Intentional Breaks
“But I can’t take a break if I’ve been procrastinating. I have too much to do!” Stop right there.
You can always find time to take an intentional break. Breaks are essential--they help you stay energized, focused, and alert.
Breaks are needed to stay fed and hydrated, get your body moving if you’re sitting at a desk, and take time for yourself during a busy day. Breaks should be a part of your plan, not a reward. Without breaks, you’ll likely feel burnt out and exhausted, which may actually lead to more chronic procrastination.
Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but when procrastination feels like it is interfering with your quality of life, it’s important to take note. Procrastination can be a signal that your mental health requires some attention.
If you are trying to stop procrastinating, tools like time blocking, taking breaks, and using music can help keep you focused. In more severe cases, mental health treatment may be beneficial. Therapy can help you explore some of the underlying issues causing procrastination. Contact us today to get started!