Are you the kind of person who can never cross off everything on your to-do list? Would you rather take a big ol' nap instead of cleaning your apartment or finishing that report for work or doing any other kind of daunting task? Well, guess what? This probably isn’t much of a surprise, but you’re a procrastinator.
You’re not alone; we’ve all spent time at the procrastination station. But, fear not! There are ways to overcome procrastination. The first step is identifying what kind of procrastinator you are (yes, there are different types) and then taking it from there. We turned to a panel of experts for some top-notch advice that will help you become the productive person you were meant to be. So what are you waiting for? You don’t want to procrastinate on this one.
Illustrated by Gabriela Alford
The Busy Bee
According to relationship expert and author April Masini, this type of procrastinator is always busy, so you'd think they're the most productive person ever. Wrong! “They're just doing the easy stuff so they don't have to deal with whatever it is they're procrastinating on,” she says. Little things are getting done, but the hard work and bigger tasks still remain.
Tackle the harder stuff (hello, taxes!) in shifts. Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and author, says that it's a good idea to break the most aversive tasks down. “Do them 15 minutes at a time, then take a break,” she says. “Odds are that once you start, icky as they are, you’ll finish them and go past the 15 minutes.”
Toni Colman, a Washington D.C.-based psychotherapist, says procrastination often has to do with avoidance based on a fear of failure. And sometimes, when you're not getting things done, blaming everyone else (but yourself) helps you deal with that fear.
There is no shortcut here. “You have to stop looking elsewhere and focus on the problem at hand,” Masini says. That means you have to take responsibility, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Not everything you do is going to be perfect, but at least you’re getting stuff done. You can always go back and tweak your work later. Then, you’ll be able to take all the credit…instead of blaming someone else for your lack of accomplishment.
The Slippery Fish
Excuses, excuses! Slippery fish let themselves off the hook too easily. “The person accepts their problems, but doesn't really do anything about it,” Masini says. Ronald Kaufman, author of Anatomy of Success, says that to get over this, you need to uncover and neutralize any limiting beliefs. “I’m too old” or “I’m too overweight” are just excuses.
“You have to install and reinforce positive, empowering beliefs,” Kaufman says. Tell yourself you can get it done, and you will. As the old saying goes, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.”
“People who don't pay their taxes and laugh off their dilemma never think that the IRS will come looking for them,” Masini says of this type of procrastinator. “They go about their lives with an absence of consequences for their behavior.” It’s important to understand the negative consequences of not completing a task. If you don’t pay your taxes, for instance, you could go to jail.
“Think about the wonderful positive benefits of achieving a goal,” Kaufman adds. And when it comes to staying on top of bills, consider enrolling in auto-pay. “At least that can happen automatically,” Dr. Durvasula says.
Many procrastinators say they work best under pressure, but are they really doing their best work? Probably not. “These people are always stressed out, because they're not using their time wisely,” Masini says.
Dr. Durvasula advises to take some stuff on gradually. If you’re cleaning or organizing, clean out a drawer or a shelf a day. “Sometimes organizational tasks can feel too overwhelming because there is too much,” she says. “By doing one a day, it feels manageable.” Nicole Williams, a career expert at LinkedIn, has another tip: Lie to yourself about deadlines. “Set your personal deadline for a couple of days before the official deadline, and work toward that one instead,” she says.