Find out if procrastination is a problem for you and how to deal with procrastination and get things done.
Are You a Procrastinator Quiz?
The following questions represent common signs of procrastination:
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#1. Do you often wait until the last minute before getting started?
#2. Do you often postpone working on things you don’t like (e.g., boring, frustrating, or hard)?
#3. Does it often take you days to complete tasks that require very little time?
#4. Do you often put off making decisions?
#5. Do you regularly have a hard time meeting deadlines?
#6. Do you get distracted easily?
#7. Do you put things off not just at work, but also in other areas of life (at home, with friends, etc.)?
#8. Do you constantly find excuses/reasons for not doing things on time?
#9. Is procrastination affecting your work and relationships with loved ones?
#10. Do you constantly fill your time with small, less important tasks?
#11. Do you feel unable to stop putting things off, even when you face unwanted consequences at work, or home?
#12. Is your stress about all that you need to do affecting your physical or mental health (sleep quality, moods, etc.)?
This quiz is for informational purposes only. It is not meant as a diagnostic or assessment tool.
The questions above represent common signs of procrastination behavior. If you answered yes to most of these questions, then procrastination may be a problem for you.
Procrastination can stem from:
- a fear of failure,
- insufficient willpower,
- inability to estimate accurately how long it takes to accomplish something,
- seeing a project as a whole instead of breaking it into smaller parts, etc.
Procrastination can be a major problem. It causes people to inadequately prepare for important exams and interviews, leave projects incomplete, and fail to meet deadlines.
Best 40 Tips To Stop Putting Things Off
Goal Setting Tips
Data from the University of Scranton notes that 45% of us make resolutions, but only 8% of those resolution makers actually achieve their goals.
One of the main reasons for such a high failure rate is that people don’t set a strategy to reach those goals.
Here are proven ways that will help you set goals and achieve them.
#1. Mentally Prepare For Change
Making a change is no easy task.
You’ll have to make sacrifices and feel uncomfortable before it gets any better.
That’s why you need to prepare yourself mentally and keep in mind that any discomfort you might feel, is only part of the process and that eventually, it’ll get better.
In other words, be willing to delay instant gratifications for the greater reward.
#2. Avoid The Overnight Change
In our society today, people want yesterday what they didn’t know they wanted until today.
When it comes to success, people expect results as fast as their overnight mail, microwave eggs, and instant text messaging. So no wonder that overnight transformations, such as losing 100 pounds, get a lot of hype.
We only see the result, but never hear about the process that came before it. So we attempt too much too soon and we fail.
In fact, it’s easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the impact of making better choices consistently.
In other words, your habits, good or bad, are responsible for your success or failure.
#3. Set SMART Goals
Goal-setting theory states that people perform better than others with equal intelligence and skill when they set goals.
Locke and Latham (1991) studied goal setting and found that for goals to be effective, they must be specific.
Research has found that setting a vague goal such as “I will do my best,” can make people perceive themselves as more accomplishing than they actually are.
If someone just wants to be stronger, they may be able to lift a lot more weight but may stop at 50 pounds.
Whatever goal you’re setting make sure it checks all the SMART goal setting framework:
• Specific – make the goal as clear and specific as possible.
“Eating healthier” could be set in a more specific way like “eating less junk food”, or “eating more vegetables and fruits”.
• Measurable – Quantify your goal if possible, i.e. I will save $2.000 this year.
• Attainable – Your goal should be challenging enough yet within the realm of possibility.
If you’re in debt, maybe don’t set “making 1m dollar this year” as a goal.
• Relevant – Keep it personal. Your goal should be something you’re doing for yourself and not to please others.
Often, people set goals that are only meant to please others like their parents, spouse, or even society in general.
So they might end up having a career they don’t like just to please their parents for example.
• Time-sensitive – In addition to quantifying your goal, give yourself a time-frame to achieve your goals like setting a goal for this year or even this month.
#4. Make a Step-by-Step Plan
Successful people break their overall goals into a series of sub-goals.
This helps them overcome the fear and hesitation associated with trying to take on a major change in life. They make sure that their sub-goals are specific, measurable, and time-bounded.
For example, if someone is looking for a job, a successful plan can be broken into two steps. First, write a résumé. Second, apply for a new job every week for the next three months.
#5. Write Down Your Goals
You’ll be amazed at what difference writing your goals make.
Writing your goals down helps you clarify your goal and figure out how to achieve them.
In fact, seeing your goal written on a piece of paper or on your computer makes it more real to you.
#6. Tell Others About Your Goal
While keeping your resolutions to yourself can help ease the fear of failure, it also makes it too easy to give up and drift back to your old habits.
This is why successful people are more likely than others to tell their family, friends, and colleagues about their goals. Going public will help you stick to your promises and goals and the greater the public declaration, the more motivated you become to achieve your goals.
At the same time, family and friends can provide much-needed support when you start feeling demotivated.
#7. Take It One Goal At A Time
It’s okay to set a long list of goals and resolutions. But when working on those goals, make sure your list is manageable.
In other words, take it one goal at a time depending on what’s most important to you.
Here’s a way to help you prioritize your goals:
• Write down each of your goals on a different sticky note.
• Place these notes on a wall or a board.
• Group similar goals (such as exercising more, eating healthier food and losing weight).
• Put the most important goals or group of goals at the top and go from there.
#8. Start Small
One of the reasons why people fail to reach their goals is because they set unrealistic goals and make big changes at once.
But it’s the small achievements that are going to keep you going and make room for bigger achievements.
That’s one of the reasons why experts are recommending starting your day with making your bed.
Here are a few tips to help you make your massive goal achievable:
• Divide your goal into sub-tasks
• Assign deadlines to each sub-task
• Focus on finishing each sub-task and not on the big goal
#9. Be Aware Of Your Limiting Beliefs
Whenever you find yourself giving up on your goals, stop for a moment, and ask yourself why this isn’t working?
It could be inconvenient circumstances that are holding you from reaching your goals. But most of the time, it’s your limiting beliefs telling you that you can’t do it.
Whatever your limiting beliefs are, acknowledging them and seeing how wrong they are is the most important step to change them.
#10. Focus On Finishing Each Sub-Task
One highly effective way to overcome procrastination is to break your job into smaller parts and work on each part single-mindedly. By persuading your mind to work on the activity for “just a few minutes,’ you’ll feel an urge to see it through to completion.
This is known as the Zeigarnik effect .
According to the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, starting an activity triggers a kind of psychic anxiety. Once your activity is completed, your mind relaxes and all is forgotten. In other words, your anxious brain will refuse to rest until the task is complete.
#11. Motivate Yourself
Think about the good things that will happen if you achieve your goal.
People who succeed in making and maintaining a change, would constantly remind themselves of the benefits associated with the attempted change.
It doesn’t have to be imagining their perfect selves, but having an objective list of how their life would be better once they make the change and achieve their goal. At the same time, they don’t focus on how failure to change would affect their lives.
For example, if someone wants to lose weight, the right approach would be to focus on how good they’ll look and feel once they drop a few pounds.
On the other hand, fixating on how not losing weight will mean continued unhappiness about the way they look, won’t be much help.
#12. Use Visualization
When it comes to visualization, a study has shown that tennis players and golfers benefit far more from imagining themselves training than winning.
The same goes for students who imagine themselves studying for the exam rather than getting high degrees.
So if you want to use visualization to achieve any goal or make any change, try imagining yourself, from a third-person perspective, doing whatever needs to be done to reach your goal.
One reason why visualizing yourself from a third-person perspective can work better than a first-person one, is because the former requires more mental effort and so result in significantly more behavioral changes.
When working on a change or achieving a goal, it’s recommended that people reflect on the benefits of making the change or achieving that goal.
At the same time, it’s advised not to focus on how failure to change would affect their lives.
The doublethink technique, recommends that those who want to make a change, reflect first on the benefits of the attempted change. Immediately afterward, they need to think about the biggest obstacles to their success and focus on what they would do if they encountered these difficulties.
Note that they don’t focus on failure itself, rather they focus on the difficulties they might encounter and how they can overcome them.
#14. Keep Track of Your Progress (e.g., in a journal or on a chart)
Successful people always kept track of their plans, benefits, and progress in writing.
They would use handwritten journals, digital ones, charts, or even bulletin boards. Keeping track of their progress boosts their confidence and increases their chances of success.
#15. Review Your Goals Regularly
Every month or even every week, review how close you are to reaching your goals and meeting your deadlines.
If you’re not moving along as expected, try to change or improve your strategy.
Also, you need to leave some room for mistakes and setbacks. It’s only normal to fail before coming up with better ways and wining.
#16. Reward Yourself for the Progress You Make
Those who end up making and maintaining permanent changes in their lives, attach a reward to each sub-goal of their plan. This reward is usually something small and doesn’t conflict with their main goal.
So if your goal is to lose weight, a reward for a week of a healthy diet shouldn’t be a bar of chocolate or a trip to a fast-food restaurant. Nevertheless, a reward should be something to look forward to and should provide a sense of accomplishment.
What Happens If You Slip?
Making mistakes is a part of the learning process.
If you have perfectionist tendencies, pay close attention to the way you perceive mistakes. Notice what thoughts, behaviors, or circumstances contributed to your mistake and use it as feedback to adjust your plans.
#17. Understand Your Habits Pattern
In his best-selling book, The power of habit, Charles Duhigg explains the pattern every habit follows which consists of three steps; cue (the trigger that initiates the behavior), routine (the behavior itself), and reward (the benefit you get from doing the behavior).
When you apply this process long enough, eventually your behavior becomes a habit.
For instance, if you feel stressed out, that’s a cue for you to do something to make you feel better. Playing with your pet is one routine you can do in response to that cue. The reward would be feeling better and less stressed out.
#18. Choose A Cue For Your New Good Habit
When it comes to starting a new behavior or making a change, people wrongly believe that you need a good dose of willpower and motivation to succeed at starting a good habit.
The truth is, you can’t always rely on motivation to do something.
Creating a new good habit is something you want to be consistent in your life.
Motivation, on the other hand, is something that changes. This is why finding a cue (the trigger for your new behavior), is the first step in turning the desired behavior into a habit.
For example, if you want to start flossing your teeth, your cue can be the act of brushing your teeth, a habit that you already have. You can also create a favorable environment for the new habit, like placing your flossers next to your toothbrush.
That way, you can see the floss every time you reach for your toothbrush.
By linking your new habit to a current one and setting up a visible cue, you won’t need the motivation to start that new habit.
#19. Make Your good Habits Identity-Based
If you want to build lasting habits, start off by creating a new identity for yourself.
Your current habits are a reflection of your current identity and the type of person you believe you are, on a conscious or subconscious level.
Therefore, changing your beliefs about yourself will change your habits and make the change a lasting one.
For example, “Losing 20 pounds” is an appearance goal, it might motivate you to start working out, but it doesn’t help to build the habit of working out.
On the other hand, “Becoming the type of person who works out every day”, is an identity-based goal that will help you build a lasting habit of working out.
When you change your fundamental self-beliefs, it becomes easier to change your actions and stick to your new habit.
#20. Set A Schedule Not A Deadline
When starting a habit, we usually focus on an end goal and the deadline we want to have the desired results.
For example, one might decide that he wants to lose 15 pounds by the summer.
The problem with this approach is that when we don’t achieve the desired results by the initial deadline, we feel like a failure and we give up even though we’re much better off than when we started.
Therefore, setting a schedule to follow is better than setting a deadline when it comes to building good habits.
So if you want to lose weight, for example, the right way to build a habit that will help you reach that goal would be to schedule workouts 3, or 4, or even 7 days a week and follow through with that schedule.
This way, your focus will be on the behavior and not on achieving the goal by a certain date.
You’ll be able to celebrate your progress instead of feeling like a failure when you don’t exactly reach your goal by a defined date.
#21. Choose A Key-Stone Habit
When we’re excited about making a change in our lives, we often tend to make many changes and build different good habits at once.
This can leave you overwhelmed.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed while improving multiple areas of your life at the same time, you can choose a keystone habit that will pull the rest of your life in order.
The idea of keystone habits was first introduced in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.
According to Duhigg, a keystone habit can create a domino effect that changes every area of your life.
For example, when someone starts running every day, he might find himself more compelled to eat healthier food and drink more water.
He starts getting up earlier every day to fit in his run. He finds more energy so he becomes more productive at work, he gets things done and doesn’t have to bring work home.
The single habit of running every day helped him start other habits without much effort and without feeling overwhelmed by the major change.
#22. Bouncing Back After Failure
When starting a new good habit, you might find it hard, at times, to follow your regular routine.
Slipping up on your habits doesn’t make you a failure. You can always get back on track quickly.
The best way to bounce back is to prepare for failure and set a plan that will get you on course each time. You can do that by following these tips:
1. Set a calendar for your habits.
Set a specific time and place for your new habit.
If you want to start running, set a time for that, like right after work, or in the morning before you go to work, and keep that specific time during the weekends.
2. Stick to your schedule, even in small ways.
You might not find the time for your 3 miles run every day.
In that case, instead of skipping a day, stick to the schedule and run for the remaining time you have, even if it was just a mile.
The impact of this small effort might not be significant, but the compounded effect of staying on track is incredible.
3. Design the appropriate environment.
The items that surround us can have a huge influence on our behaviors.
They can trigger you to take action and help you build new habits.
For example, if you want to start drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, place a glass of water on your nightstand.
If you want to eat healthier, throw all the junk food you have, and have some fruit on the counter for you to snack on.
#23. Use The 80/20 Rule
The first thing you should do to double your income is to identify the things you do that contribute the greatest value to your work.
The 80/20 Rule states that 20 percent of the things you are responsible for 80 percent of the value of your work.
By spending more time doing more of these 20 percent tasks, you will achieve the best results possible for you.
By the same token, reduce the time spent on the rest 80 percent of your low-value activities by delegating or downsizing them or eliminating them altogether.
By persisting in this way of working, you’ll be able to double your income. You can then increase or even double your time off with no loss of productivity.
#24. Accept Full Responsibility For Your Own Life
Accepting complete responsibility for everything you are and everything in your life can be a great turning point in your life.
When you accept full responsibility for your life, you refuse to make excuses or blame others for anything that you’re not happy about. You refuse to complain about your situation and you stop making excuses.
Instead, you start focusing on what you really want and how to get it. If you’re not happy with your current income, you don’t wait for a promotion or some bonuses. You begin doing whatever is required to increase your income.
Accepting responsibility for your own life empowers you. It gives you a tremendous sense of control over your life. You feel capable and competent.
#25. See Yourself As Self-Employed
You can only begin to see yourself as self-employed, no matter who signs your paycheck when you take responsibility for your life.
You become an entrepreneur heading a company with one employee— you, selling one product—your personal services. You refuse to make excuses. Instead, you make progress.
Viewing yourself as self-employed will help you identify and focus on your highest value activities, which, in turn, will double your income.
#26. Where Focus Goes Energy Flows
Psychologists have discovered that the very act of observing behavior can improve that behavior.
For example, if you were to do a task under your boss’s supervision, you’re going to do it better than you usually do. This also means that when you observe yourself engaging in any activity, you become more conscious doing that activity and you do it better.
So when you focus on vital actions and activities in any area of your life, you’ll perform better and better in this area and the less it takes you to accomplish each activity.
You become able to increase your income while increasing your time off.
Continually reduce and eliminate activities that are taking up too much of your time and contributing little to no value to your work.
A great way to help you identify areas that can be simplified is using zero-based thinking.
Ask yourself “Is there anything I am doing right now that, knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t get into again if I were starting over today?” ask yourself is there any product, service, expenditure, or even a relationship, personal or business, that you wouldn’t get into today if you have to do it over, knowing what you now know?
If the answer is yes, figure out how you can get out of that situation, downsize or eliminate whatever activity that is taking so much of your time and money with little value in return, as fast as possible.
Another great way to increase value in your work is by using leverage.
By leveraging your strengths and abilities, you can get the most out of yourself. There are other forms of leverage that you can use.
1. Other people’s knowledge
Learning from others can save you an enormous amount of energy and time.
Successful people are constantly reading books and articles, attending conferences, and workshops looking for new ideas and insights they can use to help achieve their goals faster.
2. Other people’s energy
Highly effective people are always delegating and outsourcing low-value activities so they can have more time and energy to focus on their high-value activities.
3. Other people’s money
Your ability to use other people’s financial resources can help you accomplish extraordinary things and achieve returns well beyond the cost of that money, you wouldn’t be able to achieve with your own resources.
4. Other people’s successes
Studying the successes of other people can help you improve your results.
You can save yourself the time and trouble the other successful people had to pay in order to reach their success.
5. Other people’s failures
Studying other people’s failure and learning from them can help you avoid many of the mistakes they made and achieve your goals faster.
6. Other people’s ideas
The more you read, observe, and learn, the more likely it is that you will come across an idea that can bring you a fortune and make you great success in your field.
7. Other people’s contacts
Each person you know might know other people who can be helpful to you. One introduction to one key person can change your life.
#29. Start Earlier, Work Harder, and Leave Later
The best way to get things done, and still be able to enjoy your weekends, is to start earlier, work as long as you’re working, and leave later.
This means eliminating any time wasters, such as reading the newspaper while at work, or hanging around with colleagues…
#30. Plan ahead
Planning ahead helps you make better use of your time and follow through with each task. By creating a scheduled agenda of your activities, you’re less likely to procrastinate.
Timeboxing is about assigning a fixed amount of time to a certain task, scheduling it, and sticking to it. It works because it helps you prioritize your tasks and focus on one task at a time.
Parkinson’s law says “work expands to fill the time available for its completion” so if we set aside an hour for every meeting, the meeting will take that time.
#32. 2-minute Rule.
This rule states that if a task can be done in less than 2 minutes, then do it. You don’t have to write it down, or discuss it or think about it.
Applying this rule will help you build momentum and clear the clutter from your to-do list so you can focus on more important tasks.
#33. Control Your Devices
We check our phones between 150 and 221 times a day, depending on which study we’re reading. Make sure your desk stay clear from any distraction.
The more you eliminate distractions, the more you get done.
#34. Turn off Alerts and Notifications
Unless the alert is important and urgent, try to turn off any notifications you might receive from social media or phone apps or unimportant emails.
#35. Use productivity tools
Technology isn’t always a source of distraction, it can also boost your productivity through apps, tools, and programs that make your work more efficient.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Todoist – Save webpages as tasks and plan your day
- Toggl – Track the time you spend on which tasks
- RescueTime – Track how much time you spend on which websites
- News Feed Eradicator for Facebook – Get rid of your Facebook News Feed
- Momentum – Add some zen to your web browsing experience
- Grammarly – Write mistake-free
- Pocket – Save webpages to read later
#36. Sound & music.
Research proves that listening to white noise or ambient sounds, helps you improve your concentration, finish your tasks faster, and generate better ideas.
Try noisli, a fantastic free background noise generator for both productivity and relaxation.
#37. Organize Your Workspace
Keeping your workspace organized and free of clutter will make you more efficient, calm, and feeling more in control.
#38. Take Short Breaks
Studies have shown that taking regular, short breaks increases your focus and boosts your productivity. One popular way to apply this is by using the Pomodoro technique created by Francesco Cirillo.
The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks of around 5 minutes.
Sleep deprivation raises stress hormones, decreases your ability to concentrate, and hinders your memory and ability to retain information.
Sleeping well is essential in order to function at your best and work effectively.
Pro Tip: Fall asleep faster with Amber light. SOMNILIGHT offers a wide range of products that blocks blue light and help you fall asleep up to an hour faster. Use this link to receive a coupon code for 10% off any purchase. (Free U.S. shipping and 60-day money back guarantee.)
#40. Drink water.
Drinking 8 cups a day is enough to keep you well hydrated and increase your focus and energy levels.
If you’re forgetful, apps like Water Reminder can send you reminders to stay hydrated through your Chrome web browser.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot, © 2009 by Richard Wiseman. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Focal Point: A Proven System to Simplify Your Life, Double Your Productivity, and Achieve All Your Goals, © 2001 by Brian Tracy. All rights reserved.
- Understanding procrastination: A case of a study skills course | SpringerLink
- Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination – Association for Psychological Science – APS
- Frontiers | On the Behavioral Side of Procrastination: Exploring Behavioral Delay in Real-Life Settings (frontiersin.org)
- Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control) – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
- Procrastination or ‘intentional delay’? (apa.org)