Admitting You Have a Procrastination Problem and How to Defeat It

Caitlin Andrews - Millennial Milk

I’m no stranger to procrastination. Many of my papers in school were written the night before the due date. With good intentions, I thought I would get the assignment out of the way early so when the deadline approached I would be stress free and ready to turn it in.

In reality, I would start the assignment, get distracted, and set it aside thinking I still had plenty of time to get it done early. Before I knew it, I was pulling an all-nighter because, once again, I had waited until the last minute to write my paper.

I was my own enabler. I would tell myself that even though I was stressing out, it was okay that I procrastinated. I convinced myself that my best work was a result of my procrastination. I worked well under pressure.

Eventually, I had to admit to myself that I had a problem. Putting off the assignment until the last minute worked just fine for me in high school. Sure, I was under a bit of stress, but it was manageable and I was still getting good grades.

College was a game changer. The classes were harder and my course work had doubled (or tripled - depending on the semester). I was waiting tables when I wasn’t in class. I was renting a place off-campus and my commute to school ate up a minimum hour of my day.

Translation = I was constantly pressed for time and my bad procrastination habits were killing me.

I was ready to admit it. I had to make a change.

I’m no longer in school, but I still struggle with procrastination at times. Whether it’s at work or around the house, I have to make a conscience effort to stay focused and get things done. Now I have tactics in place that help me overcome my bad habits. I’ll share them with you here.

The First Step — Admitting You Have a Problem

You can’t make a change until you acknowledge that you have a problem.

Do you delay important tasks? Do you stress out by putting things off until the last minute? It’s time to admit you’re procrastinating so you can take action and stop killing your productivity.

It may feel like you’re the only one that can’t get it together, but don’t worry. You’re not alone. People have been procrastinating long before the internet came along to distract us with funny cat videos. Hesiod, the Greek poet thought to have lived between 750 BC and 650 BC, warned against procrastination in his poem, Works and Days:

“ Do not put your work off till to-morrow and the day after.”

Lessons from a Chronic Procrastinator

Fortunately, there are ways to break your procrastination habits. If I can do it, then anyone can. I apply these methods at work to keep on track and hold myself accountable on projects.

1. Break the Cycle by Finding the Source

The ugly procrastination cycle is difficult to break:

  • You're not in the mood to tackle the project you need to work on.
  • You distract yourself with simple tasks like checking your email.
  • You see how much time you’ve wasted and you feel guilty.
  • Now you feel worse.
  • If you weren’t in the mood to work before, it’s definitely not going to happen now.

Instead of dwelling on how bad you feel about procrastinating you should figure out why you’re doing it. Stop beating yourself up over it and look to the source. Here are some possible reasons that you’re procrastinating:

  • You’re overwhelmed.
  • You’re unhappy with your job.
  • You feel like you’re carrying the team.
  • You’re burnt out.

Once you figure out the source of your procrastination you can decide how to tackle it. If you’re burnt out then allow yourself to take a break. If you feel like you’re doing all the work on your team then it’s time to talk to your coworkers.

2. Break the Task into Smaller Pieces

Many people procrastinate when the task at hand is overwhelming. Break the project up into smaller, more manageable tasks.

For example, if the project you’re working on is a 2,000 word blog post, don’t put “write article” on your to-do list.

That’s daunting. Instead, break it into smaller tasks. For the 2,000 word blog post, here are a few of the smaller steps you could take:

  • Conduct keyword research
  • Pick a working title
  • Edit for grammar

It’s much easier to get started and keep yourself from procrastinating when your to-do list is broken into smaller steps that are less daunting.

3. Write Down Your Schedule

With all of the incredible apps available to help you manage your time, I still find that the best way to get myself to stick to a plan is to write it down.

Studies have shown students that hand write notes retain them better than those that type their notes instead. There’s something about handwriting that helps you remember. This applies to your to-do list. Writing it down will make the plans more real and you’re more likely to stick to the list.

4. Work in Set Blocks of Time

I’ve found this to be the most effective method of preventing procrastination for myself. Set a timer for a specific amount of time. I like to work in 25 minute blocks. After 25 minutes are up, I give myself a 5 minute break.

The short break helps me refresh and I’m ready to go for another 25 minutes. Experiment with times that will work best for you.

Pro Tips

Here are a few more pro tips to help you banish procrastination:

  • Create a playlist you can listen to while you work. Your favorite music will keep you in a positive frame of mind. Sounds of nature can mask the noise around and help you focus.
  • Set up hourly reminders on your phone. A message from yourself asking “What are you working on?” can bring you back to the task at hand if you’ve gotten distracted.
  • Get some sleep! It’s difficult to focus when you’re worn out.
  • Have a morning meeting with yourself. Sit down and write a list of realistic goals for the day.

Breaking procrastination is doable. You just need to find the methods that work for you and stick with them.