Procrastination and laziness are often viewed a much the same thing. However there is a subtle, but important, difference in the way they operate. Procrastination occurs when we feel that we really must do something, but we convince ourselves that (doing) something else is more important in that moment. On the other hand, when we are being lazy, there is a task that we are able to do, but our motivation to ‘avoid’ the task altogether is stronger than our motivation to complete it.
So, procrastination is an active process and you are ‘choosing’ to do something other than the task you know you should be doing; while laziness is really just an expression of apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act. Overall, I tend to think of procrastination as a form of poor decision-making. You can’t decide what to do, so you put off taking action incase it’s the wrong action. The mental self-talk may be “I don’t want to make a mistake.” “Better to wait..”
Procrastination in a work environment has the potential to damage your career. It can disrupt teamwork and erode moral. If left unchecked, it could mean losing your job. Its important to note that sometimes, severe procrastination can be part of larger underlying issues like anxiety or depression. If your procrastination is chronic or debilitating, then please seek the advice of a trained health professional.
In this article I will examine how to overcome procrastination and laziness and list some of the more important actions and habits we can adopt to help us achieve positive results.
1. Be Kind To Yourself.
When you know you have been too lazy and your conscious starts to worry you, it’s common to start beating yourself up; a form of internal bullying that we have all done at some stage in our lives. The trouble is; rather than prompting you to action, it usually only damages your self-esteem. Isn’t it better to work on building up your self-confidence rather than pulling it down! If you are having an issue with this, then read my article on how to build your self confidence.
2. Rephrase Your Internal Dialogue.
The choice of words you use with yourself are so important to your ability to overcome procrastination and laziness. Words can literally empower you, or they can sabotage your efforts. Phrases like “I need to” or “I have to” imply that you have no choice in the situation. Other words like “I choose to” imply that you are in control of the outcome. So, chose your words carefully!
3. Think about Your Future.
It is human nature to think about what we need in our lives now and in the immediate future. We are all dealing with issues and challenges day-by-day. So, it’s vital that we take the time to ask ourselves some important questions about the future and really think about our answers. Questions like; “ How will my life look like in 5-10 years if I continue the way I am now?” “Will my life and my family be worse off?” If the answers you are hearing in your head make you uncomfortable, that’s good! Embrace the discomfort and take action; any action that starts to move you forward.
4. Unclutter Your Time.
Think of your time as a valuable resource; which it really is. Rather than allowing random things to occupy your time, think about what you would work on if you only had 2 hours available? If you only had 1 hour of free time, want would be your top priority? Use this thinking to pull yourself out of a rut, question what you are doing, and find your top priorities.
5. Embrace Imperfection.
Procrastination is all about avoiding having to make tough decisions. A large part of that can be that you’re trying to be ‘Perfect’. We want to find the perfect time to start; the perfect introduction to the book we plan to write; the perfect circumstances for creating whatever we have in mind. There never is a perfect time, so we avoid the task rather than risk destroying our dream.
Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by perfection. Let yourself fail sometimes. Think of it as finding what doesn’t work so that you can get it right next time. Just as in point #1. Forgive yourself and start again.
6. Daily Review.
When we don’t allow yourself to forget the tasks that we want to get done, it feeds into your overall motivation. Spend 5-10 minutes a day reviewing what you want to do, then write down the top 3 most important tasks. This raises your awareness, so that it’s not so easy to ignore a task. Now, do a task that you can complete relatively quickly. Doing that will do more for your motivation to keep going and cross the other ones off your list.
7. Single-handling Tasks.
The strategy here is to always try to see a task through to completion once, rather than accumulate a series of half-completed tasks. Incomplete tasks will only raise your stress level and often they’ll take more time to finish than just doing them fully once! So, try to get things done and off your plate the first time. You can then focus on other tasks more completely.
8. Set Small Goals and Reward Yourself.
When you are trying to reach for larger goals then your strategy should be to give those goals set pieces of time on a regular basis. The aim here is to stop you feeling overwhelmed by the larger task and then succumbing to procrastination. For example, pick a 30-minute period each day to focus on it. Keep doing that until the task starts to build momentum and you are comfortable giving it more of your time.
The other you must do is reward yourself each time you do your 30-minute session. Reward yourself with something that you enjoy doing. It can be anything, as long as you link the reward to the action.
ACTION cures procrastination and laziness.
9. Delegate Responsibility.
If you can get someone capable to complete the task for you then why not? The only thing in our way is usually just a mental barrier. Its human nature to overestimate our own importance in a task. We think we are the only one who will do it right. The trick to delegating is to make sure the other person is not just willing, but capable too!
10. Find Support.
It’s a good idea to find people who can act as support and even inspiration as you work on changing your habits. They can be family, partner or even a close friend. Ask for genuine feedback on your progress so that you never have to feel that you are on this journey alone.
11. Track Your Behavior.
When you are aware of how well you are doing, and you can see real progress, then you will feel like taking more action. Success breeds more success, and you wont want to lose that progress. This is using psychology to help to counter our natural instinct for procrastination. So, get a log and track your successes and failures.
Long-term success is simply the result of taking the right actions each day and repeating them over and over.
12. Emotional Self-Awareness.
This is the last and most important piece in the puzzle. Being more aware of what you are thinking will help you to develop a reflective approach to procrastination. What I mean is this. Instead of avoiding our emotions, we should try to understand them more. When we are self-aware and can regulate (control) our own emotions better, then we help ourselves to stay on task.
One way of increasing our self-awareness is to practice Mindfulness through things like breathing exercises or meditation. When we pause and focus on being in the present, we are training ourselves to be more reflective. Practicing mindfulness daily builds self-discipline, which is the best way to overcome procrastination and laziness.
I hope you have enjoyed reading How to Overcome Procrastination and Laziness.