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How to Overcome Procrastination in Five Simple Steps

Procrastination: We all do it. But not all of us know how to overcome procrastination.

Ready to find out? In this post, I'll outline five steps to help you get motivated and get it done!

Step 1: Show Yourself Compassion

Everyone struggles to overcome procrastination at times. Yes, everyone - including that social media influencer whose home is always picture perfect.

Social media, as well as our own insecurities, can distort our perceptions of how well others are doing.

Feeling ashamed about procrastinating will only keep you stuck. On the other hand, being kind to yourself will help you move forward (source).

Show yourself some compassion and grace. So you’ve procrastinated - so what? You’re only human.

Step 2: Identify Your Fears

Fear is often a catalyst for procrastination (source). To overcome procrastination, identify your fears about a specific task. Here are some examples:

  • Failing
  • Disappointing yourself and/or someone else
  • Not getting the desired results
  • Losing a job or opportunity

If your biggest fear came true, how would you handle it? Who would be there to support you?

Once you’ve “coped ahead,” it becomes easier to face your fears and start.

Step 3: Break It Down

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my husband will say to me,

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time.”

We’re likely to procrastinate tasks that feel enormous and unwieldy.

With that in mind, break the task down into bite-sized pieces. What’s the first thing you have to do to get the ball rolling? Can you divide that into two, smaller steps?

Write down the smaller steps and cross off each one as it’s completed. Seeing your progress on paper will encourage you to keep going.


 
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Step 4: Pace Yourself

The hard part is over! You’ve begun the task.

Now, pace yourself.

If you try to do too much too quickly, you may burn out. Burned out people don’t perform at their best, and lose motivation.

To prevent burnout, work on the task a little bit each hour, each day, whatever makes sense. Take breaks to eat, drink water, and rest. This way, you’ll enjoy the process more, and keep the momentum going.

Step 5: Reward Yourself

Some people may feel silly rewarding themselves for a task. But, let’s face it - rewards are motivating!

Rewarding yourself can come in the form of a big reward when the task is completed. That said, smaller rewards for completing steps along the way are more motivating according to a 2018 study (source).

Here are some examples of rewards you can give yourself:

  • Watch the new episode of your favorite TV show
  • Enjoy a hobby or interest
  • Eat a special dessert
  • Spend some time relaxing outside
  • Listen to a favorite album or podcast
  • Watch videos of puppies or kittens

Rewarding yourself for completing steps will help you associate work with pleasure. Not only will it help you complete the task at hand, it may also help you overcome procrastination long-term.

To summarize: If you struggle to overcome procrastination, you’re not alone! Be kind to yourself. Figure out the fears associated with the task. Break the task down into even smaller tasks to make it more manageable. Pace and reward yourself.

If this article has helped you learn how to overcome procrastination, please share it with a friend!

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About Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and therapist in Chicago, IL.

Rebecca provides therapy to people with anxiety, low self-esteem, and people pleasing tendencies. She uses a feminist and social justice lens, and interventions based in CBT, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing.

For helpful, free content, follow her on Instagram @rebeccaoglelcsw or go to her website.

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