How to overcome procrastination

Procrastination can be a seriously debilitating condition which can deepen unhappiness and discontent in a person’s life and have damaging impacts on the quality of relationships. Procrastination (from the Latin for "until tomorrow") can be seen as the avoidance of doing something that needs to be accomplished. It can come about because you have not learned, or trained yourself to become good at completing uncomfortable tasks.  

You can identify the signs of procrastination quite easily by asking yourself the following:

  • Are you easily distracted from completing a task by what feels like an irresistible desire to do something else such as call friends, use the computer or tidy your room?  
  • Do you constantly postpone your starting time for a piece of work you need to do?
  • Do you wait for the optimal moment to begin a task or for the inspiration to suddenly fire you into action?
  • Do you spend lots of time thinking about doing a task and then realise that little has been achieved?

Here are some suggestions to help manage your procrastination:

Action is the magic word. Identify the one task that you are most resistant to and aim to complete that first. If you encounter an obstacle try to persist and find a way around the problem. Perhaps you have heard of the expression “do the worst first”. Think of it like breaking through the "discomfort zone" in order to arrive at the comfort beyond. 

Start your day with exercise. Set a plan with daily targets. Keep the tasks simple and start off by making them easy and achievable. The process of ticking them as complete can be a feel good factor. Gradually you can increase the volume and complexity of your daily tasks.

Visualise a perfect state of being. Imagine being truly dynamic and a high achiever with little hesitation or resistance in your life. What would that look like? Use this image to reinforce the message that you can be a high achiever. We manifest what we wish for.

Create tidy work areas. Is your desk cluttered with junk and do you struggle to find something easily? Creating a more organised work area can be a motivating influence to clear thinking. Clear thinking can help you to set achievable goals.

Manage your expectations. No one is perfect so try to avoid overly ambitious goals. Try to be content with what you have achieved in the present. This will provide perspective and allow you to believe that tomorrow can be another day of more achievement.

Eliminate obstacles. Identify the most obvious obstacles in your mission to achieving greater productivity. It may be that you fail to adequately prepare for your day. Avoid late nights and give yourself more chance of having a full night’s sleep. Have your bag packed the night before. Ensure that you have an emergency supply of good quality food to hand during the course of the day. Stay away from toxic people who are always negative, critical and gloomy. Avoid day-dreaming.

Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to identify any self-saboteur behaviours which may be occurring at an unconscious level in your life. The process of attending therapy sessions can provide a useful structure to set goals and objectives in your life.

Procrastination can occur from a lack of motivation, which may also be a symptom of depression. If you have concerns about whether you have depression it may be appropriate to see your GP, who can assess your symptoms and advise accordingly.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural (CBT), humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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