How to Overcome Procrastination

By Relebohile Sera

Photo by Filippo Ruffini on Unsplash
Photo by Filippo Ruffini on Unsplash

If confidence is about focusing your energy and acting decisively, then procrastination is the direct opposite. Procrastination scatters your energy and puts off acting at all – sometimes you avoid even deciding. You postpone and postpone. You dawdle about.

Perhaps you have a proposal or essay to write and you keep putting it off and putting it off. Maybe it’s the application form to fill out, the cupboard to tidy, the difficult phone call to make, the button to sew on, the cobwebs to dust off the ceiling, or the medical checkup. It never happens!

Unless you’re hyper-organized, you probably have something sitting on a ‘to do’ list that hasn’t become urgent enough yet to do something about it. Any of that sound familiar? If so, know that you are not alone.

Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into and while it may be comforting to know that you are not alone, it is equally sobering to realize how much it can actually hold you back.

Procrastination is the ultimate waiting game: waiting for someone else to take the lead; waiting for career change to happen first; and above all waiting for everything to be perfect before you do anything. Procrastination comes when you lack focus and energy. When you’re high on focus and energy, the positive result you get is purposeful action – a livelier place to be.

The quick secret for you to overcome procrastination is to do something. Anything. Just get moving. As writers we face the blank page each day. So we start writing anything, even if it’s pure rubbish.

If we procrastinate over a long period of time, we can become demotivated and disillusioned with our work, which can lead to depression and even job loss in the most extreme of cases.

It is possible to overcome procrastination and below are a few simple steps you can take to break this gridlock:

Recognize that you are procrastinating

Briefly delaying an important task for a legitimately good reason isn’t procrastinating. If you however start to put off things indefinitely or change focus because you want to avoid doing something, then you really are.

Figure out why you are procrastinating

Figuring out the ‘why’ is very important before you start tackling it. You may fail to do the job because you find it to be boring beyond sense. Or you think the task isn’t that big; if you start on it tomorrow, you’ll be done on it the day of the deadline. And then you continue putting it off and off and off until there’s no time left at all.

Do the hard and important tasks first

Poor organization can lead to procrastination. Organized people successfully overcome procrastination because they use prioritized to-do lists and create effective schedules.

However, even if you are organized, some tasks may be overwhelming and it is thus important to figure out when you are the most effective. Is it in the morning or evening? Tackle the hardest tasks then and focus on the others afterward.

Manage your environment

Your environment can help or get in the way of your productivity. Beware of things that easily distract you: social media, internet researches that lead you off-track or phone calls that go on and on in the middle of your tasks.

If you can see temptations, you are more likely to be distracted by them. Put your phone away and don’t let yourself get on the web until you have completed the task.

Set yourself a short deadline

“It has long been observed that the further the event is, the less impact it has on people’s decisions.” Piers Steel. Focus on doing not avoiding. Write down the tasks that you need to complete, break them down and give yourself a short deadline for each part. This will aid you to proactively tackle your work.

Reward good behavior

Reward yourself if you complete a task on time. If you feel like going out to get a cup of coffee in the middle of your task, use that as an incentive for you to complete the task faster so that you get to it earlier. The reward doesn’t have to be something really big, just let it be something you can easily look forward to.

Put aside the idea that you do not have enough time or energy to complete the task at hand. Assume the lack of any or all these elements is not the real problem. Imagine instead that you have enough time and energy and see yourself flourishing in whatever you do.


Relebohile Sera (Ms) is a Professional Certified Career Coach. My mission in life is to help people be successful in their careers and to provide coaching for those seeking a new career direction.