By Melissa Graves

Many of us experience procrastination, and it can negatively impact your ability to succeed in your career, academic endeavors, and personal life. 

You may feel like you have to climb an enormous mountain – and this seems impossible to do. You may find yourself thinking, “Why can’t I just snap out of it?” And you may find that repeated, unsuccessful efforts to overcome procrastination lead to feelings of failure, depression, and anxiety. 

Procrastination occurs due to a variety of reasons, including Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), executive dysfunction, mental health difficulties, mental and physical exhaustion, and burnout. 

No matter what the cause, we offer these five steps you can utilize to overcome procrastination: 

  • Create sustainable routines – When you create these types of routines, remember to remain realistic and acknowledge your strengths and limitations when setting goals. For instance, if you know you are not a morning person and tend to have more energy in the evening, set a schedule that allows you to work on tasks and projects later in the day. These routines should also align with your energy levels on any given day. Personalizing your routine ensures you are more likely to practice healthy habits on a consistent basis.
  • Reward yourself – Your journey toward overcoming procrastination can be a slow and effortful process. Be sure to reward yourself for your hard work to maintain motivation toward your goals. Rewards can be big or small, such as treating yourself to your favorite piece of chocolate after doing the dishes. Or getting a massage after finishing a stressful project at work. Incentives and recognizing your progress can go a long way!
  • Learn your triggers – Be proactive when avoiding your triggers to help protect you from the pitfalls of procrastination. If you tend to scroll on your phone for hours instead of doing homework, get ahead of your unhelpful habits by keeping your phone out of sight. If you hit the ‘snooze’ button each morning and wait until the very last minute to get up for work, set an alarm across the room so that you are forced to get out of bed. Learning your triggers and coming up with creative solutions can help you successfully stick to healthy routines.
  • List pros and cons – When you reflect on the consequences of procrastination, you can adopt a realistic, goal-oriented frame of mind. You can stop the temptation of immediate gratification of putting things off. Think back to a time when procrastination created undesirable outcomes. How did you feel at that moment? Alternatively, were there times you successfully completed tasks despite the urge to procrastinate? What were the positive results of this choice? What allowed you to be successful, and how can you apply this to the present moment? When you choose to delay gratification by addressing your responsibilities now allows you to be fully present for enjoyable activities later. You shed the anxiety, guilt, and stress of worrying about what the future may bring.
  • Practice self-compassion – At the end of the day, know you are human and will experience shortcomings from time to time. Accept that it is okay to make mistakes and to rest when needed, especially if you are ill, stressed, or when life takes a turn for the worse. Allow room for imperfection while striving to do better in the future. This kind of behavior is more conducive to your growth than giving up when you fall short. The goal is to make progress, not to reach perfection.

When you take the initiative to create sustainable routines, reward yourself for your progress, learn your triggers, recognize the consequences of procrastination, and practice self-compassion, climbing the mountain will become less difficult. You will progress one step at a time. Take the first step now and start thriving today.

woman with dark hair sitting at an office desk in front of her laptop looking in the distance