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“Remember that time is money.” – Benjamin Franklin
Although I agree with Benjamin Franklin about time being money, it is a universal fact that most of us procrastinate on most of our tasks.
While it may seem pleasant at first when we put off a potentially unpleasant task, procrastination has devastating effects in the long term.
Simply put, there is a high price to pay for habitually choosing to postpone or delay something that needs to be done. Fortunately, as with other habits, it is possible to learn a new, positive habit to replace procrastination.
If you are searching for suggestions on how to stop wasting time, this article will show you how it can be accomplished so that you can get the important stuff done. But before we get to the tips, let’s first discuss what causes people to procrastinate.
(Side note: Want to level up your productivity and time management skills? Then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.)
What You Will Learn
- 3 Reasons Why People Procrastinate
- 7 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Become More Productive
3 Reasons Why People Procrastinate
1. Fear of Failure
Society sets high standards, and people are often afraid of being judged harshly based on the work that they do. People don't want to put their names on anything that is less than perfect.
One way to avoid being judged is simply to not do anything at all. This way, failure is not an option (for the time being, at least). Procrastination can actually be comforting when the fear of failure is present. It serves as protection because it guards you against the possibility of actual failure rather than the more subjective failure that comes along with not trying something in the first place.
People who are afraid of failing may choose to procrastinate, but this ends up ultimately setting people up for failure. Procrastinating out of fear of failure becomes a negative self-fulfilling prophecy because you will get used to avoiding the risks you have to take in order to succeed in life. Remember that what counts is the quality of your effort, not the perfection of your results. Don’t hinder yourself with a preoccupation with perfectionism.
2. Low Energy
People with unhealthy lifestyles tend to have lower energy levels. They don’t feel like doing much of anything, which leads to procrastination. Whether you don't get enough sleep or you have an unhealthy diet that leaves you feeling sluggish and tired, lifestyle factors can play a large role in how motivated you are to get up and do something. It's important to find out the cause of your low energy.
This may be why one of the most common habits among successful people is getting exercise in the morning. Doing this sets the precedent for the day and starts you off with a boost of energy that will keep you motivated to keep working hard.
If you have this problem, you can easily recognize it. You probably know right off hand if you tend to be lazy and would rather sit around and watch television than get up and do some meaningful work. If you want to be productive but you don't have the physical energy to be active, then you probably have low physical energy levels.
3. Lack of Vision
Are you someone who wants to know the importance of what you’re being asked to do? Do you want to know the end goal?
If you don't know which direction you are going in or the purpose of what you're doing, you may feel like you're spinning your wheels. Not having a clear vision of the end goal or bigger picture is one of the most common causes of procrastination.
Too often, we find ourselves putting things off simply because we’re not sure where to start. The project may seem overwhelming, confusing, or disorganized. In these cases, you aren't necessarily procrastinating to avoid the task, but more so to avoid experiencing the negative emotions of feeling helpless. No one likes feeling clueless, and it is easy to just turn your attention somewhere else instead of handling the situation head-on.
Without a vision to guide you toward productivity, you will end up focusing on things going on in the present moment (like text messages or dirty dishes) rather than what you need to be doing now to reach an ultimate goal. Having a solid vision will encourage you to take action.
If you’d like to learn more about the causes of procrastination, we detail eight reasons in this blog post.
If you can relate to these causes of procrastination and feel like you're ready to do something about it, you have come to the right place. Let's look at some tips so you can stop wasting time and start getting things done.
7 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Become More Productive
1. Recognize instances when you delay or postpone your own tasks on purpose.
Are you waiting to be “in the mood” to finish a project? Do you spend your time being the most helpful coworker to your colleagues rather than taking care of what’s on your to-do list? Acknowledging this fact and identifying the reason why you are procrastinating will help you overcome this negative habit.
First off, you can't wait for perfect conditions to do your work or to launch a great project. Taking immediate action begins a positive cycle that motivates even more action. Think of inertia. If you are working and you're on a roll, you will continue to work hard and produce results. Alternatively, if you are doing nothing, you will probably continue to do nothing until something dramatic happens to create a change.
Or, you may steer clear of your responsibilities by getting lost in other things until it's time to panic that your work is not finished. Once you start panicking, you may keep avoiding the task, or you may get lost in dealing with the emergency of the moment caused by your procrastination. Either way, if you don't know exactly why you are procrastinating on something and you have even less of a clue as to what to do about it, it makes sense that you are avoiding taking action.
2. Create a schedule.
Utilize time-management techniques, such as timeboxing and the Japanese technique known as Kaizen, to help organize your day. Get a planner or app that lays out all of your deadlines, and leave room to check things off as you complete them. You can color coordinate this, or organize it in any way that makes sense to you. This will help you feel productive with your time and motivated to complete your work.
When you are making your schedule, give yourself some extra time between when you plan to complete your task and when it is actually due. This way, if any challenges or setbacks come up during the process of your project, you will still be able to complete it in time.
3. Create personal goals and deadlines.
Having only one deadline for your work allows you to put everything off until the last minute because you keep thinking to yourself, “I have plenty of time!” In addition to the official deadlines that you are given, set your own personal deadlines for your work.
Setting personal goals can help you overcome procrastination by giving you something smaller to focus on—a vision or reason for doing whatever you're doing. Having short deadlines will give you the motivation that you need to accomplish your projects on time.
If you have a deadline that is far in the future, whether it's for work or your personal hobbies, break it down into smaller projects and set shorter deadlines along the way. Focus on one small project at a time, and if you continue to procrastinate after breaking your project down, break it down even further. Break it down until the steps are so small and simple that you can’t deny the fact that they are doable.
This will prevent you from putting the entire project off until the last minute. Short deadlines for tasks elicit action because each task will seem more manageable. Reward yourself when you hit your smaller goals. For example, if you write one page of a 12-page paper, you can spend 20 minutes catching up on social media. Find whatever reward motivates you to get your work done.
4. Take things slower.
This might sound counterintuitive, but doing things at a slower pace ensures that you pay attention to the details. It promotes efficiency, helps get more things done, and also prevents you from becoming overwhelmed.
While some people think that being able to multi-task is a strength, it actually works to your detriment. Sure, you may be able to get a lot of things done on a superficial level, but nothing is getting done well, and often nothing is being completed.
Slow it down and do one thing at a time, and put all of your focus on that one thing. This way, when you are done, it will be completely finished, and you won't have to go back and fix it later. All in all, this will help you progress more smoothly to your ultimate goal.
5. Take action as you go.
Address matters as soon as they crop up instead of dealing with them at a later date. If you take care of small problems as you go, it will prevent them from all piling up and possibly creating one large problem. Also, these matters that arise will often prohibit you from moving forward with your work until they are settled.
This can then become an excuse to be at a “stopping point” and put your work aside. Research shows that once you start doing something, you’re more likely to finish it at that time, so don't push off problems to deal with later. If something comes up that you need to take care of, do it right away.
For example, say you are working on a project and you need a piece of information before moving on. Don’t skip it and leave it blank, telling yourself that you will come back to it later. Go ahead and get that task completed by finding the information so you can put it behind you and move on.
6. Put away all distractions.
When you’re working on an important project, one way to avoid wasting time is by putting away your phone and disabling notifications on your computer until you’re finished with what you need to do. Otherwise, it is easy to get derailed by both internal and external distractions.
The truth is, you may be inadvertently using some distractions to avoid doing a task. It's important to know what distracts you, and to figure out how to keep these things at bay. For example, use a site blocker on your Internet and disable the pop-up alerts for new emails.
Turn off your smartphone or put the ringer on silent so calls and texts don't disturb you. Put a note on the door of your office saying that you're busy right now, and make a note of what time you will be free if someone needs you. If you have a personal issue that is keeping your attention on something other than your task, try to take care of it so you can move on. Getting rid of distractions will help you fully focus on your work.
7. Step outside.
If you are really struggling and feel like you have completely hit the wall when it comes to motivating yourself to be more productive, allow yourself to literally smell the roses. Spending some time outdoors has been proven to boost productivity.
Different environments have different influences on your productivity. While an environment may seem motivating at one point, it can lose its power. In this case, it is important to get a change in scenery to reset your brain.
During this break, you may choose to re-clarify your goals and regroup yourself. Think about the things that you actually want to achieve and why you are working on your current project. Consider the steps you need to take to get to your goal and ask yourself if your current work is still aligning correctly.
The takeaway from this article is that, despite all the things that can cause us to waste time, it is within our power to transform this habit into something positive. In the end, beating procrastination involves taking action. No one has ever procrastinated their way to success, so taking responsibility and getting to work is ultimately the only thing you can do to get ahead of this habit.
Hopefully, these tips on how to stop wasting time will inspire you in your own quest to discover habits that allow you to live a productive, happy life.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.