4 Steps to Overcome Procrastination with Habitify
We are all victims of procrastination at one point or another. For as long as humans have been around, procrastination is a strong and mysterious force that blocks people from completing the most urgent and important tasks, and thus puts them off for the next day.
This force is one of the significant threats to your productivity, work-life balance, career growth, and even your health and happiness. So, it’s high time to learn how to deal with this issue to beat procrastination habits.
In this blog, I am going to dig deep into the psychological reasons why you procrastinate and then point out several practical ways you can use Habitify to prevent procrastination.
What is procrastination?
It is pretty common that procrastination is what most people have to tackle almost on a daily basis. Procrastination is the conscious decision to delay doing tasks until the very last minute, or past the deadlines. Admittedly, procrastinators often find themselves wasting precious time that otherwise should be invested in something more meaningful.
One most common misunderstanding about procrastination is that it simply stems from laziness. According to Psychological Today, when you are lazy, you are not motivated to expend much effort necessary to do anything and just feel fine with this. Procrastination, on the other hand, you have a desire to actually do something but you cannot force yourself to start.
To design the future actions that will help you overcome procrastination, we should know the psychological causes of procrastination in the first place.
Why do we procrastinate?
Alright, now we already know the definition of procrastination, but what is the science behind procrastination? What is going on in our brain that causes us to often put off doing things we know we should be doing?
This phenomenon can be well explained by the Akrasia effect. It is the state of when you do one thing even though you know you should do another thing, as it makes you feel more enjoyable. This is because our brains prefer instant rewards to future rewards. It’s simply a consequence of how our mind works.
But, why do we choose immediate results over future goals - which bring us long-term payoffs? In order to understand it, James Clear explains by imagining you have two selves: your Present Self and your Future Self. When you set goals for yourself - such as building a habit of reading books or meditation - you are actually making a plan for your Future Self. In this state, you are thinking in your mind how your life will be like in the future. In fact, when we intend a future action, our emotional state is often particularly positive.
For example, if you imagine yourself exercising tomorrow (your Future Self), you feel pretty good for changing yourself with such a proactive and healthy decision. Good for you! You may even feel a bit of pride.
However, when it comes to the time of taking action (your Present Self), you are no longer setting a goal for your Future Self. At that moment, your brain is only focusing on the Present Self, and your Present Self really likes instant gratification, not long-term benefits. That's why you might always feel motivated when setting goals for better changes in the future, but when you should take action, you find yourself falling into old patterns.
So, how to stop procrastination?
Here are 4 steps you can do to beat procrastination.
Note: One small note before moving to this guide is that there are actually two kinds of procrastination: short-term procrastination and long-term procrastination.
According to Tim Urban, explained at Ted Talk, short-term procrastination is deadline-based, for example, you are delaying a term paper, or a work project. Long-term procrastination, on the other hand, happens in situations when there is no deadline, you are avoiding building long-lasting habits (e.g: meditating, reading books, doing exercise)
For those who want to overcome the first type, you only need to practice step 1 and step 2. And those who want to build long and high-performance habits, you should add up step 3 and 4.
So let's go in detail to the solutions to procrastination:
Step 1: Just start!
It sounds simple, right? But “start” is the most powerful word when it comes to solving procrastination. Issac Newton famously said:
“Objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion”
If you’re doing nothing, nothing is going to happen. But once you’re in motion, you tend to stay in motion.
To be frank, the hardest part of getting work done is taking action. This is because our subconscious mind tends to do what makes us feel more enjoyable and resist the difficult things. You want to get this work done, but you would put it off until later and then, you do nothing with it. And you ultimately come up with excuses for not completing whatever task.
For example, I love reading actually. But when it comes to time for reading, I always find myself watching videos or listening to music. Then I tell myself that I will watch or listen for more than 5 minutes, and leave reading at the last minute. Finally, I find excuses like it’s an unpleasant time for reading and maybe tomorrow is more suitable.
In fact, when you plan to do something, getting started could be more painful than continuing to work on it. This is because the feeling of guilt, anxiety, regret while you have a desire for resistance is usually worse than the effort and energy while continuing to work.
One of my favorite strategies that make it so easy to take action is two-minute rule. The rule couldn’t be simpler: start doing something should never take you 2 more minutes.
The two-minute rule works because it enables you to force yourself to start by transforming a full-sized task into a mini one. But why should we do this? The answer is simple: starting from a small part is much easier than starting a big one, and it's a good way to trick our brain into doing the task that is more achievable.
For example, considering that you want to form a habit of reading books. Just scaled it down into a two-minute version, such as “read one page”, and before you know it, the first two to three chapters have flown by. If you want to study for the examination, just start by “open my note”, and you’ll find yourself learning for an hour.
Interestingly, right? Personally, I often start my day by simply writing all of my 2-minute tasks on my Habitify app, and this technique helps me move forward on tasks that I am avoiding every day.
Again, always remember: starting is the key, small steps can make good results.
Step 2: Break the bigger project into smaller steps
Once you master the habit of showing up, the next crucial step is to keep doing it.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, our procrastination is usually centered around starting a behavior. Once you begin, it could be less boredom and stress while working. Thus, this is a good idea to break your longer tasks down into shorter chunks, as the small step is much easier to accomplish than a large project.
Moreover, we naturally tend to avoid what’s hard, or thing we feel the goal seems unachievable. It’s the way our brain works. So, if you break the goal down into simple actions, then you will be less likely to procrastinate.
Once you’ve taken a "baby step", you can take the next "baby step", and the next one, and the next one. You’ll find yourself super focused and work at your optimal capacity, then you’ll build momentum. Only when you have momentum could you have a desire to keep going.
If you are finding some techniques, maybe you should try Pomodoro Technique: you work in 25 minutes blocks, each is separated by a five-minute break, and repeat over and over again. This technique is one of the best strategies to combat procrastination and increase our productivity as well because it creates a sense of urgency and then forces us to focus on one specific task.
For example, if you need to study for class, you should take a few minutes first to scale it down into smaller pieces and then start with a 25-minute period for the deep work, followed by a 5-minute break, and keep doing.
By now we all know how to immediately quit short-term procrastination on a daily basis. But the big and long-term results only come from your best effort in the long run.
It's time for us to go steps further, which you need to do to prevent long-term procrastination from creeping back into our lives.
To be honest, long-term procrastination is bad. And habits, both good or bad, are super difficult to change. It is because they are routine behavior that is deeply ingrained in our nervous system and subconscious mind. So, why not we should fully kick procrastination to the curb by replacing it with good habits?
Step 3: Stay consistent to stick with good habits
Taking action to overcome resistance, and then giving your best effort to stop procrastination is super important in your very first journey. However, in order to overcome the trap of chronic procrastination, you need to be consistent to get started with a positive habit every day, every week, or even every month.
For example, if you want to start reading books, try to read books at the same time and same place for your first thirty days. When triggers (which prompts you to do it) like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in this practice, then it is easier to stick.
If you are new to habit-forming, you can try Habitify with simple steps: create your daily habit that you want to adopt, actually remember to do it, and frequently track your development.
Learn more about how to use Habitify to create new habits here.
Step 4: Track your performance and level it up
The final step to overcome the trap of chronic procrastination is to measure your progress. It’s easy to slip back into procrastination if you have no way of seeing progress, continuing to keep your motivation and positive attitude. Thus, having a system that records your performance is a great way to trigger the next productive actions involved to beat procrastination.
Tracking your progress is also an effective way for you to reflect and then improve yourself day by day. The more progress you have, the more motivated you feel, and the faster you go. Specifically, once you master a new habit, you should optimize it based on your strengths and weaknesses by creating the right time and right place for this habit.
However, the harsh truth about habit-adopting is that we can’t see our progress clearly and quickly. For example, you have been hitting the gym trying to get six packs. Despite your considerable effort in the past two weeks, you don’t seem to see any changes.
With a habit tracker like Habitify, you can feel your progress clearly with beautiful visualization. The fact is, the ultimate goal of Habitify is not just track, but it provides you with different perspectives to truly understand, and then better improve your progress.
Other progress statistics like completion rate, check-in time, daily performance would allow you to find the right time and right duration for optimizing a new habit.
Additional tip: To get the best view of your progress like above, check out Habitify Web
Complete your reading session, check the habit done, and enjoy seeing your circle progress bar filled with a lovely rewarding sound. You can also find out how many consecutive days you have maintained your reading habit with the Streak count.
Equally important, for example, Check-in graph shows when you most frequently complete the habit of reading. Based on this data, you can find your best time spent for reading. For example, some enjoy reading in the morning because their brain is fresh and better able to focus, but others feel like it’s a little bit sleepy and they love reading before going to bed.
Learn more about Develop Reading Habit with Habitify here.
Christopher Parker famously said:
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill”.
Just as buying things on a credit card is using borrowed money, procrastination is really borrowed time. The procrastinators will ultimately be confronted with problems it has caused. And an important thing to keep in mind is that no one can’t quit procrastination overnight. But it can be changed from the smaller steps today, and better results will come tomorrow.
If you want to beat procrastination, Habitify would be a good fit for you. With Habitify, making positive behavior changes is easier than ever: it not only keeps you motivated but also accountable and focused. A great tool to foster self-improvement and personal growth for everyone.