SkateboardIf you’ve been dragging your feet on the job search or putting off taking the first step on a new career path, you might be surprised to discover the underlying reason for your procrastination.

Procrastinators come from all walks of life and invent all kinds of excuses for their behavior. Some of us say we enjoy the thrill of beating a deadline, while others claim to work better under pressure. Unfortunately, the truth is that procrastination negatively affects many areas of our lives, including our self-esteem, our careers and goals, and even our physical health.

“Procrastination is linked to stress and anxiety, and these in turn are linked to health issues,” writes productivity coach Kirstin O’Donovan. “If your procrastination leads to feelings of depression, over time this depression will start to affect other areas of your life.”

Why We Procrastinate

If procrastination is such a bummer, why do so many of us do it?

Perfectionism can often lead to delaying (or completely avoiding) ambitious tasks in case they turn out less than perfect. After all — if you never actually do something, it’ll never disappoint you, right?

Fear of failure is another common reason we procrastinate. If we’re not sure we have the tools or talent to complete a task or tackle a new job, we may put off trying in order to preemptively save face. This is especially true for those of us going after out dream jobs or looking for promotions.

An addiction to winging it usually begins in school when you discover that you can wait until the night before a paper or project is due and still manage a decent grade. Pretty soon, putting things off until the last minute becomes your normal mode of operation.

GroupYou just don’t wanna do – whatever it is that you’re supposed to do. Maybe the task is unpleasant, such as a household chore you habitually avoid, or maybe it’s not challenging enough to hold your interest. For whatever reason, the task isn’t high on your list of priorities.

What You Can Do Now

Procrastination is, for many of us, a lifelong bad habit — but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change. Here are seven ways you can beat your bad habits and become more productive.

  • Figure out why you’re procrastinating on a particular task. Understanding why you’ve been putting something off can give you insight into how to motivate yourself to get it done.
  • Write down your goals, both immediate and long term, along with a timeline for accomplishing them. As business coach Margie Warrell points out, “A goal without a deadline can be put off indefinitely.”
  • Pick something — anything — off your to-do list and accomplish it right now. Jumpstart your productivity by accomplishing something simple, even if it’s just folding the laundry.
  • Use a time-management strategy, like the Pomodoro Technique or (10+2)*5. These strategies encourage you to put in a structured amount of work, interspersed with short breaks. The ten- or twenty-minute blocks of work will help you stay focused, while the breaks will prevent you from feeling burned out.
  • Eliminate or minimize time wasters. Use a browser plugin to block Facebook, and put away your phone while you’re at it.
  • If a job can’t be completed in one sitting — writing a paper, for example, or preparing a presentation for work — then break it into manageable tasks. These should be small enough to be done in a day, but still significant enough that you feel you’ve made progress.
  • Make life easier by using tools. If you hate to proofread (or if you’re a perfectionist whose typo-phobia results in late assignments), then use Grammarly’s automated grammar checker to ensure error-free writing in mere seconds. Have trouble staying organized? Use a day planner, Google Calendars, or Evernote to stay on top of your work. The idea is to use modern technology to take care of the more time-consuming or tedious tasks in your life — therefore removing some of the roadblocks to getting things done!

What strategies do you use to beat procrastination? We’re asking for a friend, since no one here at Grammarly ever procrastinates.

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