How to Stop Procrastinating - 7 Proven Ways to Stop Procrastination [in 2021]

Procrastination is an issue that most of us have faced at one point or another in life. Our bad habits of avoiding goals and delaying tasks until the last minute, often results in procrastination. Procrastination among students is as common as tiktok. Students usually don’t start studying when there is enough time to prepare for their exams and then try to complete all of their syllabus in just one night before the exam, while kicking themselves for not starting earlier. With that said, today, we are going to discuss 7 proven ways on how to stop procrastinating.

Vector art; how to stop procrastinating

We all have experienced study sessions albeit intermittently, in which we have been our most productive self and temporarily figured out a way to not fall under the traps of procrastination. We all crave such study sessions, as it makes us feel more satisfied and gives us a sense of gratification. The main objective of this guide is to explore the science behind procrastination and share science based mental hacks that can beat procrastination.

Science and Procrastination

For the past 120 years, psychologists have been in the quest of understanding the science behind procrastination. There is a term in behavioral psychology called “time inconsistency” that precisely explains the reason behind us getting trapped in procrastination in spite of our good motives. In simple words, the time inconsistency can be understood as the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than the expected future rewards.

Let’s attempt to understand this with a simple example. Consider that you have two selves: your present self and your future self. Now, imagine yourself setting a goal - like writing a book or losing weight. When you set your mind to achieve this goal, you are actually visualizing it to happen in the future or making plans for your future self.

Vector art: multiple characters, research on brain on procrastination

According to psychologists, when you think about your future self, the brain understands the value behind taking an action as it can see the long-term benefits which can be derived from these actions. But the main crux of the problem is that the future self can only envision and set ambitious goals and can’t take the action needed for it, unlike the present self.

Also, the present self likes instant gratification, not long term rewards. Thus, we can say that the present self and future self are always against each other.

For example, everyone knows they are required to stay fit and healthy by avoiding junk foods but, tend to hop on to fast food now and then. It is easier for the present self to value the instant gratification of having fast foods rather than having a fit body two years down the line.

From this example, we can clearly understand that our brain values immediate gratification more than future rewards. This is the reason we often find ourselves falling back into old routines. Although, we plan to change our life to a better version of ourselves in the future.

If you actually want to make changes in your habits, you cannot completely rely on long-term pay-offs and rewards to motivate the present self. Instead, you have to figure out ways to move future rewards into the present moment. For instance, just before the final report submissions, our adrenaline is on a high and we take every possible action to complete the report before time because our future consequences turn into present consequences.

Thus, we can conclude that the main problem is in starting the task. If you want to stop procrastinating, you will need to tune your mind to small achievements in the present to get started and do it on a regular basis to gain momentum and ultimately turn these small daily actions into a permanent habit.

According to a 20-years old study, the three most common habits of procrastinators are: sleeping, playing, and watching TV. Considering the present trends, spending time on social media would stand out more to out-weigh these habits. According to psychologists, procrastination can be linked to low self-confidence, depression, irrational thoughts, and poor habits. Moreover, procrastinators are often found to be more stressed or ill when the deadline is near, results in low scores in the exams or assessment.

How to Stop Procrastinating: 7 Proven Methods

So, how can we let you know how to stop procrastinating? Here is a list of 7 proven hacks to overcome procrastination.

1. Use the power of small wins

One of the main reasons most of us procrastinate is that the tasks look intimidating to us. So, the first thing we must do while getting started on any project or assignment is that we should break it into simpler and achievable goals.

For instance, you can say “I will complete 20 pages today” instead of saying I need to complete the 5 chapters for the upcoming exam. This will make the end goal less daunting but achievable.

Vector art;  multiple characters using power of small wins

To begin with the task in hand, you can use the 2-minute ruleand work on the task for 2 minutes on a regular basis to build momentum and go on auto-pilot mode. So, the idea is to work on small sized goals and build a habit of accomplishment which will ultimately make it less likely for you to procrastinate.

2. Create a timeline/schedule

After setting your macro goals, start breaking them into even smaller goals to make them more measurable and manageable. Once you are done with this, start making your “personalized schedule” to complete these micro-goals.

Vector art; two characters scheduling; how to stop procrastinating

For instance, If you are someone who is preparing for engineering entrance exams and have set your macro goal of revising organic chemistry in a week. Then, break it down into different chapters or maybe sub-topics and schedule them on different days of the week such that it becomes easy for you to track their completion status.

This approach can help you attain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction each day when you find yourself thrashing those mini-milestones or micro-goals.

3. ...But, be nimble with your plans

Most of us have this notion that goals need to be rigid and we need to follow a fixed set of methods. This is completely wrong! Goals can be flexible as well. Flexibility in setting goals is what allows us to improve. Once we figure out some path is not working out for us, we need to mend our path and find a new one.

Vector art; two characters re-scheduling; how to stop procrastinating

The great scientist Thomas A. Edison once said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” If he would have given up when he missed out on one or two trails, we wouldn’t have probably seen such a magnificent innovation: the electric bulb.

The idea is to be flexible in your plans. Do not get disheartened with small failures and learn from your mistakes every time we fail, and keep moving forward.

4. Get rid of distractions

Distractions can be anything like annoying siblings, TV noise, our internal thoughts, or emotional fantasy. These are the most common impediments that come in our way when we are all set and progressing towards our goals.

Thus, it becomes very crucial for us to get rid of all these potential barriers or distractions before you start working on our task at hand in order to avoid getting distracted halfway through the task. You can even try out certain ways to bypass these distractions for the time being.

Vector art; procrastinating characters; how to stop procrastinating

For instance, if you are someone who is too addicted to social media, then you can try out Digital Detox or switch off your phone for the time period in which you have assigned yourself to work on a particular micro-task.

If you are too distracted in your own web of thoughts or fantasize most often then you can try listening to some instrumental music or white noise to stay focused on your goals. Alternatively, you can also change study environments totally and head down to your terrace or local library. Even better, you can try out our virtual library platform to enjoy distraction-free study sessions.

5. Tell someone about your goal

It has been observed that we often tend to put off our tasks or assignments until the last moment and procrastinate when the deadlines are near.

Psychologists have discovered this magical hack that works on the “power of social accountability”. According to this, if you genuinely want to get a task completed, tell a family member, friend, or colleague. This works because now you have someone to whom you are answerable if you fail to finish within the deadline.

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As an added advantage, you can now be blessed with someone who can guide, motivate, and celebrate with. Social accountability has proven to be one of the most effective ways to ensure that you don’t procrastinate. Social accountability is also one of the core principles on which our virtual library works.

For instance, when users start their session they share their targets with each other and also hold each other accountable for the same.

6. Use incentives

Getting rewarded for achieving our goals is everyone’s desire, no matter how small or big it is. Behavioral psychologists refer to this as “Positive Enforcement” or “Operant Conditioning” in which you trick your brain to work on a particular set of activities to achieve a predefined reward.

Vector art; characters and rewards; how to stop procrastinating

For instance, you can reward yourself with an ice-cream treat or a weekend movie session for completing the goals within the scheduled time period. In some cases, this positive reinforcement can come quite naturally to you. But in most cases, you need to choose this very deliberately in order to train and maintain a specific behavior.

Positive reinforcement can be very effective if it is used wisely. According to studies, positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior. Thus, we should keep this in mind when delivering the rewards and present them very enthusiastically and frequently to leave a powerful influence on our future course of action.

7. Increase self-belief

According to a behavioral study, it is found that most of the people who believe that they can’t complete a specific task-in-hand are more likely to procrastinate. These are the people who have less self-esteem and self-belief.

Thus, one of the ways to eliminate procrastination can be to improve self-confidence, at least in the case of such individuals. One way to do this is by “Modeling” or highlighting how others have done the same thing under similar or even worse circumstances.

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This allows them to restore a sense of belief within themselves just because they now have someone’s template to follow. Another method to achieve self-confidence is to take inspiration from your own past acknowledgments and achievements.

Regardless of what strategies or hacks you use, the bottom line is: Set flexible micro-goals for yourself and use the power of positive reinforcement or social accountability to push yourself all the way and carry forward the momentum for the upcoming tasks.

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Written by

Avinash Tripathi

Founder & Chief Productivity Engineer at StudyGang. Making a dent in the universe, one user at a time.