Procrastination: How to Overcome It Forever

Procrastination - How to Overcome It Forever

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How to overcome procrastination permanently?

It’s no surprise that we’ve discussed how to overcome procrastination several times – it’s productivity’s archenemy. We’re constantly kicking procrastination to the curb on our path to success, and it often reappears a few steps further down the road. In the never-ending battle between procrastination and production, some of us fare better than others, but few of us have taken the time to fully understand what procrastination is, where it comes from, and how to combat it effectively. In fact, most of us only know two things about procrastination: a basic, iceberg-level definition and how not to do it.

Knowing “not to procrastinate” is insufficient. How can we learn to overcome procrastination if we don’t understand what it is? You wouldn’t go into a battle without researching your opponent; perhaps it’s time to get to “know your enemy.”

Which tasks do we put off?

We all know – in a broad, hazy sense – when we procrastinate, but a closer look at our least favorite tasks can reveal exactly when we procrastinate. Most of us have certain behavioral patterns that we follow, such as delaying certain types of tasks with specific attributes. According to psychologist Edwin Van Hooft, three task traits cause “task aversiveness,” which is the catalyst for procrastination:

  • Difficulty of the task When faced with “difficult” tasks, people tend to procrastinate.
  • Task significance. When a task is deemed “unimportant,” people tend to procrastinate.
  • Task effectiveness. People are more likely to procrastinate when they do not consider themselves “good at” the task at hand.

Also read How to Work Less and Produce More

Procrastination with a Plan

Structured procrastination involves rearranging tasks in relation to their true importance. When faced with a particularly unpleasant (but necessary) task, such as filing your taxes, you may discover less important things to do, such as washing your car, completing your laundry, or exercising. You might even devise tasks that are almost superfluous, such as disinfecting your desk or checking the air pressure in your car tires. It’s all about coming up with justifications to avoid doing the more important work.

Structured procrastination appears to be harmless, even semi-productive, but it is a serious problem. Your “to do” list has been turned upside down, rearranging your tasks from least to most important. You’re putting off important tasks in favor of minor details that aren’t worth your time. Your productivity may be increasing, but it is only to conceal the fact that your priorities are completely backwards.

Waiting for the “Spirit of God to Strike You”

Instead of springing into action, as structured procrastinators do, some people become paralyzed by procrastination. Rather than avoiding the unpleasant work by focusing on minor, insignificant, or unimportant tasks, they stay on track, tackling the most important tasks first. However, this does not always imply that they are doing the work, and procrastinators frequently feel safe as long as they are “in position,” even if they are not making progress.

The classic case is the college student who has a large paper due the following day. The student’s fingers are frozen on the keyboard. They aren’t writing, but they believe that if they leave, they will miss an opportunity to write. Sitting at their desk, the student is relaxed and anxiety-free. They are not avoiding their work; rather, they are confronting it… quite literally. However, they are still not doing it.

Also read How to Complete Your To-Do List in 6 Simple Ways


Perfectionism is frequently portrayed as a positive trait, but it is a common cause of procrastination. Work simply will not begin unless the conditions are ideal, and it will never be completed unless the results are flawless. This is the type of behavior that will prevent a gym-goer from starting their workout unless they are completely rested, perfectly hydrated, and optimally fueled through a pre-workout diet. Similarly, an author may never complete their book until every word is flawless.

How Can We Overcome Procrastination?

Recognize the various flavors of motivation. Internal motivation stems from your own values and goals. External motivation includes both rewards (such as a salary) and penalties (such as a poor performance review) for task completion. As much as we would like our strongest motivation to come from within, we have a tendency to prioritize externally motivated tasks over internally motivated ones. In other words, you may want to spend the evening with your family but feel obligated to complete that externally-motivated project report by midnight.

Exercise your willpower. “Volitional skills” is simply the scientific term for “willpower,” but there is an important distinction between the terms: Willpower is thought to be innate, something you are born with (or born without). It appears to be an easy way out; whenever you want to procrastinate, you can shrug and say, “I just don’t have the willpower,” as if there’s no way to summon the initiative to get the job done.

The excuse simply does not hold water: “Willpower” is not a natural ability. It is a skill that can be developed, improved, or neglected. Consider your volitional abilities to be like muscles; you can strengthen them but also exhaust them. They benefit from rest, so choose your willpower battles with caution.

Stop referring to yourself as a procrastinator. If you become too comfortable with procrastination, you will eventually neglect your job, family, and personal health. Rather than labeling yourself as a procrastinator, declare your productive intentions and remind yourself of your objectives. As David Campbell put it,

“Discipline is knowing what you want.”


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