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How to Stop Procrastination and Boost Productivity: Breaking the Habit

Susan Halsey - Writer for Top10
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a man sitting in front of a laptop computer while holding a pencil in his mouthHow to Stop Procrastination and Boost Productivity
Do you find yourself regularly putting off important tasks? You're not alone. Let me help you say goodbye to delays and hello to efficiency.

Without online therapy, persistent procrastination can be harmful to your mental health and personal life. In my experience, the long-term effects of procrastination include signs of low self-esteem, poor performance at work, and strained interpersonal relationships.

I've been a licensed and practicing psychologist for over two decades. In this article, I'll show you how procrastination works and how you can break the habit.

» Equip yourself with these practical tips for handling stress.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Work Isn't Always Fun

Some tasks simply aren't enjoyable to do. Writing a report, cleaning the house, or doing taxes isn't usually what we look forward to, making it very easy to delay them. Distractions are also plentiful, including social media, notifications, and endless entertainment options. It's easy to get sidetracked from the tasks that require focus.

To Avoid Stress

Some of my patients try to handle stress by avoiding work, which can be a powerful behavioral reinforcer. Large projects, especially ones with unclear steps, can cause decision fatigue. Where do you even start? This confusion can make some people put things off until they feel more manageable.

Perfectionists might put off work because they're overwhelmed with the pressure of doing it exactly right. The pressure to do something flawlessly can be paralyzing, which can get you stuck in a cycle of overthinking where you never start doing the task.

» Learn more about how you can overcome overthinking through online therapy.

Mental Health Conditions

Existing mental health conditions can make it challenging to complete tasks, leading to failure, self-doubt, and more failure. People with anxiety disorders may also have low energy levels and difficulty focusing, which may make it look like they're procrastinating or being "lazy."

Other contributors include symptoms of ADHD in women and men, where attention dysregulation causes people to start tasks but struggle to finish them.

Why Do We Procrastinate

How to Stop Procrastinating

Reduce Distractions

You can significantly increase productivity by identifying and reducing distractions. So, if you still have difficulty completing work, look for ways to make your environment more conducive. It also helps to designate a space exclusively for work so you can go into "focus mode" when you use it.

Set a timer for 50-90 minute blocks and vigorously focus on a single important task during that time. Ensure you mute notifications, block tempting websites and apps, and keep your environment organized.

Reward Yourself for Success

Treat yourself to something small when you finish a task, like your favorite snack. Try ticking off assignments you complete on a tracker or calendar—seeing your progress can boost your productivity. You can also take a walk outside or do an activity you enjoy to reward yourself for a job well done.

The key is linking small, immediate incentives to task completion to reinforce productivity and make resisting procrastination worthwhile. Just don't compensate yourself with what enables you to procrastinate in the first place.

Build an Accountability Network

If you need help holding yourself accountable, you could build a support network of close friends and family. Sharing the ups and downs with people you trust can make the process less daunting.

When my patients procrastinate, they often feel isolated in their struggle against distraction and lack of motivation. Identify a few close confidants, like a spouse, parent, friend, or colleague you interact with daily. Ask them to monitor your progress at key milestones. Tell them your plans and goals to solidify that sense of internal commitment.

Allow your support community to acknowledge your wins. These can be when you complete an assignment early, resist distractions, and meet deadlines you would've typically missed.

Please don't consider it a weakness to ask for help. Everyone struggles with avoiding procrastination in some capacity—it isn't rare. Joseph Ferrari, PhD, notes that 20% of US adults are chronic procrastinators. Getting assistance when your resolve wavers is a strength!

How to Stop Procrastinating

How to Manage Tasks More Efficiently

A little structure goes a long way for deep focus. Find alternative ways to manage tasks, such as:

  • Completing intensive tasks when you're most focused and productive in the day
  • Breaking tasks into smaller subtasks with outlines and realistic timelines
  • Blocking out dedicated time for projects
  • Avoiding multitasking

The Pomodoro Technique

One of the most popular tips for breaking up tasks into manageable steps is using the Pomodoro Technique. It's quite straightforward: Set timers where you work in 25-minute intervals and then take five-minute breaks in between. After four work sessions, you can take a longer break to recharge before you start again.

Use Timers

Try the 3-2-1 rule. This is where you count down from three out loud or in your head to create a sense of urgency and trick your brain into getting up and starting a task. You can also try the five-minute rule, where you initially commit to doing only five minutes of a task. You might be more willing to continue a task after five minutes.

How to Stop Procrastinating

How Online Therapy Can Help

Online therapy platforms are a valuable resource for dealing with procrastination. Once clinicians determine the cause, they can help you implement the most practical strategies to change your behaviors.

Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful for people with ADHD who need support with executive functioning and task management. A study on procrastination interventions found that CBT may be one of the most effective treatment methods.

Signs you should seek therapy can be when your procrastinating behaviors:

  • Negatively impact your life several days a week
  • Put your job or relationships in jeopardy
  • Increase feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Negatively affect your self-esteem

» Reach out to our best online therapy services that can prescribe medication.

Boost Your Productivity Today

Procrastination is a common habit that can seriously reduce productivity and prevent you from reaching your goals. However, you can overcome it through mindfulness, techniques for staying focused, and professional help through services like BetterHelp or Cerebral.

This will empower you to boost your productivity, feel less stressed, and pursue your personal and professional aspirations with greater intention. Though the strategies require commitment and perseverance, the long-term benefits make them worthwhile.

» Find out how ADHD therapy can improve your daily life.

Susan Halsey - Writer for Top10
With 20+ years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Susan Halsey specializes in anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, relationships, and sports psychology. She's a certified soccer coach and champions mental wellness through exercise and support networks.

The author of this article has been paid by Natural Intelligence to write this article. Neither the author nor Natural Intelligence provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.