5 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating

How to Overcome This Bad Habit and Save Your Career

A man sitting backing against a desk looking up at a clock
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When your boss assigns a project to you, you have every intention of getting it done as quickly as possible. Suddenly, the deadline is alarmingly near, and you realize you haven't made as much progress as you had hoped, or any progress at all for that matter. You kept finding other things to do (like sharpening all 20 pencils in your desk). Does this sound a bit too familiar? If this describes the person whose name appears in the "Pay to the order of" line on your paycheck, you have to stop procrastinating as soon as possible.

This bad habit can destroy your career and that paycheck you rely on will disappear.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

People procrastinate for a variety of reasons. Let's take a look at some of them.

  • The Project Seems too Difficult: You might put off starting a project because you feel overwhelmed by it and don't know where to begin.
  • The Project Isn't Interesting: A job might be boring, so you look for other things to entertain you.
  • You Can't Figure Out How to Prioritize Tasks: You might procrastinate because you can't figure out what tasks have priority over others.
  • You Think You Won't Have Enough Time to Complete a Task: You may put off starting to work on something because you won't have sufficient time to finish it. This sometimes happens at the end of a workday when you have less than an hour left before you leave. You think, "why start this now? I'll just wait until tomorrow."

    Procrastination can keep you from completing projects on time and also from tending to some of the regular aspects of your job. Missed deadlines plus tasks left undone equals a very dissatisfied boss. If you're trying to figure out why you keep getting fired from jobs, this could very likely be the reason. Even if you don't lose your job, you certainly won't see any career growth. The good thing is, unlike other bad habits, it's not that hard to put an end to this one. Here are 5 easy tips to help you stop procrastinating:

    Break Big Projects Into Smaller Parts

    When your boss gives you a challenging project, separate it into manageable chunks. You can do this to make large projects seem less overwhelming. Once you have divided up the work, give those smaller pieces deadlines that you can easily reach before the finished project is due.

    Reward Yourself

    When you are confronted with having to do something tedious, the prospect of receiving a small reward at the end can give you something to look forward to. Doing this works well for projects that you can complete in a few hours or for projects that you can break down into smaller parts that can be completed quickly, as discussed above. If you know a coffee and cookie break is waiting for you when the job is complete, you will be inspired to get started.

    Write a To-Do List 

    Put together a list of everything you have to do. Include tasks you must tend to on a regular basis as well as bigger projects your boss has assigned to you. List the items in deadline order. Give a due date to tasks that don't actually have one. This tip will keep you from beginning a project that has a deadline that is far away before tackling one that is due soon.

    If You Don't Have Time to Finish One Task, Choose Another

    If you find yourself putting off starting a task because you don't think you'll have enough time to finish it, find one that you can complete in the time you have left. For example, if you have a half hour left in your day, you may not have enough time to answer that email that is waiting in your inbox, but you do have time to put away those files that are sitting on your desk. Before you know it, you will get all those quick, annoying tasks done.

    Find a "Procrastinating Buddy" 

    Partner with a coworker who also has a problem with putting things off. Show each other your to-do lists and then hold each other accountable for completing items on your respective ones. The stakes are certainly lower when you have to answer to a coworker instead of your boss, but it may give you the push you need.