4 Easy Tips for Breaking the Procrastination Cycle

3 min read
Evidence based
Dainius Jakucionis, MD
By Dainius Jakucionis, MD Updated on 2024 Jan 23
a girl stuck in a procrastination cycle

Procrastination is something that everyone experiences once in a while. Piling up tasks, chores, and activities can make anyone uncomfortable hence, the procrastination.

Although similar at first glance, procrastination and laziness are not the same. When lazy, people avoid doing anything, while procrastinators only avoid working on the tasks that make them feel discomfort.

If you tend to procrastinate and notice the quality of your life suffers, do not fret – there are ways to overcome it!

Is Procrastination Manageable?

The short answer – yes, it is! However, you should keep in mind that some planning, dedication, and effort are definitely required.

Usually, procrastination is caused by emotional dysregulation. Avoidance happens because the task appears threatening or unaccomplishable. 

Addressing your emotions, getting in touch with what you’re feeling, and making changes to your lifestyle can help you eliminate procrastination for good.

If you’re ready to overcome this issue, below are the 4 best techniques to help you become more productive.

Break it down

Some tasks feel more straightforward than others; usually, it comes down to how time-consuming they are. 

Now, imagine that you need to build a house. 

That’s a big task that can sound quite overwhelming – where do you start, and how do you do it properly?

In the house-building analogy, you would probably design the house first, then move on to clearing and evening out the land, laying the foundation, building walls, installing plumbing and electricity, painting the walls, and so on. 

But the thing is, you break the house-building task into smaller, more manageable chunks while still working toward the final goal. 

Thinking about the end product can be daunting when you’re yet to start, so instead of stressing out, make a to-do or a priority list.

Timer, timer, timer

We often expect complete focus and an incredible amount of motivation from ourselves. However, that’s not how our brains work – motivation and productivity fluctuate, so some days you might feel like moving mountains, while others are more easy-going.

However, some assignments must be completed even during the “lazy” days. So, how to get things done when you’re not feeling like it?

The answer: try using a timer. Set a timer for a specific amount of time and focus on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, take a break and then set the timer again.

You can look at the Pomodoro technique or develop your own system that works for you.

Promise yourself a reward

Getting a bonus at work for outstanding performance or a gift when you go the extra mile to do something always makes us feel appreciated and valued. 

Luckily, you don’t need someone to reward you for your hard work because you can do it yourself! Promise yourself something pleasant or enjoyable after you accomplish a task.

Go on a coffee break, have something sweet when you finish a smaller assignment, and use more prominent rewards for tasks that require more effort and time.

Rewards create a positive association and can be exceptionally motivating.

Create a distraction-free environment

While it might not appear so, clutter, music, and other background noise can be very distracting. 

To avoid getting stuck in the procrastination loop, try to create a workspace that is calm, quiet, and clutter-free. Here’s what you can do:

  • Some people enjoy working and listening to music at the same time, but others find it distracting. Try working in silence and see if it helps.
  • Cluttered spaces can unintentionally be overwhelming, making it difficult to concentrate. Declutter your office to make your workspace cleaner. You can try some of the tips listed here.
  • Turn off notifications and other disruptors (such as TV or radio).

Break Out of the Procrastination Cycle

Although there are dozens of great tips for managing procrastination, the first thing you should do is ask yourself: “Why am I avoiding this task?” 

Being an emotional regulation problem, procrastination does not happen randomly, and there are reasons you feel unmotivated, distracted, and uncomfortable. Focus on figuring out why you procrastinate and how you can help yourself get better.

Be patient while trying out methods for procrastination management, and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect all the time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Dainius Jakucionis, MD

Dainius is a renowned psychotherapist, holding a Master’s Degree in Medicine and additional training in Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy.