Want to be productive? Here are five ways to stop procrastinating

Even if we don't want to see ourselves as such, most of push things off. A few of us have even turned into chronic procrastinators, so what can we do?

 Working from home (photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)
Working from home
(photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)

Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, data shows that about 80 percent of people are procrastinators. One in five is even a chronic procrastinator.

Although it may be comforting to know that we are not alone in this, we need to understand how much it can hold us back. So how can the phenomenon be overcome?

Procrastination is an active process in which the person chooses to engage in something else instead of the task they know needs to be done. It is, in fact, the gap between the time they want to do the task and the time they actually do it. For example: When you have a presentation to finish for work and instead, you fold laundry.

Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant and/or difficult task (this is the #1 reason for procrastination) but probably more importantly, in favor of a more enjoyable or easier task.

Another example: Instead of paying a penalty whose deadline is approaching, you scroll for fun through Facebook. And not only that, but sometimes the procrastinators will also postpone fun activities and recreation, such as going on a family vacation (due to the difficulty of organizing it), or a date with a partner, because they didn't arrange for a babysitter.

How to get things done (credit: FLICKR)How to get things done (credit: FLICKR)

Is procrastination the same as laziness?

Procrastination often feels like laziness, but in reality, it's different. Laziness implies indifference, inactivity and unwillingness to act.

Procrastination, on the other hand, has a goal, a target, a desire or a dream, but there is difficulty in carrying it out.For example, if you want to start exercising, and even participate in a marathon eventually, but find it difficult to go for a run in the morning and put it off day by day.

Procrastination has negative consequences: It creates stress and hurts mentally. People who procrastinate are sick more often because they postpone checkups, and small episodes of procrastination can make us feel guilty or ashamed. This can lead to a reduction in productivity and cause us to miss the goals we have set for ourselves.

If we postpone a task for a long time, we may lose motivation and become disappointed in ourselves, which may lead to depression and even job loss, in extreme cases. Data indicates that about 40 percent of people who go bankrupt are chronic procrastinators.

In recent years, a connection between procrastination and attention deficit disorder has been proven. Procrastination is a central characteristic of attention deficit disorder - it is the result of a different function of the frontal lobe in the brain, which is responsible for the executive functions that help us to motivate actions.

Five ways to stop procrastinating

As with most habits, procrastination can be overcome. One of the ways is the the "five-point" technique:

1. The "five questions" technique: Check why you are putting off the assignment in order to understand what to change in your behavior. Ask yourself five times, to be precise. Once you understand the reason, you can find a good solution for it.

For example: Why don't you do sports? Because it's less suitable for you in the morning? Because this sport bores you? Because your goal is actually different and you want to eat healthy?

2. The "five seconds" technique: When you decide to do something count down from five, and before you reach 1 get up and do it without thinking about it. After five seconds from the moment we think of doing an action, our brain will start coming up with explanations and excuses why we shouldn't, starting with "I'm too tired to wash the dishes now", or "my partner needs to do this", and so on.

To overcome this, perform the action before the end of five seconds from the moment you decide on it.

3. The "five in the morning" technique (if you are a night owl - skip this section): The morning is the time when most of us are more efficient. That's why we plan the important tasks for the morning. Of course, you don't have to do it at five in the morning but don't waste the morning time on emails or social media.

If, for example, you have an important presentation to prepare for work today, start with this, and as early as possible in the morning. Move on to the next task only when you complete it.

4. The "five-minute" technique: Plan an action of five minutes. The reason is that after this, we see an increase in the level of dopamine which creates a feeling of motivation for action, and helps us to continue it.

Dopamine is also called the hormone of motivation or reinforcement, so our ambition is that it will be secreted as much as possible in our brain, and this can be done by starting the action.

5. The "five people" technique: Commitment to external factors motivates action, as does help from other people.Think of five people who can help you, or who you can commit to carrying out the task.

For example, Mom, Dad or Grandma can help prepare meals for the coming week, thus saving us time and effort, or you can arrange with a friend to go for a walk in the evening and then it will be rude for us to cancel.

Dr. Shirley Hershko is a senior expert in the field of attention. A researcher and writer, lecturer at the Hebrew University, owner of an institute for diagnosis and treatment, she wrote 4 successful books (among them the bestseller, People of Attention).