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How to stop procrastinating: 3 simple ways to get things done

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 12/06/2019 Anna Bonet

Young man watching television, using remote control to switch channels. Guy bored with what he sees on TV screen. Sitting on couch in living room at home, copy space © Getty Young man watching television, using remote control to switch channels. Guy bored with what he sees on TV screen. Sitting on couch in living room at home, copy space If you're always putting off tasks, it's likely you're a procrastinator. Doing this every now and again is not a big issue, but constant procrastination might be a sign that something is amiss.

So, is there a way to tell if you have a serious problem with procrastination, and how can you stop constantly putting important things off? Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist at Healthspan and author of The Shrinkology Solution, explains:

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is defined by the act of putting things off. Perhaps you have an important task to do, but keep finding menial jobs to do instead. Or you have something pressing on your to-do list but you end up scrolling through social media. But just because you do this, doesn't mean you're not a capable person.

'Let’s start off with what procrastination is not – it’s not laziness, apathy or a sign of incompetence,' says Dr Arroll. 'People who experience procrastination are often more conscientiousness than those who seem to just be able to "get on with it".'

'Indeed, procrastination can be a sign of maladaptive perfectionism where the fear of getting something wrong, or even not doing it as well as we’d like, can paralyse action,' she adds.

Habitual procrastination could be something deeper at play. 'This may have developed from harsh or unhelpful criticism during childhood and adolescence, but there is likely a genetic component related to the personality trait of conscientiousness that also plays a role,' explains Dr Arroll.

What are the signs of procrastination?

© Getty Of course, the main symptom associated with procrastination is the act of putting things off. But, as Dr Arroll explains, there's more to procrastination than simply delaying your to-do list.

'The key pattern with procrastination is not simply leaving tasks until the last minute, rather a great deal of time and mental energy is spent thinking about the job at hand and growing increasingly anxious about it until finally a burst of action takes place,' she says.

'This is why procrastination can be harmful to health as it consumes resources, leading to poor time management, stress and for some burnout syndrome,' Dr Arroll continues.

'If you’re feeling overwhelmed by tasks or are experiencing symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations, dizziness or a feeling of dread when confronted with a task, it is worth digging a little deeper to get to the route of the problem.'

How to stop procrastinating

© Getty The best way to overcome procrastination is to look to the root of the problem. Ask yourself: is it because the task at hand is daunting, is it because you're worried you won't get it perfect, or do you just not feel good enough?

• If it's because it's daunting

'For some people the issue may simply be that the task at hand feels unsurmountable,' says Dr Arroll. 'In this instance breaking it down into bitesize chunks and rewarding each mini-achievement is useful.'

• If it's because you're a perfectionist

'For people with maladaptive perfectionist traits which lead to procrastination, the way to overcome procrastination involves some work around banishing the inner critic,' says Dr Arroll. Set your targets deliberately low, and focus on what you have already achieved rather than striving towards something unattainable.

• If it's because you don't feel good enough

'Thoughts such as "it will never be good enough", and "I shouldn’t even be doing this job, they’ll realise I’m not up to scratch when I submit this report" need to be challenged with evidence, logic and a big helping of compassion,' explains Dr Arroll.

Suffice to say, if you are a procrastinator, chances are you care deeply about what you’re doing, rather than not enough.

Mental health support

If you feel anxious or depressed and need additional support, try one of the following resources:

  • Anxiety UK: a charity which specifies in helping those suffering from anxiety.
  • The Samaritans: a charity providing support to anyone in emotional distress.
  • Mind: a charity that makes sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

Gallery: Simple ways to keep your brain young and healthy [StarsInsider]

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