Overcoming procrastination: Are you a perfectionist, distracted or overwhelmed?

There are some days when we just can’t seem to get anything done. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t face that task, can’t get motivated, can’t focus or just feel like everything is too much for us to handle that day. We’ve all been there – this phase can last for a day, a week, or sometimes you may go through several weeks of feeling like this – it’s perfectly normal.

But there are reasons why we procrastinate. Everyone is different and are facing different tasks and challenges, but there are some life hacks you can use to overcome your procrastination tendencies. Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re procrastinating.

Brown Wooden Blocks on White Surface

For some people, procrastination happens because they’re perfectionists. For others, they’re finding the work difficult and don’t know where to start. Some of us are just easily distracted and others are just totally overwhelmed by everything going on, so instead of tackling their list, they freeze in procrastination mode.

So what can we do if one of these applies to us and our procrastination method?


Person Writing on a Notebook

Perfectionists want the end product to be perfect and starting out writing that first sentence on a report or even something like cleaning the house feels like an instant failure, because no sentence or first chore will every feel good or important enough to start off with. Your brain will constantly trip over itself trying to outdo your own ideas before you ever even start.

But here’s the key – just start. I know, I know, it’s oversimplifying the problem. But what I mean is, treat this first go as a rough draft. Get all your ideas on the page and knock it out of your head so you can stop overthinking it. Then later, when you’re re-editing, you can fix all the clunky and imperfect parts that are bothering you. But the first and hardest step is just to put pen to paper and to move on from dissecting that first sentence.

Difficult work

Woman in White Shirt Showing Frustration

This one can be tough because it can leave us feeling lost and taking a confidence hit. If you’re not sure what’s required of you or you don’t understand the work, a good tip is to go back on what material you’ve been given relating to this topic. Look at the question and reading materials and highlight key phrases and important words. Then google, google, google. Arming yourself with info – even some useless info – is what will help most when you’re not sure what to do with a task. It will open up avenues of thought you hadn’t considered yet and allow you to view the problem form another angle.

If this first step doesn’t yield results, then you’ve to do something a little harder – ask for help. Go to your supervisor, boss, teacher, friend, colleague, anyone with a little background knowledge and put your heads together to get a hold on the problem – they saying really is true – two heads are always better than one! It can feel like admitting defeat, but 99% of the time, people are delighted to help and can again, help you see the problem from a fresh point of view.


Free stock photo of apartment, bed, bedroom

This one can be a tough one, because if you’re anything like me, your mind will be buzzing with plenty of distractions, never mind your environment! But there are a few options here to deal with both a buzzing mind and a buzzing environment to help you regain focus and settle down to your tasks.

If you get distracted in your own thoughts, daydreaming and planning things, keep a notebook next to you and practice the pomodoro method. At the start of your workday, set a timer for 10 minutes and do a ‘brain dump’ – start writing everything that comes to mind, never lifting your pen form the page. It’s a method to empty your head of its distractions and assure it that it’s being listened to, even if you’re just mindlessly scrawling words onto the page. Keep the notebook next to you to scribble down important ideas as they occur to you so you can return to them at a later time.

Once that’s done, the pomodoro method is designed to utilise your full attention for small amounts of time, a perfect solution for distracted people: Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat this 4 times before taking a 15–30-minute break. It will train your brain to keep engaged for certain amounts of time so you can give the task your full attention during that time.


Full body of anonymous depressed female in casual clothes sitting on rattan stool in light room with windows at home

We’ve all been there. Everything just seems to be piling up, you’re over-stimulated, life is too busy, you have some personal stuff going on and everything just builds until even just looking at your laptop is enough to send you spiralling. It’s all about breaking it down. Just like the distracted method, the key is getting it all out on paper or into your notes to clear your head a little. Write down everything you have to do and then break it down further into smaller, manageable tasks.

So if you have to write up a report, break it down into smaller pieces like; Set up work space, gather information from XYZ, format information, write first paragraph, second, etc. Jotting it down on paper to tick off can alleviate some of the stress and make you feel like you’re accomplishing things and taking away from your mental load. Another key thing is to try keep your space as clear as possible. Clean up your desk, put away dirty dishes, tidy your room and have a clean, blank space to work from. A cluttered space is a cluttered head, so do your best to set yourself up as well as you can!