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5 Tips to Overcome Procrastination And Help Your Mental Health

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Everyone experiences a mental block sometimes when it comes to getting things done. Procrastination is a common challenge that most people face. Whether it’s fear, preference, or the overall difficulty of getting started, there are so many ways to explore how and why you’re stuck.

We’ll explore five practical ways to overcome procrastination and start accomplishing your tasks and goals realistically.

1. Figure out what emotion is behind your procrastination

Is it a fear that you won’t do the task well? Resentment for having to do the dreaded task instead of a preferred activity? Whatever it is, it will be easier to manage if you name it, rather than just a floating sense of dread. There are steps you can take to work with fear that you won’t do well (ask for help, get more information, etc.) but it’s a lot harder to take steps to reduce a general, nameless sense of dread.

Relatedly, some people wait for the right emotional state to get to work - either a creative spark, feeling inspired, or a flow state. It’s true that especially for neurodivergent folks, flow state or “hyperfocus” might be one of our superpowers that helps us produce great work at record speeds, but the belief that this can only be achieved close to the deadline, or that you won’t be able to produce good work at all without hyperfocus might be a mental trap that feeds procrastination.

2. Notice whether you’re prioritizing scripted tasks before unscripted ones

We naturally prefer tasks that are practiced, and have specific steps to complete. For example, you know how to take a shower - you’ve been doing it every day for years. It has specific steps (grab a towel, turn the water on, wash your hair, etc.) Our brains will always gravitate towards, say, having a shower before doing something unscripted like writing a thesis.

Many people who struggle with procrastination aren’t exactly doing nothing instead of doing the task at hand, but they’re doing lots of scripted tasks first and find that they struggle to ever get to the unscripted ones. Try prioritizing unscripted tasks above scripted tasks and scheduling them earlier in your day, when you still have more mental energy.

3. Make the barrier to entry low

Is it hard to get excited about doing five hours of homework? Commit to doing ten minutes of homework. You may find that you get in a groove and want to keep going and end up working longer.

4. Change your work habits

Expecting yourself to do five straight hours of homework is a path to dread and avoidance. Some people even experience some anxiety that the task at hand will keep them away from their preferred activities, which makes them want to avoid more. Build in breaks at predictable intervals.

Get up and stretch, catch up on Instagram, or have a cup of tea. One classic and well-researched strategy for balancing work and breaks is called the Pomodoro Method and involves twenty-five minute intervals of work followed by five minute breaks.

5. Use environmental cues

Your five senses can help your body know when it’s work time. For some people this means going to a particular work environment (like a coffee shop where you only work and don’t socialize, respond to email, or scroll your phone).

For others, this may mean putting a particular essential oil in the diffuser that signals work-time, putting on particular music (high BPM EDM is a favourite), sitting down with your coffee, or some combination of cues that works specifically for you.

Tackle Procrastination with Stillwater’s Productivity Boosting Strategies

While these tips can help you get through procrastination, sometimes underlying mental health and neurodivergent struggles require more exploration and support.

Our general mental health, ADHD, and Autism counseling at Stillwaters can help provide the guidance and tools you need to accomplish your goals.

For compassionate mental health and neurodivergent counselling services in the Vancouver Area, schedule your free 15 minute consultation with Stillwaters now.

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