5 Science-Based Secrets: How to Overcome Procrastination and Laziness

In our work to maximize the brain’s true potential, we know that the answer to why people procrastinate is more complex than laziness or poor time management. We all recognize that it’s in our best interest not to delay or postpone a task, but procrastination still wins over in some cases.

What is happening in the brain that is causing us to avoid doing what we need to do? Is it necessary to reprogram the brain for improved function?

Understanding the science behind procrastination can help you figure out how to overcome procrastination and laziness.

3 Essential Insights

  • Procrastination can result from factors such as lack of motivation, decision paralysis, low energy levels, and emotional regulation issues.
  • You can combat procrastination with science-backed methods including using a commitment device, following the two-minute rule, and practicing mindfulness and self-compassion.
  • Recognizing and addressing the root causes of procrastination, such as emotional regulation and cognitive challenges, can help in overcoming it and achieving better productivity and mental wellness.

Why Do You Procrastinate?

The triggers for procrastination are a combination of many factors, from underestimating a task to having low energy levels. This behavior, according to limited research, also carries with it feelings of guilt and anxiety. Other studies point to emotional regulation as the dominant reason behind delaying a decision.

By recognizing the underlying factors, you can start to address the roots of your procrastination. Each reason, which we share below, also points to different strategies that can help mitigate procrastination. For example, improving time management skills or addressing fears of failure is possible through cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety.

Lack of Motivation

Fear of Failure

Poor Time Management

Task Aversion

Decision Paralysis

Low Energy Levels

Emotional Regulation

How to Overcome Procrastination and Laziness: 5 Science-backed Ways

You can break free from the cycle of delay and unlock your full potential. Here are five proven methods on how to overcome procrastination and laziness, ensuring you stay focused, motivated, and productive.

1. Break Tasks Into Smaller Steps

When faced with a large project, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This approach reduces feelings of overwhelm and makes it easier to get started.

The Zeigarnik effect, which states that people remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones, can help keep you motivated. By focusing on small, achievable steps, you can maintain a sense of progress and momentum.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique involves working for a set period (typically 25 minutes) followed by a short break. This method leverages time constraints to increase focus and productivity. Short bursts of focused work, coupled with regular breaks, enhance cognitive function and reduce the likelihood of burnout. By structuring your time this way, you can stay engaged with your tasks and avoid procrastination.

3. Implement the Two-Minute Rule

If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. This rule, popularized by productivity expert David Allen, helps you tackle small tasks right away rather than letting them accumulate. The principle is based on the idea that many tasks we procrastinate on are small and manageable.

Completing these tasks promptly can reduce your overall workload and create a sense of accomplishment that motivates you to tackle larger tasks.

4. Use a Commitment Device

Using a “commitment device” is a practice that allows you to design future actions. It’s an easy step toward changing your behavior or following through on a plan.

You want to curb your appetite? Buy food in smaller packages instead of in bulk. You want to save enough money for a holiday? Automate the transfer of funds from one account to another. Do you need to get more sleep? Move the TV out of your bedroom and turn off all digital devices.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Practicing mindfulness can help you become more aware of your procrastination triggers and reduce stress.

Additionally, practicing self-compassion — being kind to yourself when you fail to meet your expectations — can reduce the negative emotions associated with procrastination. Self-compassion can improve motivation and resilience, helping you to bounce back from setbacks and stay committed to your tasks.

Overcome the Triggers of Procrastination with Evolve Brain Training

Procrastination can turn into a vicious cycle. You delay or avoid doing things you’re supposed to do and end up feeling bad about it. When you feel bad about something, finding the energy to do a task becomes even more of a struggle. What happens next depends on the significance of a task – the consequences of delaying to complete a project versus postponing a critical health checkup vastly differ.

We at Evolve Brain Training use non-invasive brain training techniques that address triggers to procrastination, promoting peak emotional, physical, and mental wellness. Learn more about how we can help you today.

Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.

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