5 signs you're a serial procrastinator, and how to stop it

Think you may be a serial procrastinator? An expert has revealed the 5 signs of one. (Getty Images)
Think you may be a serial procrastinator? An expert has revealed the 5 signs of one. (Getty Images)

Procrastination happens to the best of us – especially when there are more appealing tasks you could be getting on with.

Yet, for some of us, we could put things off so much that we may be labelled as a ‘serial procrastinator’.

In fact, according to some Google trend data, searches for ‘how to stop procrastinating’ have risen by 4,100% in the last month.

So, what could be some telling signs that you are a chronic procrastinator? Read on to find out – and how to stop it.

1. You’re easily distracted

Whether you pick up your phone every five minutes, or get distracted by an off-topic Slack chat at work, it can be hard to escape day-to-day distractions.

"Finding yourself more often than not being the cause of the disruption, and spending more time giving into distractions than working, is a clear sign that you’ve reached serial procrastination," Rob Phelps, founder of AI Jobs, says.

2. You’re overwhelmed by your to-do list

"If your to-do list is a mile long and meticulously detailed, you might find you never quite get to the end of it because you're spending more time and effort creating the list than you are actually completing tasks that mean you can cross them off," Phelps explains.

"This can make you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, and end up avoiding looking at things you actually need to do, and spend time doing other, less important, tasks."

3. You often have motivation crashes

While you may feel fired up for the week ahead on Monday, if you’ve lost steam by Thursday you may suffer from motivation crashes.

"Suddenly your to-do list for next week is even longer than it was on Monday," Phelps says.

Business people having a meeting in the office. Teamwork and success concept
Chatting to work colleagues is one common way of procrastinating. (Getty Images)

4. You’re always making excuses

"‘I work best under pressure’ and ‘I still have plenty of time’ are some common excuses that serial procrastinators use to justify and rationalise their lack of action – not only to their managers but also to themselves," Phelps explains.

"Perhaps you really do work well with a fast approaching deadline, but these excuses can usually be masking bad time management."

5. You’re privy to avoidance

If big tasks feel overwhelming, or you find that you’re a perfectionist, you may tend to avoid the task altogether.

"Whether it’s a huge project you’ve not been able to make yourself start, or just one scary email you’ve ignored, filling your day with busywork to create the illusion of productivity while putting off something important is only delaying the inevitable," Phelps says.

How to overcome procrastination

If you recognise that you may be a bit of a procrastinator, don’t fear: there are some things you can do to work through it.

"The first step in dealing with procrastination is working out why you’re doing it, and what kind of procrastination it is," Phelps says. "Are you procrastinating because you’re surrounded by distractions? Are you avoiding specific tasks that you think are boring, and is it just one element of your job that bores you, or is it the whole thing? Or are you delaying starting a project because you’re worried about failure?

"Understanding the category of procrastination you fall into can be key in addressing the cause and developing ways of overcoming it."

Turning off social media notifications is a good way to avoid distraction. (Getty Images)
Turning off social media notifications is a good way to avoid distractions. (Getty Images)

He adds that it can be helpful to break down the to-do lists into smaller tasks rather than one big list which can seem overwhelming.

"Make the most important tasks the priority each day, and smaller tasks can be fitted in at the end of the day; rather than the other way round that sees you spending too much time on admin and less important things, leaving the most urgent things to roll onto the next day," Phelps says.

Other tips include minimising distractions, such as turning off social media notifications, and rewarding yourself when you get something done.

"Celebrate milestones, no matter how small – from clearing your inbox, to ticking everything off your to-do list, or even just getting through the whole day without getting distracted," Phelps says.

"Rewarding yourself for completing tasks can help you stay motivated and on track."

Mental health: Read more