How to Cure Procrastination: Why Self-Control Is the Ultimate Remedy
Looking for the ultimate procrastination cure? If you’re serious about it and you’re ready to do whatever it takes, this article is for you.
I’ll first show you what procrastination truly boils down (it’s probably not what you think). And then I’ll spill the beans on what I believe to be the ultimate procrastination remedy.
What Procrastination Really Is…
Here’s what procrastination is, as explained by Timothy Pychyl, one of the top researchers in the field:
“Procrastination is a form of self-regulation failure. We fail to regulate our behavior to achieve our own goals. We make an intention to act, but we do not use the self-control necessary to act when intended.
There are many types of self-regulation problems, including problem gambling, overeating, reckless spending, and drinking too much. Procrastination is best understood as a problem like these – a problem with our self-regulation.”
Procrastination is a problem that has to do with self-control, self-discipline, self-regulation, willpower, whatever you want to call it.
You want to get up early, you want to do your taxes on time, you want to study harder, you want to meditate daily, you want to exercise regularly, you want to do all these great things for yourself, but you can’t get yourself to do it – you don’t have the necessary self-discipline.
That’s procrastination in a nutshell. We want to do X, but we procrastinate instead. Why? Because we don’t have the self-control. Simple enough. No need to overcomplicate things here.
So, how do we become more disciplined? How do we increase our self-control? How do we get ourselves to do what we intend to do?
Easy. It all comes down to…
Living a Disciplined Life
“The intelligent want self-control; children want candy.” -- Rumi
"Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear." -- Dan Millman
The long-term solution to your procrastination problem (and to most other problems in your life!) is to live a disciplined life.
I know, not exactly what you wanted to hear, but I warned you ahead of time. The truth is, there is no short-term fix that will instantly eliminate procrastination. There’s no shortcut, secret formula, or magic bullet.
The only thing that will make a difference in the long-run is good old-fashioned self-discipline. Remember, procrastination is a self-regulation problem. Unless you get better at self-regulating your behavior, you will always, always, always struggle with procrastinating.
The solution is to grow your self-control muscle. And the way to make that happen is to live a disciplined life – get up early, exercise regularly, meditate daily, eat healthy, prioritize sleep. The more disciplined you live, the stronger your self-control muscle becomes. That’s just how it works.
Research has shown that engaging in activities that require self-control – such as exercising, keeping track of what you’re eating or how you’re spending your money, remembering to sit up straight every time you think of it – can help you build your overall self-control muscle. One study, for instance, showed that students who were assigned to a daily exercise regimen not only got physically fitter, but they also became more likely to wash the dishes instead of leaving them in the sink, and less likely to waste their money on impulse purchases.
Self-discipline begets self-discipline. Roy Baumeister explains how it works in his book Willpower:
“Exercising self-control in one area seemed to improve all areas of life. They smoked fewer cigarettes and drank less alcohol. They kept their homes cleaner. They washed dishes instead of leaving them stacked in the sink, and did their laundry more often. They procrastinated less. They did their work and chores instead of watching television or hanging out with friends first. They ate less junk food, replacing their bad eating habits with healthier ones.”
If you want to procrastinate less, grow your willpower muscle.
If you want to grow your willpower muscle, engage in many small, seemingly inconsequential self-control exercises – make your bed every morning, meditate daily, exercise regularly, clean your room, read a book instead of watching TV, stop wasting your time on social media all day long, track your spending and food intake, take a cold shower. In other words, live a disciplined life.
One last thing:
Don’t try to do it all at once. Don’t aim to get up at 5am, go for a morning run, take a cold shower, and then meditate for 20 minutes. Unless you’re already very high in self-control, this is a recipe for failure, self-criticism, and discouragement.
Instead, start small. Pick one habit you want to incorporate in your life and get consistent on that one. Meanwhile, cut back on any negative habits such as watching TV, wasting time on social media, checking e-mail all the time, or excessively playing video games.
Slowly, slowly build your life around healthy, willpower-supporting habits and watch your self-control become stronger and stronger.
Yes, it will take time. But it’s ultimately what will free you from the shackles of procrastination.
P.S. Need more help to overcome procrastination? Living a disciplined life is (without a doubt in my opinion!) the best long-term strategy to beat this dreadful habit for good.
But there are also lots of short-term and medium-term strategies that are incredibly useful. I've packed the best ones I know of into a new guide that you can download below for free: