We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Anxiety and procrastination often go hand in hand. If you’ve ever put off starting a task because you were too nervous or worried to begin, you can probably relate. This mental hangup can manifest itself in your personal, professional, and collegiate life and make everyday responsibilities seem incredibly daunting.
Overcoming anxiety procrastination is no walk in the park, but we all have to start somewhere, right? Here are a few actionable steps to help you kick your worries to the curb and get ‘er done.
1. Make Reliable Reminders
Trying to remember due dates, exams, and everything in between can be overwhelming. For someone with anxiety procrastination, successfully remembering all these responsibilities is nearly impossible. Plus you’ll likely spend more time worrying than actually getting things done in trying to do so.
Instead of creating unnecessary stress, use cardboard folders to organize your month. When you think of something you need to do, file it in the correct folder based on the day you need to think about it. Using this simple strategy will free up your mind and ensure you only worry about to-dos on days you actually need to.
2. Calibrate Your Standards
Fear of imperfection can also prevent you from beginning an assignment. Instead of finding satisfaction in cleaning part of the bathroom, you feel you must clean the entire thing for your work to be worth anything. This all or nothing mentality is incredibly difficult to overcome, but it is possible. All you have to do is calibrate your standards.
For perfectionist anxiety procrastinators, the mere thought of doing so may send them into a panic. However, it’s important to realize that turning in an imperfect assignment is better than turning in nothing at all. Take some pressure off of yourself, adjust your standards to adequately complete the task at hand, and just do your best with the time you have.
3. Prioritize Process Goals
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Looking at the big picture can be incredibly stressful for those with anxiety procrastination. If a responsibility is big enough, its sheer magnitude may even stop you from taking the first step towards tackling it. In other words, you’ll never take that first bite.
If this situation sounds relatable, consider prioritizing the process rather than the outcome. Create smaller goals to help you accomplish big things. For instance, if you must read a 14-chapter novel in a week, make a goal to read two chapters each day. By the end of the week, your accomplishment will have felt practically effortless.
4. Relinquish Control
Perfectionism and anxiety procrastination can also cause you to seek control over every responsibility on your to-do list, including ones you might share with others. For example, instead of changing everyone’s work on the group project to match your standards, only give suggestions and feedback.
Relinquishing control over everyone else’s responsibilities will give you more time to focus on yours. Plus, it’ll help you practice calibrating your standards so you can kick perfectionism to the curb. Learn to welcome a smidge of uncertainty and practice delegating tasks to give up even more control.
5. Stop Negative Self-Talk
It can be easy to beat yourself up when you procrastinate on something. However, negative self-talk will only make you feel bad about yourself and more likely to procrastinate again. Stop this cycle of self-abuse by cutting negative self-talk.
Speak to yourself the same way you would talk to others and forgive yourself when you procrastinate because of anxiety. Remember, you aren’t procrastinating because you’re lazy or worthless. Reflect on what you’ve already accomplished and build your self-efficacy by creating goals you can achieve. Reward your hard work with positive affirmations and maybe even a piece of chocolate.
6. Take a Break
When you finally find your groove and are deeply immersed in a task, it’s best to keep that flow and keep working. However, when your focus begins to waver, it’s important to take a break. Allowing your brain to diffuse and drift at set points during your workday will allow for both rest and valuable insights. Plus, taking frequent breaks will allow you to reevaluate your goals and spend time on more important things.
Try implementing different break methods to find one that works for you and your often-anxious brain. If you’re super busy, use the Pomodoro Cycle to work for 25 minutes, then break for five. Once you’ve completed four cycles, take a 30 minute break. You might also try the 52-17 method or 90-minute work blocks to boost productivity and motivate yourself to get to work and complete tasks without overthinking them.
One Step at a Time
Overcoming anxiety procrastination is a process, just like completing your to-do list. You won’t defeat it overnight, and it’s best not to try. Instead, give yourself grace and learn to care for your mind and body on this long journey to recovery.
In your rush to get things done — or worry incessantly about them — don’t forget to rest. Sleep six to eight hours each night, fuel your body with nutritious meals, move your body, and get some fresh air.
Take one step at a time. All will be well. You’ve got this.