Build habits of self-respect to defeat procrastination
Procrastination is closely tied to low self-respect and self-worth.
If you increase your self-respect, you won't feel the need to sabotage your future self quite so much. You'll become kinder to your present and future self and procrastinate less as a result.
But how do we do that?
Well, this is what the 4 strategies below are about.
Let's get started.
1. Stop allowing your daily standards to slide
Everyday actions (or lack of them) impact your overall well-being. They create your own personal standards, and when those standards are falling, we know. We might not be aware of it on a conscious level, but we know, deep down.
What are some examples of letting standards slide?
Let's take a look at some very simple examples:
- You let to-do lists accumulate
- You let unwashed clothes pile up
- You allow yourself scroll for hours
- You don't do anything for your body
- You eat junk food on the daily
Each one of those is a tiny thing, but cumulatively, they make you feel worse about yourself. Why should you go out in the world and take care of business, if you aren't even taking care of yourself? This accumulation of bad habits creates a negative undercurrent for your daily existence. And what is life but a series of bad or good days?
Fortunately, this negative cycle can be reversed, bit by bit.
Here are some simple examples of how to do it:
- Make your bed
- Tidy up your work space and personal space
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Do even a 15 min workout
Each of these is a small thing on its own, but taken all together, they will create a shift—you'll be holding or raising your standards across multiple areas of your life. You'll get a sense that you're not letting yourself down.
It's harder to beat yourself up too much if your bed is made, your clothes are folded, you start working on time, have a healthy lunch, and feel good in your body.
Of course, you don't need to do all of these, all at once. No, that would be daunting.
But each day, you can move a little in the direction of doing things that make you like you.
One day, you tidy up your desk. The next day, you wash and dry clothes that have been in your basket for weeks, the next day, you do a small workout that you've been putting off for months,... you get the idea.
Small actions add up. Make sure they add up in the right direction. Hold your standards, or raise them by a tiny amount every day.
2. Start keeping your promises
One thing that erodes our sense of self-respect is breaking our own promises.
I'll work on this tomorrow.
And then you don't. Your self-worth decreases.
I'll message Jack.
And you don't. -1 Self-respect point.
Every promise you break makes you like youless. Break too many promises, and you won't trust yourself to do even tiny things in the future, which will lead to self-loathing and procrastination.
Of course, the flip side is that when you start keeping your promises, your self-worth will increase.
Our recommendation is simple: It's better to make a small promise and keep it than to promise something big and fail.
"I will sit down at 9AM and work for 10 minutes."
= small promise, you're much more likely to keep it
"I will sit down at 9AM and work for 3 hours."
= big promise, you'll likely fail and feel bad about it
Again, this is about the cumulative effect of these promises. Break 1 promise and you'll be fine (provided you keep some other ones). Break a 1000 promises to yourself and you will have no belief in your ability to do anything.
So, if you want to increase your self-respect, start keeping your promises to yourself and others. Start even with tiny promises.
I'll work for 2 minutes and then work for 2 minutes. No promise is too small.
Start realistically, succeed, raise the bar, bit by bit.
3. Treat yourself as a good friend would treat you
Here's another important idea for you: limit negative self-talk.
We've talked about this before, but it's worth repeating.
Negative self-talk is something that nearly all procrastinators do.
"Why am I so lazy?"
"I'm such an idiot."
"I'm putting this off again."
"Why did I scroll on Instagram for 2 hours again?"
You are with yourself 24/7. Is this really how you want to treat yourself? Constantly beat yourself up and put yourself down?
If someone else treated you like that, you wouldn't want to be anywhere near them. So why do this to yourself?
From now on, try to notice when you're being mean to yourself. Just notice, awareness is the first step.
When you do notice it, you can just breathe in and think: "Ah, I'm doing it again."
Breathe deeply, relax your body, acknowledge it, and try to direct your attention to something else.
As a side-note, meditation is incredibly useful in training yourself to catch yourself from using negative self-talk and stop yourself from spiraling down the path of self-flagellation.
One simple meditation app we'd recommend is Oak, but you're welcome to use any other one out there. Meditation will enhance your ability to detect negativity in your own thoughts.
Notice when you're being mean to yourself and try to treat yourself as a good friend would treat you.
This habit will help you not lower your self-esteem further.
4. Keep an Appreciation Journal: remind yourself of your own successes
To actually build your own self-respect and self- worth, start keeping track of what went well each day.
This is best done in the form of journaling.
Ideally, keep an actual physical notebook for this purpose. Put it somewhere where you'll see it each day, somewhere like your night stand or your desk.
Physical notebooks have the advantage that they don't disappear from sight. Of course, if you're traveling or staying elsewhere, you can always make the list in your favorite notes app, but we'd still recommend keeping a physical notebook.
At the end of every day, set a reminder to spend 3 minutes thinking about what went well.
- You cooked a wonderful dinner for someone, or for yourself
- You exercised after months of not doing it
- You meditated
- You solved a tricky work situation
- You were honest in your communication with someone
What can you appreciate about yourself for this day?
Write down what you succeeded at each day before going to bed.
When you feel low, you can grab that notebook and remind yourself of the good things you did.
This will also orient your mind to look for successes as they happen. You'll find yourself thinking: Oh, this is a good one, I'll write this one down.
To stop your self-respect from eroding further:
- Stop allowing your daily standards to slide
- Start keeping your promises
- Treat yourself as a good friend would treat you
To actively build your self-respect:
- Keep an Appreciation Journal: remind yourself of your own successes
These habits will establish a healthy baseline of self-respect. You'll feel better and better every day, and procrastinate less as a result.