How to Stop Procrastination
Procrastination - Definition and Prevalence
Do you procrastinate? Wikipedia states, “Procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.”
Most of us procrastinate, but not all of us are habitual procrastinators. We often drag our feet around on the things that need to be done and struggle to complete it under pressure. Studies show that 20% of the population are chronic procrastinators. Procrastination is considered more as a maladaptive lifestyle than a problem by in and of itself.
Causes of Procrastination
Some psychologists and behavioral scientists suggest that the following reasons could be the cause of such learned behaviour:
- Having harsh or authoritative parent/s, who are judgmental or critical, could have resulted in the child learning to defer negative feedback.
- It is the gap between intention and action, wherein the individual does not make a decision to act positively, but instead tries to put things off, by finding excuses to delay what needs to be done. Behavioral scientists consider such inability to act in a timely manner as poor self- regulatory ability. They affirm that it is not just delay.
- They attribute procrastination to other causes such as of fear of failure or fear of success.
How to Procrastinate
Effects of Procrastination
Procrastinating often results in a backlog. This could cause a number of issues at work and relationships, but these are not the only effects of procrastination. Procrastination can do more harm to your body than you may have thought possible. Putting things off to the last minute, often believing that you work well under stress, could result in a rush of adrenaline, which causes your body to wear out quickly. Stress weakens the immune system. It also causes people to worry and lose sleep over it.
Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists are self-critical, thus they tend to be less productive. Behavioral scientists attribute such procrastination to the reason that these people would rather be judged for lack of effort than on their efficiency. They sabotage their own success by delaying or never getting things done.
Common Excuses for Procrastinating
It can wait.
They will be in a better mood later.
There is enough time to complete it.
They are keeping their options open.
They are just being patient and waiting.
Why Do People Procrastinate?
Procrastination could be the result of fear. Some people are so afraid of finishing a task, because this would mean that others would be weighing them on their ability.
People sometimes procrastinate because they are averse to doing certain things. Having to do the tasks that they are averse to, leaves them with a certain feeling of discomfort, making them feel inadequate.
People procrastinate when the reason for doing a task is vague or when there is not enough reason to keep them motivated.
Another reason that psychologists offer is that these people are highly distractible and impulsive. They find different ways of distracting themselves and pushing the task away, even though they know that it has to be done eventually.
Self-deception is another important reason for procrastination.
Procrastination is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers excellent techniques to unlearn old and maladaptive behaviours and learn better and purposeful behaviour. Chronic procrastinators could do well by getting professional help. For others who often procrastinate, but are not habitual procrastinators there are a few tips here, which you could use to overcome procrastination.
How to Overcome Procrastination?
- Make a To-do list. Prioritize from the most important task to the least important. You could probably circle the most difficult one, or the task you are most averse to. Display the list in a prominent place where you can view it many times during the day.
- It is important to state your intention and commitment to the task. Writing a personal statement of intent can make you more committed to completing the task.
- Announce your intentions to those around you. Often a public announcement will help you stick to your commitments.
- Estimate the time it would take you to execute each task. Make a specific timetable of start and finish dates / time for your projects. Ensure that you include details of specific milestones and the time it would take to reach them.
- Do not ruminate too far ahead into the project. (This could be one of those pitfalls that cause you to delay things.) Just get started.
- Make sure that each task on your list is meaningful to you; if not, listing why it needs to be done can help you make it meaningful. These reasons would keep you motivated. Lack of motivation is known to be one of the biggest reasons for procrastination.
- Identify major distractors and cut them out. Examples of common distractors are: checking email, playing games on the internet, smoking or having cups of coffee/tea, hanging around on Facebook etc.
- Set specific goals. Come up with detailed plans to achieve these goals within specific periods. Follow through on your progress. Breaking your goals down into specific, achievable, short-term goals will make your task seem easy and achievable.
Ways to Stop Procrastinatin
- Do the most urgent task first. It would be help to take up the task you are averse to next (remember you have circled it) when you are still fresh and full of energy. Getting this out of the way could make the rest of the task seem easy.
- Reward yourself for achieving important milestones in your project. This keeps your motivation from flagging. Evaluate your performance periodically. If you are falling behind the deadline, find out why and how you are falling back. Make plans to compensate for lost time and complete your job well within the deadline.
- Decide on a reasonable number of breaks you can take. Stick to these schedules as far as possible. Remember that distractions are time guzzlers and before you know it; your day will be over. For most people procrastination is not a problem of time management but more a problem of judgement.
- Surround yourself with high achievers. You will find that their company helps you to achieve more than you normally do. Getting a buddy to work alongside you will also help keep your motivation high.
- Keep a logbook. Make yourself accountable.
- Do not worry about failures. You should learn from your failures, they help you improve the way you approach tasks. Your aim right now should be to overcome procrastination.
- Stop the excuses. Do not permit yourself to make excuses. They are your biggest enemies; you need to identify them as such. Shoot them down right away.
Acting in a timely manner enables you to stay on top of things. Take help if you have to, but the decision to overcome procrastination has to be yours. So go on, get started.
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