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Is Chronic Procrastination Threatening to Hold you Back from Success?

Updated on January 18, 2015

Fed Up of Running Around in Circles?

Taking a Closer Look at Procrastination

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday’ Unknown

Human beings have the inherent propensity to pursue things that give them pleasure and avoid things that give them pain or worry. Procrastination is nothing but a manifestation of this desire.

It’s not a serious matter; perhaps we have all been guilty of procrastination at some time. Unfortunately, it has the potential to derail your routine, disrupt your work and stress you (and others) out.

The innate pursuit of pleasure over pain compels us to prefer watching a funny movie over completing tedious audit reports. This is why college students like partying with friends even though they know their thesis is coming up for submission!

What exactly is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the tendency to put off work which can be completed today. This is an infamous vexation that thousands of people experience on a daily basis. If procrastination is one of the most significant causes of stress, how did it even evolve as a common habit?

What is the psychology behind procrastination and what can you do to get around it?

Procrastination not only affects your work but also leads to confusion, anxiety, inefficiency and exhaustion. In other words, you may expend energy all day without getting much done in the process. All of us have been guilty of frittering away valuable time in trivial pursuits when there was work at hand.

How does Procrastination Affect your Life?

How does Procrastination affect your Life?

Joseph Ferrari, Professor of Psychology at DePaul University, Chicago and author of ‘Still Procrastinating: The No Guilt Guide to Getting it Done’ says that thousands of American adults fall into the ‘I’ll do it later’ trap. Chronic procrastinators not only postpone work but allow procrastination to disrupt all areas of their life.

Procrastination is a self-repeating behavior that reinforces lack of discipline and an escapist attitude. Procrastinators are usually resented by colleagues, family and friends because of the problems they end up causing problems for other people!

Your co-workers, family and friends often have to cover for you or take on added responsibility to compensate for your lack of commitment towards completing tasks.

For example, procrastinators typically pay their bills late, delay starting projects and do all their Christmas shopping at the last minute!

Perfectionist parents, for example, typically do everything for their children in a bid to have everything ‘just so’. This parenting behavior often leads to burgeoning procrastinating behaviors in their children and continues as they grow into adults.

Procrastination can have far-reaching and serious consequences. Many people, for instance, postpone a visit to the doctor for fear of being unpleasant reports regarding sickness. In addition, you have many others who postpone talking about depression, phobias or anxiety for fear of ridicule and embarrassment.

Procrastination also perpetuates the habit of instant gratification. Instant gratification is a dormant desire in most of us. Social media is a classic example of how procrastination reinforces instant gratification. Think about it: Isn't it more fun looking over your friend’s holiday photographs online than calculating sales projections for the next quarter?

Common Reasons that Trigger Procrastination

There are several reasons that drive the phenomenon of procrastination. According to a detailed study on procrastination by Ferrari, Johnson and McCown, there are several reasons behind procrastination.

Here’s a closer look at why we tend to procrastinate:

  • Underestimation of the time required to complete a task: We often tend to have an unrealistic perception of the time-frame required for a particular task

Overestimation of motivation levels: You may not feel motivated enough to do a task tomorrow. It’s a natural tendency to assume that motivation levels will say constant throughout

Internal anxiety: We spend more time worrying about the job rather than doing it. Waiting for the ‘mood’ or ‘right frame of mind’ is one of the major causes of procrastination

  • Inability to prioritize your tasks: Prioritization plays a significant role in minimizing procrastination. Pay attention when you write out your task list for the day otherwise you will find yourself overloaded with extraneous tasks
  • Mental avoidance of tasks and chores that appear to be tedious, difficult or boring. This denial is often driven by a hidden fear of being overwhelmed by the tasks in question

Self-doubt, insecurity, a lackadaisical attitude and lack of self-confidence are also responsible for chronic postponement of tasks.

Tips to Overcome Procrastination

1. Acknowledge and Process Internal Fear

According to well-known psychologist and author, Susan Whitbourne, the first step towards fighting procrastination is to challenge negative self-perceptions. For example, you may subconsciously entertain the notion that you don’t deserve success.

2. Use Affirmative Language to Speak to yourself

Always speak to yourself in a positive, uplifting way. This will encourage you to complete tasks at hand instead of feeling anxious about them.

3. Maintain a Balance between Planning and Doing

While planning and preparation is crucial in getting things done, be careful not to over-plan so that no real work ever gets done. Keep your plans flexible so that they can adapt to last minute hitches.

4. Give yourself Incentives and Rewards for getting things done

Break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks so that you can accomplish the task in smaller chunks. Avoid taking on too much to do as it can seem overwhelming and encourage procrastination.

5. Try different, innovative approaches to work

Joe, a software developer, admits that when he gets tired of pecking away at his laptop at his desk, he changes his place and sits at a café instead. Similarly, you can try tackling a different section of the task. Produce something instead of nothing!

6. Take breaks as opposed to stopping work

Take breaks every 2 hours and stretch, walk or enjoy a cup of coffee. This will help prevent exhaustion and fatigue.

7. Examine your feelings about the task at hand

Our feelings associated with tasks often color our perception of them. When you have a challenging task ahead of you, remind yourself of why you are doing that particular job. Motivating factors could be goal achievement, monetary benefits or a probable promotion.

8. Recognize that you are about to Procrastinate

If you find yourself thinking that you don’t feel like doing something now, recognize the warning signs of impending procrastination. Instead of giving in to the urge, encourage yourself to spend a few more minutes and you’ll complete the job!

9. Keep Distractions at Bay

One of the biggest reasons that tasks don’t get done is due to repeated distractions in the form of social media updates, instant messages, emails, phone calls and other interruptions. When you want to concentrate, cut off all distractions.

10. Just do it

Accept and understand that there is no magic wand; sit down and do the task. Keep your ‘pending trays’ clean and ‘to do’ tasks done!

Still Struggling with Procrastination? 10 Additional Tips

In addition to the 10 tips given above, here are an additional 10 super tips to beat procrastination!

  1. Set up reminders every two hours that will remind you about tasks that are waiting to be completed
  2. Place motivational quotes on procrastination where you can see them clearly
  3. Rope in a motivation pal; request a friend (you can return the favor) to keep tabs on you to ensure that you don’t slip back into the procrastination habit
  4. Wake up a little earlier and start getting work done before the day runs away with your time.
  5. Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep leads to exhaustion and will compel you to postpone jobs.
  6. Keep clearing your tasks on a daily basis. Clear out your inbox as well as your drawer. Clearing on a regular basis reduces the possibility of procrastination.
  7. Drag yourself away from the TV. Watching TV is a distraction during work. Go into another room. When your work is done, enjoy some exclusive TV viewing time!
  8. Keep a written record of the tasks that you have accomplished. There are several apps that allow you to do this.
  9. Accept that you cannot make things perfect all the time. As long as you have done a good job, that’s great!
  10. Be mindful of what you do. Avoid frittering your time on chronic email checking and responding to inane online comments.

Procrastination results in overwork, stress and wasteful expenditure of energy. The addictive propensity to put off work that seems boring, difficult or time-consuming can become a threat to professional success. Carrying over work to the following day or following week leads to increase in inefficiency and lack of professionalism because as humans, we are geared to handle only a specific amount of work.

Give yourself time to develop strategies to beat the procrastination vice. Ingrained mental patterns resist transformation. The basic aim is to reprogram your mental 'wiring' so that you aim to finish off all the work (the good, the bad and the ugly) that you were supposed to finish anyway.

Try it. You are guaranteed to experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment at the end of the day! You'll feel happier, more confident and more importantly, enjoy valuable leisure time to relax and unwind.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Procrastination certainly holds me back in life.


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