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New Approach to Overcome Procrastination

Updated on April 11, 2014

Procrastination is one of the most common reasons for under-achievement. Procrastination not only acts as an impediment for achieving desired goals, but has far reaching effects of undermining one’s will power. You may be passionate about your desire to achieve something, but you have doubts whether you will really muster required will power throughout the pursuit. This is the most damaging aspect of habituated procrastination.

There are many readymade solutions for overcoming procrastination. Many advices are based observing and following the way non-procrastinators live! They suggest solutions like planning time schedules, prioritizing work, taking help of friends to monitor your activities etc. Many are of these ‘tricks’ are based on following successful people who are usually seen as systematic and hard workers.

The truth is that a chronic procrastinator knows all this. He has a clear idea that he is risking the chances of success with such behavior (obviously, it doesn’t matter to him). That is the reason why mechanical chores like writing time schedules and alarms won’t work. It is always practical to prioritize work and focus on the most important tasks first. We should not forget that a procrastinator knows this!

Psychological roots of procrastination

Procrastination is a symptom of a much serious flaw in thinking rather than lacking will to work. Psychologically, one who gives false excuses to others regarding failure to do the work, is healthier than those who lie to themselves. These lies are excuses or rationalizations for not working on required tasks. That one goes to extent of ‘inventing’ reasons for procrastination just shows that the problem is really serious. This is serious not just because it results in lack of achievement but because it induces guilt that has far reaching consequences on the personality of a habitual procrastinator. In fact, it reinforces the habit of procrastination and makes it very difficult to overcome the habit.

Procrastination cannot be overcome by quick-fixes. It requires an honest and all-out effort of introspection. This is the reason why the problem does not have standard solutions that fit all. One of the most formidable problems involved in overcoming this psychological flaw is that once it become a habit it is difficult (like any other psychological flaws) to discriminate between those acts that need serious attention from the trivial ones. A procrastinator puts-off both necessary and possible acts as it has become a way of life.

But procrastination is only an external manifestation of a deeper malady. This could be a conflict that is left unresolved- regarding the actual desirability of the objective professed to be achieved. Human mind is a complex machine that does not function like that of an animal. For an animal, nothing stops it from acting on satisfying its needs and desires, whenever it can. But a man’s mind has capacity to consider many ‘what-if’ scenarios before jumping to act. It is common to choose a goal based on personal desires and definitions of societal standards of success. But for reaching a goal (both the path and destination) one may have to face some undesirable circumstances which are not considered neither while formulating the goal nor while moving forward to achieve it. Such doubts can create some kinds of warnings (usually in the form of negative feelings) which force the mind to find some distractions to ‘just wait for some more time’. Modern day conveniences like TVs and the Internet or a social activity provide convenient alternatives to postpone the moment. In other words, it is wrong to blame these distractions as basic cause for procrastination.

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How to Overcome Procrastination?

The harms of procrastination in real world vary from causing loss to suffering disastrous failure. It can cause financial loss and lack of progress in career. In many cases, it shows lack of commitment towards others and hence casts s negative image, but the psychological harm it inflicts on the personality is more serious. For those who feel guilty about this negative trait, it is essential to overcome this to live better and also to achieve their goals,

Procrastination is a serious psychological issue, especially for those who take their career, ambitions and life seriously. This does not mean non-procrastinators lack ambition, but that they have mastered the technique of handling doubts, fears and uncertainties regarding both the final outcomes (including the possibility of failure) and the way to reach them. They have developed an attitude of moving forward even though they too are forced to act in face of uncertainties in the real world. A realistic assessment about the outcome makes them to enjoy the acts needed to reach their goals. On the other hand a procrastinator feels that every action required to be done is an imposition. Thus, he is forced to live in permanent ‘suspended’ state trying to do as little as possible and as late as possible. Most confusing aspect of this problem is that he tries to evade this issue with excuses and rationalizations to himself.

Re-evaluate the goals

As mentioned above, this can be solved by an honest and courageous look at one’s own goals. (Don’t analyze the excuses! They misguide you). Do you really want to reach them? Are there things that you do not like about these goals? Any negative consequences you are afraid of? Is the goal really desirable? Can you drop the goal because of any uncertainties and negative consequences? Are you prepared to invest your time and efforts knowing that the path to success is so tough? When you probe deeply on these lines, you realize that nothing can make you to stop reaching the goal or that you do not consider that it is not worth pursuing.

The first conclusion will lead you to commit yourself with full conviction for the achievement of the goal while the latter will allow you to discard the goal and get out of the mental trap you have fallen into but not thinking thoroughly when choosing a difficult or inappropriate goal unsuitable for you. Either of these two realizations will set you free to carry on with full conviction and single minded devotion.

Uncertainty of outcome and possibility of failure

Another common reason for deferring actions is when you are uncertain of the outcome. Uncertainty can mask the feeling that- since, the efforts might be wasted and so why not defer till ‘something’ will change the equation that can avoid failure? Even this is a rationalization of sorts. Because almost all actions we do have a degree of uncertainty but that does not stop us from doing them. It simply means that the failure is considered as a catastrophic event and this has to be avoided at any costs. Unfortunately, the procrastinator acts as though delaying itself can avoid the chance of humiliation of failure.

Facing Unpleasant Situations or Outcomes

It is not that a procrastinator is always involved in worrying about goals and success or failure of his desires / wishes. Many actio9ns involve taking actions that are unpleasant both during and after the acts. It may be meeting a person you don’t like but circumstances force you. Or you may have to go through a process you do not like. Such acts are postponed to the extent one can manage, till finally forced to do them with the threat of consequences that are more undesirable. Like deferring to see a doctor for minor ailments, approaching government authorities to set right some legal records, dealing with persons you do not like but are forced to deal for some reasons etc.

Conclusion

Procrastination can have devastating results that restrict your ability to reach your goals. It is all the more devastating if this becomes a habit. Fortunately, it is not a built-in defect but simply an error in thinking about our goals and evaluation of circumstances. By taking a hard look on the goals and the environment that force you to procrastinate (under the guise of innovative excuses and rationalizations) it is possible to overcome this flaw in our character.

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