We all procrastinate and put off doing important tasks by postponing our work to do tomorrow or later and this tomorrow never comes and before we know it, time goes by without any progress made on the set goals. “Procrastination is the thief of time” and affects your productivity. The habit of putting off important tasks can rob you of your hours of achievement and success. By delaying your important tasks because they take time or difficult to do, you in fact delay your dreams or goals. When you neglect your work, or delay a task given to you, chances are that you will continue to delay it unless you make some changes in your thinking or habits.
Procrastination is a chronic cycle. Slacking, hiding from work, doing unimportant tasks, putting off and then the loop repeats. You cannot find a solution to your procrastinating habit unless you realize that you are procrastinating. The solution lies in being aware of the reasons behind your procrastinating habit.
What happens when you Procrastinate?
We all have tendency to procrastinate because our minds naturally like to be in a relaxed state. Sometimes we have trouble focusing and we put off a difficult task for as long as possible. But when you finally get around to doing the task, you have tough time finding ways to push past your lack of momentum to get the task done.
Some people feel that doing things at the last minute creates urgency, which pushes them to act. They feel that this will help them to be more efficient without realizing that this wastes their precious time that could be otherwise used productively. It creates unneeded anxiety as deciding to put off the task for later only makes you think about it from time to time causing unnecessary worry. The continuous avoidance forms a distorted image of how intimidating the task is in your mind, compare to what it really is creating an exaggerated amount of fear of the task you are supposed to do.
By leaving little time for your important tasks, the final output will be always short of what you are really capable of as you’ve insufficient time to deliver quality results. When you delay or defer your important tasks to the later time, it snowballs into a huge impact on your productivity and well-being. Everything you do in a day, from the little decisions you make to the amount of time you allot to act on your goals, plays a big role in what you achieve. Delaying something by a day or a week may seem inconsequential as you experience short-term relief from not having to deal with immediately, but makes a big difference in the long run.
What is Procrastination?
The word Procrastination comes from the Latin word procrastinatus, which means “to put off till tomorrow, defer, delay.” It is a natural human tendency to avoid important tasks because either they are unpleasant, stressful, or difficult. We tend to replace them with less important tasks that are either easy, less stressful or because you find them interesting. It is a common belief that people with poor time management skills often procrastinate, but this may not be the only reason. Research shows that people who are poor in their emotional or stress management skills often resort to procrastination. This is mainly due to their inability to cope with their moods, or negative emotions like fear or self-doubt which makes them negative, uncertain, or unmotivated towards their tasks.
What causes Procrastination?
Procrastination is a kind of avoidance and at times and it can become a frustrating habit to keep delaying important tasks without knowing how to stop. When working towards overcoming your procrastinating habit, it is important to address on the primary root causes of the behavior rather than the habit itself. By truly understanding what causes you to procrastinate, you can uncover the real reasons behind it. We tend to procrastinate for multiple reasons and they differ from person to person. Here are Some common root causes.
- Lack of discipline or laziness or giving into your habitual urges to do something easier or more comfortable.
- Unwillingness to do hard tasks. Our minds focus on the hard parts of tasks that we are procrastinating on. We tend to label them as difficult, scary, time-consuming, and so on without being fully aware of the tasks.
- Procrastination is most of the times is about fear. Fear of failure, fear of uncertainty, fear of rejection, or fear of doing something in a less perfect manner or fear of being incapable. Once you are aware of your fears, you can see that they are misconceived beliefs and can immediately address them.
- Lack of motivation can fuel your procrastination habit. If your are not motivated, either intrinsically or extrinsically, you lack the desire to act on your task. Having an ideal vision that inspires you from within can motivate you intrinsically and you could create sources of extrinsic motivation to get overcome your procrastination habit.
- Not able to prioritizing your tasks. When there are too many things to be completed, in a conflict of what is more important and which task should be tackled first makes you procrastinate on important tasks. It is hard to know which tasks are important if you are not organised. By prioritizing, you can focus on what you need to and make time for thereby you can avoid getting caught up in less important tasks.
- Fear of missing out on something or need to be up-to-date on everything causes distractions and creates habitual urges to go to something easier and more comfortable spiraling you into procrastination.
- People who experience anxiety or lack of confidence in their ability to complete a task procrastinate in order to avoid failure in short-term. Procrastination is used as a coping strategy when stressed or overwhelmed or when we become anxious.
When you become aware of the root causes to your habit of procratination, you can work towards ocercoming it.
How to overcome Procrastination
Long-term procrastination is often associated with stress, difficulty with completing your daily tasks, reduced mental health, and lower levels of well-being. Putting off your important responsibilities leads to self-defeating behavior and underperformance affecting you personally and professionally. Overcoming your procrastinating habit is necessary for your productivity, emotional-wellbeing and time-management. Here are some strategies to overcome your procrastination.
Know your triggers.
Some of the common triggers for putting things off are confusion, boredom, frustrating, difficulty, unstructured, not intrinsically motivating, lacks meaning or purpose. When these triggers are set off, trying to resist the urges to procratinate may help you deal with them.
When you are getting started on a task and feel an urge to do something else, then try to curb your distraction by thinking differently. Finding an interesting way of doing a boring task can help you start a task you have been procrastinating.
Disabling digital distractions ahead of time gives you no choice but to work on what is important.
Reminding yourself of the purpose and meaning of the task can help you stay motivated. If there is mood issue or health concern that is contributing to procrastination, address the underlying condition to reduce your tendency to procrastinate. By identifying the triggers, you can replace self-defeating thoughts with more productive thoughts to overcome your habit of procrastination.
Structure your to-do lists
The other strategy to deal with procrastination is to structure your to-do lists. We often procrastinate when there are too many things to be completed, and we cannot prioritize. Writing your top “to-do’s” for the day can bring structure to your tasks and can keep you stay on track with your tasks.
Many people try to fill their lists with too many things and go haywire trying to complete all the tasks together and in the bargain, they will end up doing less important ones and end up procrastinating on the important tasks. Keeping your lists manageable, measurbale and meaningful can help you complete your tasks without putting them off for later.
Follow “one-three-five-rule” when putting together your daily list of things to accomplish. This means set nine daily tasks for yourself which should have one big goal to tackle, three medium tasks and five small tasks. This way you can keep your tasks manageble and you can prioritize your tasks to the things that matter most and also keeps you from feeling cluttered with an endless list of things to-do. One of the other ways to structure your lists is by keeping a “won’t-do” list. Write a checklist of things you plan to do and those you won’t do, but plan to do in the future. As you finish your “to-do” tasks, you can move onto “won’t-do” tasks.
To avoid procrastination on routine tasks that still have to be done, use the two-minute rule. Following this rule, you can avoid tons of unimportant things and you can focus on your priorities. If a task takes just 2 minutes of your time, do it right away. Don’t add it to your to-do list and don’t postpone it for later. There are tons of trivial tasks that take less than 2 minutes that you need to do every day. If it takes more than 2 minutes, start it and continue doing it to for at least 2 minutes. This way you will set a momentum for your bigger tasks.
Overcome yes but thinking
When you procrastinate, check to see if your thoughts include yes but thinking. ‘yes’ signals that you accept that task is important, and ‘but’ signals that you intend to put it off for some reason or the other. For instance, thoughts like yes, ‘but now is not the time to work on this’ or ‘but I am under stress’ or ‘but I am not keen’ or “but i am not ready.’
Yes but thinking may give you a short-term relief, but you end up getting caught in this thought trap. When you procrastinate, check to see if your thoughts include yes but thoughts and write down what buts you tell yourself to procrastinate working towards your goals. Maybe you are momentarily anxious about doing that task. Ask yourself “What is the very worst thing that could happen if I did it today?” Vividly picture how free you will feel once the task is completed. Free from anxiety.
When doing things which you are not so keen on doing, combine things you want to do with the things you should do with “temptation building”, that is, finding tasks you dread and pairing them with something you like. Combining two different but complementary activities increases the probability of doing things that you are not keen and thereby helping you to get used to a positive habit.
Most of us procrastinate in wanting to do our tasks perfectly. Perfection needs time and we often delay our tasks in search of that required time to perfect them. Perfecting things can be so intimidating that you dont even want to get started, even if you do you might lack your momentum to carry on with the task later. We often procrastinate to avoid having to deal with difficult tasks and having to make tough decisions.
Instead of always aiming for perfection, you can start working on your difficult tasks by just getting started. You may not come up with a perfect idea immediately, but it is easier to keep going with a task after you have overcome the initial jump of starting it in the first place.
Getting started on something forces you to work and you will find less triggers than you originally anticipated. By just starting on a task that has been put off, you can continue to process it and this makes you more likely to work later on and eventually you will be able to come up with better ways of perfecting the task.
Finally, Embrace your procrastinating nature
Come to accept that no matter how much you want to avoid it, there will always be times when you defer your tasks for later. We are natural procrastinators and no matter how much you want to avoid it, it is just our nature that whenever there is something that need to be done, our instincts are to start later or to put it off until tomorrow. you cannot overcome your habit of procrastination unless you know that you are procrastinating. Become self aware and accept it and find ways to overcome it.
Is there something you are procrastinating on in your life? your goals? work? health? Find small ways to start on a task that’s been put off. This can reduce your chances of procrastinating on it in future. Develop an ability to organize your daily tasks and approach them in a desciplined way to achieve your time-bound goals. Have a strong desire that can act as a self-motivator to help you overcome procrastination.
Next time, when you find yourself procrastinating, Take five minutes to identify what is triggering you to put off your important task. Take coreective measures to curb your urge to delay the task for later. Action eliminates anxiety. If getting started is difficult, set a designated time slot to do the task. Don’t worry perfecting the task, what counts is effort and not the result. Set meaningful, measurable and manageable goals and follow the above strategies to overcome procrastination in order to achieve them. Do important tasks now before they become urgent.
“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.”