Procrastination is an emotional mechanism to avoid anxiety and stress that comes with a particular task. We typically procrastinate things that are too difficult or unpleasant or simply because we do not enjoy them. It is not always a function of paucity of time. We avoid all that overwhelms us till it reaches crisis proportions. Procrastinated things are like a bitter pill we might eventually swallow but avoid till we can. Our brain associates these things with unpleasant sensations of anxiety, stress, or ennui. Even the most hard working and productive people are guilty of procrastination at some point or the other. It stands to reason that the ones who tend to procrastinate everything are less likely to achieve any meaningful goals.
Why we Procrastinate?
Psychologically speaking, procrastination stems from the urge for instant gratification. Avoiding the unpleasant is a way of maximising momentary pleasure. However, sometimes it is also a result of poor management skills or personality traits. Here are some reasons that could be leading you to procrastinate:
There are things that we do for pleasure and that we are good at. And then there are things that we are required to do but we find them too difficult or unpleasant. It could be doing maths for a creative student or difficult conversations or any other stressful situation. We unconsciously procrastinate the ones that are beyond our capabilities or likely to cause stress.
We live in times that require us to continuously multitask. There are too many possibilities leading to too many desires. As a consequence, there is just way too much that we want to pack in a day. For example – we want to awe the boss with our presentations, go out for after work drinks and work out all in 24 hours. While it possible, it is tiring. So, one of things, gets procrastinated for us to maintain our sanity.
-Poor time management
In an era of push notifications and 24/7 connectivity, there are too many things clamouring for our attention at any point. Human brains are not wired for this level of multitasking. We start one thing, leave it in between to look at another and then come back to it. This task hopping takes a toll on productivity and efficiency. While we are busy all the time, we are unable to get things done. This means more procrastination and delays.
-Lack of Self-discipline
Life is unpredictable and there are always unexpected things that come in our way. It takes a great deal of self-discipline to not get distracted. In general, punctuality and being particular about meeting timelines is a character trait. There are those who live with military precision and then there are artistic people who lose sense of time. it is a combination of nature and nurture.
Types of Procrastinators
Based on the motivation to procrastinate, there are five types of procrastinators that we can generally find:
The name gives it away. Perfection comes before punctuality for these people. They are obsessed with getting every detail right and are never satisfied with the quality of their own work. As a consequence of this obsession, they completely disregard timelines.
Dreamers love white boarding. Plans and blueprints are their forte. But execution is not. They struggle to move beyond the planning stage. Executing the plan is monotonous for them as the process lacks creativity.
Also called worriers, these people are petrified of making mistakes and being judged. They procrastinate any task that is remotely challenging or outside their comfort zone. They do not want to make themselves vulnerable to criticism by putting work out there.
These people love the thrill of last-minute deadlines. To get a kick, they wait for the water to flow over the bridge before acting. These crisis creators thrive on nerves and drama as they believe it brings out the best in them.
-The Busy One
The busy procrastinator is often overwhelmed and does not know where to begin. They do not how to prioritise and hence procrastinate.
Cycle of Procrastination
-Procrastinating: This is when we actively start avoiding a task that we know needs to be done. We attempt to rationalise or promise ourselves to start the next day. Sometimes we just ignore it. Every time there is reminder, we just avoid thinking about it.
-Feeling guilty: Procrastinators are not bad people, and they have a moral compass. Hence guilt always follows procrastination. We feel inadequate and frustrated and blame ourselves for the tardiness.
-Panicking: This is when reality sets in. We start imagining the consequences of our procrastination. There is a lot of anxiety and stress at this stage.
-Feeling hopeless: This is a sort of giving up. We acknowledge to ourselves that the damage is done and cannot be repaired. This takes us straight back to the procrastination stage and the cycle goes on and on.
How to Stop Procrastinating?
-Break down a task into smaller tasks: If you need to build a house, break it down to individual doors and windows. Not only will this make the task less intimidating, but it will also help in planning the activities that need to be done.
-Promise yourself a reward at completion: This is powerful psychology. Pleasure centres of our brain light up when we start associating the task with a reward. This helps us in overcoming the initial hesitance to start the task.
-Reflect on the consequences of not doing: This is the stick to the carrot of reward. Taking a perspective on the impact delaying a task can actually galvanize one into action.
-Have a dream board: Relating difficult and unpleasant to a big dream makes them less overwhelming. It can serve as a source of motivation to get out of the procrastination slumber.
-Limit distractions: Simple things like putting your mobile on silent during a task can help you stay on course. When we digress, we waste time, which means we are compelled to procrastinate what we had set out to do.
-Compartmentalize: Segregate different spheres of your life in your mind. Do not let setbacks in our area impact your performance in others. Example – if you have had a break-up and you are leading an important project, leave behind your emotional baggage at home. You can use your personal time to grieve and heal and yet do your work efficiently.
-Forgive Yourself: One of the most effective ways to stop procrastination is to forgive yourself for procrastinating. A study conducted by Timothy Pychyl, a Carleton University professor found that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating during studying for an exam felt better immediately and procrastinated less for the next exam.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to understand why you do it and follow a method that prevents you from falling into the cycle of procrastination.
“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.” – George H. Lorimer
Do it now. Later is harder. And procrastination can lead to a disaster.
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