It’s fairly common across the population so I don’t ask this question to single you out, merely to help you engage with if it’s become a problem for you.
There’s a big difference between general putting stuff off and problematic delays. If you’re the latter this article is for you!
What Is Procrastination?
Put simply- it isn’t laziness. It’s delaying until the last minute, postponing, putting things off and these delayed actions are replaced with something trivial, less important, regardless of the impact on your original task. It’s a decision to make something less important suddenly a priority.
This intentional decision to override your necessities and goal(s) is often needless and is usually part of a habit you’ve become accustomed to, thinking ‘it can wait, I’ll do it tomorrow etc.’ The old adage is, ‘tomorrow never comes’ and this is a very familiar situation for a procrastinator. What you find yourself delaying is usually something you made a commitment to and something that’s often time bound.
What Do You Procrastinate About?
It could be work, studies, chores, family needs, exercise, personal needs, psychical health, mental health; the options are varied but they’ll all take a back seat if you can find a way to do so. Often there will be areas you manage quite well but other areas that suffer and remain parked for a long time without any attention.
It’s time to become aware of what you put off; make a note of it each time it happens.
- Have you found any patterns?
- Rate which ones have caused you distress or consequences.
- Which ones, with a little effort or motivation could be quickly fixed?
- Choose one to focus on for the next week.
We’re addressing a long-lived habit here so it will take time and patience, you can’t undo a life habit in an hour, it takes consistency and effort to apply yourself, so start small, practice at taking a first step then the next step. It makes things more manageable if you can break a task down. For example:
If your thinking of applying to college or university but feel overwhelmed, set yourself a 7 day plan with time limits
Day 1 choose a town to look up the ratings of the institution (1 hour)
Day 2- narrow your course choices down to 3 (1 hour)
Day 3- Find 3 colleges/ uni that have these courses (1 hour)
Day 4- book a visit for these places (30 mins)
Etc…, when we look at a task in its entirety it can feel daunting and unmanageable; if you break it down into sections then you’ll achieve more at a steady pace.
What do you normally substitute a priority task with?
Make a list of what you find yourself drawn to doing as a distraction, again are there any patterns?
- Pleasurable Tasks- hobbies and instant gratification modes of entertainment
- Lower Priority Tasks- chores, exercise, emails, research
- Daydreaming- past or future focus, fantasy
- Distractions- sleep, addictions
It’s important to achieve balance in your life so if you find the above are your go-out outlets instead of completing tasks then it suggests things are becoming problematic for you and it’s likely to affect your present and future self, identity and achievements if you don’t try to obtain a balance. Asking yourself ‘am I putting something off if I do this other activity instead?’ is a good way to check out if you’re procrastinating or if you need some down time.
My Procrastination is necessary, right?
If it’s making you feel discomfort, sadness, guilt, shame or other strong emotions and restricting your life then procrastinating is doing you more harm than good. We opt to do SOMETHING in order to push these emotions to one side, but guess what? They haven’t gone anywhere because we didn’t work on them or work on the thing that needs our attention. By making excuses for our behaviour, we attempt to try to feel better. Often that justification feels like a good reason but it’s a form of self-deception. Some examples taken from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/
“I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow”
“I don’t have enough time to do it all, so I will wait until I do”
“It is too late to start it now”
“I will miss out on the fun happening now, I can do it another time”
“It is too nice a day to spend on this”
“I have plenty of time, so I can do it later”
“I work better when I am stressed, so I will leave it to the last minute”
How to remedy Procrastination
- Make a conscious effort to become more aware of what you’re delaying and when;
- Make notes and check for patterns;
- Consider why you’re putting these particular things off- is it to do with fear, lack of knowledge, or motivational issues?
- Look for quick fix tasks that you can start to make progress on, starting small with perhaps one task a day/ week;
- Prioritise what immediate consequences;
- Ask for help if you need it;
- Make a long-term plan and a short-term to-do list to help with priorities and with visualising the path ahead;
- Keep track of your progress to remind yourself you are achieving; and
- Keep moving! Slow steps are still steps forward.