I’ll do it later. I’ll start in five minutes. I think I’ll have a snack and then start working. I’m tired, I’ll do it tomorrow. The stress I get when I keep things towards the last minute actually really motivates me.
Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does! Most people aren’t strangers to this issue called procrastination. We all have postponed some task or work because we just didn’t feel like doing it at the moment. The problem is, we forget that time actually waits for no one!
What is Procrastination?
Fun fact, procrastination comes from the Latin term pro crastinus, which basically means “for tomorrow”. It’s nothing but hitting the snooze button on the task that you need to be presently working on and pushing it until you can’t. So what do you do when you push it off? You utilise that time to replace the unpleasant, stressful task with something a little more enjoyable and less important. For example, you may sit down to finish that assignment but end up scrolling on Instagram, only to see that you’ve wasted 30 minutes doing so. The funny thing about procrastination is that you consciously know that you’re wasting time, and while you seem relaxed on the outside while scrolling through posts, you’re actually hyperventilating on the inside. Oh, the irony.
The Types of Procrastinators
Some researchers defined the type of procrastinators based on different behavioural traits and thought processes.
- The Perfectionist: This type of procrastinator has a case of anticipatory anxiety. This means before starting the task, they get anxious just thinking about it. They have a fear that they won’t be able to execute it perfectly and thus delay even starting it.
- The Worrier: We all have our own comfort zones that we are happy about. At times, most of us dare to venture out of it, and sure, this causes a bit of anxiety. But it’s alright in the end. The worrier is so attached to their comfort zone that the thought of leaving it, or change, causes stress. This is why they delay starting new tasks that’ll force them to venture out.
- The Overdoer: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Oops, well this person just did. Now they’re so overwhelmed with the pile of work that they have that they don’t know where and how to start. Now they’re running around with very less time, and too much to do at once.
- The Crisis-Maker: A real daredevil. This person (me) believes that they need the last minute pressure so that they can be motivated to do the task at hand. That last minute stress works in their favour (so they feel) because it creates that pressure to meet the deadline. Not exactly the healthiest way to deal with deadlines, I know.
- The Dreamer: You know the story of the golden eggs? It fits the description of this individual. They have these grand, big plans, but they don’t have the patience to work out the nitty gritty of it. If the details aren’t planned out, the entire thought process becomes fuzzy and they end up pushing this off because of it.
- The Defier: This person for some reason doesn’t believe rules have any purpose. At least the rules set by others. They’ll set their own schedule- however erratic and unpredictable it may be. When they’re given a task by someone else, they turn angry and resentment. The thought running through their mind is, “why should I have to do this?” So they delay it until they can’t.
The Causes of Procrastination
People believe that self control is the only cause of procrastination but there are plenty of other reasons. Procrastination can’t be labelled as a mental illness, but there is plenty of research that proves that disorders such as depression, anxiety and ADHD can result into the delaying of a task. Let’s discuss some of the causes of procrastination that we all have experienced in our day to day lives.
- Overestimation: A lot of times we tend to overestimate the time left until the deadline, only to be jolted into reality. When an assignment is given a week prior, we think a week is a long time, and there’s no need to be so tensed, so we delay it. We also overestimate how motivated we will be in the future. We believe that we will magically find the motivation level to complete the task in the future.
- Underestimation: This is dangerous when combined with the overestimation. Sometimes a task is pushed off because we make faults in our time perception. We tend to think that it’ll take less time when in reality it requires a decent amount.
- Lack of Energy: When our energy levels are low, we aren’t motivated enough to start, sustain or finish a task. It’s difficult to be in the right frame of mind and take initiative.
- Distractions: When you’re expected to work in an environment that’s over stimulating you, it’s going to be difficult to focus on the thing in front of you. You’re bound to get sidetracked by something else which will delay your progress where it is needed.
- Insecurities: Self doubt, unrealistic expectations of perfectionism, and being self critical are the downfalls when approaching any task. The moment you start doubting your abilities and have a fear of failing before you even start, you really won’t start the task.
How Do You Work On This?
All is not lost. There are few things that you can do to finally overcome this issue. It won’t happen overnight, but once you take the step of making a few changes, it’ll be all uphill from there!
- Find the triggers. What are the things that trigger the procrastination? It could be a distraction, a fear, an attitude, etc. Pinpoint this and identify exactly what caused you to develop this pattern.
- Take baby steps. Make a to do list for the day, instead of the week or month. If that’s also too overwhelming, make a to do list for the next two hours. There’s no point in taking on too much that could get difficult to handle.
- Break things down. Each task is made up of smaller tasks that build up to the end result. Make those chunks or segments so that the main task doesn’t seem so daunting.
- Reward yourself. Incentives or rewards keep us motivated and on our toes. Each time you complete a task or meet a deadline that you had set for yourself, have that followed by a prize. It could be anything from your favourite food, or some time to do your favourite activity or even watch an episode of your favourite series.
Procrastination is a universal problem. We all face it from time to time. Keep in mind that you aren’t alone in this, and there’s no point in beating yourself up about it. Breaking this habit won’t be easy, but if you put your mind to it, it’ll get easier with time. Remember, you can, and you will!
Until next time,
(M.A. Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)