Picture this, it is Thursday afternoon, and time is going by sooner than you expected. You are trying to work as fast as possible to complete a task that needs to be delivered tomorrow morning. And you cannot help but wonder, “how did this happen?” “Where did my time go?” “Why did I lose my focus?”
If this sounds familiar, you need to know that you are not alone.
Procrastination is much more common than one could imagine. Some research suggests that 95 percent of us procrastinate to some extent. While it may be soothing to know that you are not the only one who procrastinates, it is crucial to realize how much it can hold you back.
Is Procrastination the Same as Laziness?
Very often, procrastination is confused with laziness, but both are very different.
While laziness implies inactivity, unwillingness to act, and apathy; Procrastination is an active process where you decide to do something else instead of what you should be doing.
Most of the time, procrastinating is about ignoring an unpleasant but essential task while doing a pleasant but non-essential one.
Even though procrastination is not the same as laziness, they can both have severe consequences in our lives. Even minor cases of procrastination can make us feel ashamed or guilty; it can also reduce productivity and motivation. Procrastinating over a long period may lead us to become demotivated and disappointed with our work, which can drive us to depression and anxiety.
How to Stop Procrastinating?
As it happens with any other habit, overcoming procrastination is possible. Here are some steps that will help you deal, and prevent procrastination.
Step 1: Realize That You’re Procrastinating
If you’re temporarily delaying an essential task for a good reason, then you are not necessarily procrastinating. Putting off a task because you had to re-prioritize your workload is valid. On the other hand, if you start putting things off frequently and indefinitely or switching focus because you do not want to do something, you most likely are procrastinating.
Even though they might not seem likely, here are some signs that you are procrastinating:
- Fill your To-Do list with low-priority tasks.
- Tasks stay on your To-Do list for a long time, even though they are important.
- Read emails several times without deciding on what to do with them.
- Start a high-priority task and then go off to make a coffee, make a call, take some air, and so on.
- Spend time with unimportant tasks that other people ask you to do instead of focusing on the task already on your list.
- Wait to be in the “right mood,” or wait for the “right time” to work on a task.
Step 2: Understand Why You Are Procrastinating
It is critical to understand why you are procrastinating to work on how to stop doing it.
For example, if you avoid a task because you think it is boring, it would be better to work on it as soon as possible and get it out of the way. By doing so, you will have more time to focus on more enjoyable tasks.
Being disorganized can result in procrastination. Highly organized people are often more successful at keeping procrastination at bay. That is because they use tools such as prioritized To-Do Lists and effective schedules to stay organized.
Feeling overwhelmed by a task also affects organized people. Maybe you are doubting your abilities and are worried about failing. As a result, you put tasks off and work on comforting tasks that you are sure you can complete.
In some cases, people fear success just as much as they fear failure. Some might think that being successful in a task might result in a more workload.
Perfectionists are often procrastinators. Perfectionists, when they procrastinate, usually do so because they rather avoid doing a task that they do not feel they can do perfectly.
Poor decision-making is also a cause of procrastination. If you have trouble deciding what to do, it is likely that you will avoid taking action with the fear of doing the wrong thing.
Step 3: Adopting Strategies
Procrastination is a habit, meaning that it is unlikely that you could break it in one day. To incorporate or eliminate habits from our life takes time, patience, and practice. Here are some strategies that could help you overcome procrastination.
- Practice forgiveness. Try to forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past. Studies have shown that self-forgiveness can help you to feel more positive and reduce the likelihood of procrastination in the future.
- Commitment. Try to commit to the task by focusing on doing instead of avoiding. You should write down the tasks you need to complete and set a time for doing them.
- Rewards. Promise yourself a reward as motivation. If you complete a difficult task on time, reward yourself with a treat.
- Ask for help. Having an accountability partner or someone to check up on you could be beneficial. We could call it peer pressure or a self-help group. But, having someone checking up on you is a great way to get things done.
- Act as you go. Do not let tasks pile up on your list. Instead, work on them as soon as they appear.
- Change the narrative. It is a good idea to rephrase your internal dialog. Phrases like “need to” and “have to” indicate that you have no choice in what you do. As a result, you might feel out of control, and it could result in self-sabotage. However, phrases like “I choose to” could make you feel more in control.
- Avoid distractions. Turn off your email and social media notifications while you work. Some professionals catalog social media and emails as two of the biggest distractors.
- Work early on the more difficult things. Try to take out of the way those tasks that you find least pleasant. Work on those tasks first thing in the morning, so you can have the rest of the day to concentrate on work that you enjoy doing.
Procrastination can limit your potential and undermine your career. It can also disrupt teamwork, reduce morale, and even lead to depression and anxiety. We hope this article helps you understand better why you procrastinate while giving you the tools to manage and overcome procrastination.