It starts with a promise to yourself that you’re likely aware you may not keep. A quick glimpse on the social media page that takes longer than you intended. A passive scroll in your emails even when there’s nothing urgent to check or getting a cup of coffee one last time as you prepare to get started.
Before you realize it, an hour, a day or a week has flown past. You start to panic because the deadline is due. Adrenaline kicks in and with it come anxiety, panic attacks, and self-blame. Experts compare the habit of procrastination to drug addiction where both result from a lack of self-regulation.
Whether procrastination is a psychological problem or a series of bad habits, the fact remains that it’s harmful to anyone. It takes self-discipline and hard work to have more ticks than crosses on your to-do list. Read on and discover where the self-made delays come from and how you can remedy them albeit one hour or a day at a time.
History of Procrastination
Did you know that putting off tasks didn’t come with the social media era? While the virtual crowds are a number one reason many don’t seem to accomplish essential tasks on time; history records of procrastination date back to 800BC.
Cicero, a Roman Consul, and the Greek Poet Hesiod mention procrastination in their write-ups. Consul terms procrastination as, “a hateful act,” while Hesiod mentions “putting off work for tomorrow and the day after that,” in his poem.
Other historical figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, among others mention procrastination as the enemy of progress and productivity. From history, you can tell that procrastination is as old as humanity.
Procrastination and Laziness
If you’re procrastinating, does it mean you’re lazy? The two terms are mostly confused because they both focus less on the critical task at hand. However, lazy people don’t engage in other activities, and they never seem to have the urge to finish off a task even when the deadline is around the corner.
On the other hand, procrastinators like keeping busy with other less urgent and committing tasks. Some good pastime activities such as watching a movie or reading a book can turn out disastrous if they’re at the expense of another critical event.
Why are You Procrastinating?
Getting to the root cause of procrastination is a sure way to overcome the harmful habit. There’s a reason why you take days to do something that may only take a few hours.
These are some of the reasons why you could be procrastinating:
Tedious and Unpleasant Tasks: If you’re like most people, you’d rather put off mind-numbing tasks and get back to them when you can no longer avoid them. The result is temporary relief, but at the back of your mind, you know there’s some task waiting for you.
To handle this problem, work on the least desirable task as the first thing and do it to completion. This gives you more free time to do what you enjoy the most.
Poor Organization Skills: Do you arrange your tasks by order of priority? If you don’t, you’re likely to suffer from procrastination. Although scheduling tasks may seem restrictive, freedom only lead to chaos. Adapt some order by having to-do lists and weekly planners, so you know what you need to accomplish by the end of the day.
Fear of Failure: When you’re handling a complicated task, you may put it off because you don’t want to fail in the process. Perfectionists are especially prone to postponing because they’d prefer not to do something instead of doing it imperfectly.
Fear of Success: while some people fear to fail, others fear to be on the spotlight after accomplishing a task. To them, this brings in more work that they may not handle on time. Delaying the action is their way of staying low-key with as little work as possible.
Which one of these explains why you could be postponing some tasks? If it doesn’t appear in the list, write it down as we head to resolve procrastination for good no matter the reason behind it.
Anti-Procrastination Strategies That Work
Like any other habit, good or bad, procrastination is learned over time. Most people who procrastinate are unaware of it because it becomes second to nature.
To unlearn this destructive pattern, take up any of these strategies and practice them habitually. With time, you’ll find that you’re able to carry out essential tasks without hesitation and distractions. You’ll also learn to overcome the unobvious procrastination behaviors that include over-preparing for a task, and always having one more thing to do before you get started.
- Forgive Yourself for Procrastinating in the Past
Start on a clean slate. Procrastination comes with enough guilt that can tamper future progress. Forgiving yourself for indulging is a first step to preventing further time wastage in self-reproach.
We all know you cannot change the past and regret is just but a mere wish. Move on and do better at the moment.
- Be Accountable To Someone
Few people can self-regulate while others need accountability partners. The partner has to be someone whose opinion matters to you and is to some degree a role-model. Most accountability partners turn out to be mentors in the long run. They help you to accomplish your goals and dreams by constaly checking on you.
If you can’t get someone to be answerable to, numerous apps have come up to help you check on your progress.
- Reward Yourself
Who doesn’t like rewards after getting a job well done? When the prize comes from you, it’s even better because you know just what you need. When you’re always putting off tasks, it can feel quite an accomplishment to finish early and have time to spare.
In return, give yourself encouragement and a pat on the back by doing something you enjoy.
- Rephrase Your Internal Dialog
Phrases such as ‘you must” and “you have to” can automatically raise resistance in your subconscious mind making you fall back in the procrastination pattern. To avoid this, use phrases such as ‘I choose to.” Having a choice in the matter gives you an upper hand.
- Minimize Distractions
There are all sorts of distractions that come up when you’re about to do something important. The most common distractions are the mobile phones and the social media pages. Keep away from them when you set out to start an important task. It may be hard at first, but over time, you’ll learn to work without checking your phone every five minutes. It’ll be easier to concentrate on work when the distractions are out of reach. Therefore, if anything takes your concentration away from the current essential task, keep them far from you.
- Start with hard tasks first
When you finish a task that you’re likely to postpone,you’ll be less anxious, stressed, and depressed. The accomplishment is not only a welcome relief, but you’ll also have more time to do other tasks that you enjoy.
How to Avoid Procrastination When Handling Overwhelming Tasks
Nothing says overwhelming better than when you have a new task that is both complicated and crucial. Fear of failing or not getting the job done to perfections can keep you going around it rather than tackling it instantly.
To help with this, work with 15 to 20 minutes time bursts and focus on starting the work rather than finishing it. When you handle complicated task consistently, it becomes less threatening as you warm up to it.
Procrastinating Unpleasant Work
Everyone faces unpleasant or dull work at some point in life. Nevertheless, the results after completion are pleasant and rewarding. Focus on the aftermath rather than how it’s making you feel. All the same, opting not to do the work, will give you a more unpleasant experience, worse than boredom.
How to Avoid Procrastination Caused By Disorganization
Working with schedules and day planners is productive towards curbing procrastination. If you notice some urgent tasks are going untouched for days without thinking of them, that’s because you don’t have a working system.
Psychology claims procrastination as a behavioral problem and not necessarily a lack of time management skills. Nevertheless, these simple strategies will help you with planning and making the most of your day.
- Keep a To-do List
It’s not old-fashioned to have a list of things you need to accomplish in a day and tick them as you go. It’ll not only give you a sense of accomplishment, but it will motivate you to do better every day. You can change one habit by adopting another. Keeping a check list will replace procrastination and soon enough, procrastination will be history.
- Use Your Peak Times To Tackle Hard Tasks
Some people work well in the mornings while others function better slightly later in the day. Knowing when your mind is most productive will help you allocate the tasks you’re likely to postpone at that time. Work on difficult tasks when you’re most alert so that you can give them your best effort and attention.
- Set Time-bound Goals
A procrastinator may have the same goal for years because they never lock it down. Open-ended goals lead to lost dreams, a stagnated life and severe cases of depression. Successful people always finish what they start despite the difficulties.
Procrastination is not an innocent habit. Leaving off essential tasks that you know you should be doing is the highest form of self-sabotage. Don’t wait until it’s too late to amend the behavior. Some dreams go down the drain because of procrastination while others pay huge fines due to postponing crucial payments.
It’s not unusual either to lose on lifetime opportunities and end up getting depressed when time runs out on them. If you have an essential task that you’re sleeping on waiting for inspiration, know there’s never a perfect time. As the saying goes, “There’s no better time like the present.” Make the most of it doing what your future self will thank you for.