Being a procrastinator is something every one of us has faced at one point or another in our life. And most of us still have to regularly deal with this awful habit that we just cannot get rid of.
According to the Merriam dictionary, procrastination is ‘to put off something intentionally and habitually’, ‘to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done’. But we don’t need the definition to understand what it is. We all have had firsthand experience with this damaging habit, but we never do to take the blame on us.
As mentioned in the definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is ‘intentional’ and also ‘habitual.’ It might start with just one or two activities and soon it would become a habit that we are struggling to remove.
We all can attest to having procrastinated for quite a long time and only started working when the deadline was extremely close. The looming approach of the deadline provides us with the pressure that we need to be able to stop ourselves from procrastination and get some work done. But what about the times when things don’t ever have any deadline at all? Like our dreams…
Procrastination is the biggest stealer of our dream, it is way more damaging than we perceive. Presenting to you the 3 biggest ways that I let procrastination drive me away from my dreams:
Lack of time.
Our brain could be the best salesman! When the alarm starts ringing, our brain starts creating so many excuses and points that seem valid at that time, how we can do the work later, how sleep should be our priority, how it wouldn’t make a difference if we hit the snooze button, and most of the times, we succumb to what our sweet talker brain has to say.
It was never about having less amount of time that stopped me from doing something, and never even about time management issues, but instead, the real problem was the fact that I gave in to procrastination.
I waited for the deadline for my assignments and papers to approach so that I can start working. And every time it happened, I remember having to stay up late at nights, sometimes having to pull an all-nighter to complete the work. And if I had not procrastinated, not only would I have had better sleep those nights and less tiring days, but I would have had achieved better grades because of better content quality. (Also would have saved me from massive headaches.)
Living with regret is highly frustrating, especially when you can never change what has happened.
I am a very organised person but when procrastination knocked on my door, talking about instant gratification, I always gave in. In doing this all I ever did was construct a very damaged reputation amongst my teachers, colleagues, and even in front of my closest friend and family. Nobody relied on me for important work because they always had a doubt, if I would complete it or not. Though I have never missed a deadline, yet I had this careless reputation because of which I was many times denied the opportunities that I really wanted.
When you give in to procrastination, you are paying for it by throwing away all your opportunities. When you are presented with opportunities, instead of working for being able to achieve it, to be able to deserve it, you run towards instant gratification. By the time you decide to commence the work, the opportunity has long gone away from your grasp. Those opportunities may come around someday in the future, but sometimes, they may not and it is a risk I am no more willing to take. Do yourself a favour and don’t let any more opportunities go than the ones that have already gone.
When you do something regularly, it becomes a habit. And as already defined by Merriam-Webster, procrastination is habitual. Breaking habits are extremely difficult. You could want to complete all the tasks you assigned for today and yet not resist yourself from procrastination. This takes a toll on your self-worth as well as self-esteem. You start resenting your habit of procrastination and yet regularly giving in to it. You regret having wasted a lot of your time, missed on a lot of your opportunities, made a lot of poor decisions, and damaged your reputation. All of this is only going to make you have self-doubts and lowered self-respect for yourself.
If any of this resonates with you; if you feel that you have succumbed to this habit or behaviour of procrastination; if you are done with letting procrastination come in between you and your career, know that you ARE in control.
Ways to stop the loop of procrastination:
Try to remember that it is in the end, our own choice.
It is all about what we think or say. If we keep on repeating that we are big-time procrastinators, that no matter what, we are easily driven towards wasting time, we are only making ourselves feel that it is something we cannot control while also looking at this problem from a negative point of view.
When we start using affirmative words like, ‘I can complete this task on time’ or even forceful words like, ‘I HAVE to do it,’ what we are trying to remind ourselves is that not doing it now isn’t exactly an option available.
All our actions are in our control, we are just failing at realising that the remote to our actions IS in our hands. When you are just tired of losing a lot to procrastination, or when you have just decided to change, you’d know how much control you always had, just never knew.
Organise and break things into tiny goals.
When we organise our tasks, we have a clear view of what needs to be done, it also motivates us to start working. With this, try to break all the tasks into smaller goals. For instance, if you are planning to write an essay, you can break the entire process in the following way: Researching the topic, creating an outline, creating sub-points, writing the introduction, writing the content for sub-points, proofreading and then finally, editing.
When you break a big task into smaller ones, you are decreasing the stress it keeps the potential to induce; it eliminates unnecessary pressure while also ensuring that you give clear importance to each of these areas.
Another great thing about doing this is the fact that when we complete each of these small tasks, the feeling of having completed a task, as small as it may be, it motivates us to do more. With your goals becoming less intimidating and easier to achieve, you get fewer reasons to give in to procrastination, especially when getting things done would feel pretty amazing.
Create your deadlines. (With your rewards and punishments)
A major cause of procrastination is to want to ‘enjoy’ life instead of actually doing what is needed to be done. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, it is the looming approach of deadlines that forces us to work. But when the actual deadline is very far away or when there is no deadline at all, procrastinators are very used to either getting their work done very late or never at all.
Deadlines are a proven procrastination hunter, and when we want to get rid of procrastination and get our work done on time, setting goals with deadlines is the best way available.
Now most of the time, our deadlines have a lot to do with our pay-check or our grades. Submitting an assignment late on time could result in you getting lower grades, being unable to complete a presentation on time and of perfect quality might cost you your bonus or your promotion, etc.
When you are creating your deadline, these reasons might not be present, but again, you can create them. For instance, if you are an active book reader and your favourite past time is reading, you can reward yourself with reading a few pages. Say you decided that you have to complete at least half of your essay today. You can use those pages as both your reward as well as punishment. If you complete half of the essay on time, you reward yourself to read the book, and if you failed to do it, you punish yourself by not letting yourself read the book. And for extremely difficult tasks or long term goals, you can even increase the reward by rewarding yourself with buying a new book.
If you aren’t a reader, you can replace it with any of your hobbies, like watching an episode of your favourite series, eating your favourite dish, playing your favourite video game, taking a nap, etc.
Keep your Procrastination away.
Most of the time our procrastination has more to do with what we like to do rather than what we don’t. It becomes less about the goals or tasks we are meant to complete and becomes more about that one episode of the series you wanted to watch or about that one level of your video game you wanted to cross. And not to forget, the ultimate helper of our procrastination, our mobile phones, social media, and easy access to the internet.
When we are working on something, we need to keep any and everything that can cause us to get distracted and indulge ourselves in procrastination away from our eyesight. If all those procrastination inducing objects are kept away from your sight, you are going to get fewer reasons to procrastinate and you’d find it easier to resist the urge if and when it arises.
Tell someone about your goal.
Though psychology suggests that telling people about your goal decreases your motivation, it does have a great effect on people struggling with getting things done. When you tell people about your goals, your created deadlines, rewards, and punishment, you are allowing them to hold yourself accountable for any time that you miss the deadline or break the rules about your reward-punishment trick. When you tell people about your goals, you start taking it more seriously and rethink before dwelling into procrastination. It becomes about self-respect and self-worth as well as the value of your words. You don’t want to hurt your ego and damage your reputation in front of their eyes, right?
“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin.