Procrastination - A Guide to Understanding and Overcoming it!
Updated: Jul 8
Do you find yourself frittering away hours on trivial pursuits when you should have been spending that time on productive endeavours?
Do you find yourself watching TV, updating your social media, shopping online or even cleaning your room as your deadline creeps closer? If you do, you could label yourself a procrastinator. But the label itself is not as important as the understanding of why so many of us are prone to this behaviour.
One in four adults use procrastination as a self-defining trait. No matter how well-organised and committed you are, delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past its deadline, is a common occurrence around the globe. Some researchers define it as a "form of self-regulation failure”.
Why Do We Do It?
Our brain’s limbic system tells us to! This area of the brain is driven by emotion and dominant. It pushes us to flee from situations that make us uncomfortable. Procrastination stems from a variety of thoughts but fundamentally, we postpone tasks because
we do not believe we'll enjoy doing them and want to avoid making ourselves unhappy,
we fear that we won't do them well,
we are confused by the complexity of the task or
we are overly distracted or fatigued.
Psychologists have identified various drivers of procrastination, from low self-confidence to anxiety, a lack of structure, and, simply, an inability to motivate oneself to complete unpleasant tasks. Research has also shown that procrastination is closely linked to rumination, or becoming fixated on negative thoughts.
Why Are We So Sure We'll So Something Later?
Predicting how we'll feel in the future is known as affective forecasting, and people tend to be fairly bad at it.
For example, procrastinators may feel bad about not exercising today but may raise their mood by predicting they will do it tomorrow. Thus, they avoid feeling negative emotions in the moment but make the cycle more likely to repeat in the future.
What Are The Costs?
Whether you are putting off finishing a project for work, avoiding homework assignments, or ignoring household chores, procrastination can have a major impact on your job, grades, and life.
Procrastination may relieve pressure in the moment, but it can have steep emotional, physical, and practical costs. Students who routinely procrastinate tend to get lower grades, workers who procrastinate produce lower-quality work, and in general, habitual procrastinators can experience reduced well-being in the form of insomniaor immune system and gastrointestinal disturbance. Procrastination can also jeopardise both personal and professional relationships.
Procrastinating when it comes to one’s health—putting off exercise and check-ups, and failing to commit to healthy eating—can lead to a higher risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Procrastinators are also more likely to engage in self-blame and disengage from wellness advice, suggesting that cultivating greater self-compassion could help such individuals begin taking better care of themselves.
Is There A Link Between Procrastination and Depression?
Procrastination, avoidance, and rumination are all common symptoms of depression. People with depression may struggle to plan, lose confidence in their ability to follow-through, and adopt "what's the point" thinking.
The treatment approach is known as behavioral activation, in which one schedules enjoyable activities that provide a sense of mastery or accomplishment, which may help alleviate some of these effects.
How to Stop Procrastinating
While it may seem like an impossible task, it is possible to overcome the challenges of procrastination—and get things done that you have been putting off. Here are a few tips to help you tame the procrastination beast:
Take a deep breath and get started.No matter what you need to accomplish, there's nothing like taking a deep breath and moving forward toward your goal!
Set a 10 minute timer.Work as hard as you can for just ten minutes.
Do the most challenging aspect first. If putting it off is mentally draining, then ticking it off your list is equally fulfilling. It will make you feel more productive and will feed into the energy you need to keep going.
Break it down into smaller tasks. If you are writing a paper, start with just one small paragraph. If a disorganised closet greets and discourages you every morning, attack one small section at a time—organize the blue clothes, for example. No matter what is on your "to-do" list, break it down into more manageable tasks and they won't feel so bad.
Put aside the interruptions.If you are tempted by the Internet, log off of your wi-fi for a while. If you are constantly sending and receiving texts, put your phone in another room. Take away the interruptions and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Decide on a reward when you are finished. A small treat upon successful completion of a task can provide tremendous motivation. So, treat yourself to a trip to the mall, a Netflix binge, or something else you can look forward to as you jump into your task.
Another great way to avoid procrastination is to rely on your support systems to keep you accountable. Tell your friends to check-in, use social media to hold you accountable or use the Carebyte concierge service to give you the push you need!
Consider seeing a mental health professional if procrastination is causing you undue stress in your life. Carebyte offers unlimited psychological support, psychiatric assistance and a partner in your health journey, whenever you need it. Download Carebyte and use code CBFMABH to start your free one month trial now!