Procrastination is the act of putting off until tomorrow that which can be done today and is something most of us are familiar with. The reasons for delaying or even avoiding tasks can be varied such as a more appealing activity, the perception that the task is boring or difficult, prioritizing the needs of others over one’s own, fear of failure or even an unrelenting desire to clean the bathroom or eat cake.
Mild levels of procrastination may cause little harm apart from a mad scramble to complete tasks at the last minute. Habitual procrastination however, can have larger consequences or may be indicative of a more serious issue. There are commonly documented links between procrastination and depression. Procrastination, lack of motivation and difficulty making decisions are all symptoms of depression and if persist for a long time should be explored further. Similarly, prolonged procrastination and subsequent consequences can be a contributing factor to the onset of depression. Chronic procrastination can result in a lack of confidence, increased stress, missed opportunities, sleep disturbance, loss of confidence and missed deadlines.
It is common when avoiding a task to engage in activities that would generally be considered as relaxing such as spending time with friends, playing video games or watching Netflix. However, when tasks are being put off they remain present at the back of your mind preventing full engagement in otherwise relaxing activities and merely providing a short-lived escape with the dread of the task returning once the activity is over.
On the flip side when we tackle procrastination and complete the activities that are required of us or that we have set ourselves, increased feelings of productivity and satisfaction are experienced. When particularly feared or difficult things are conquered self-confidence and sense of mastery are enhanced. The following are some tips for beating procrastination and generating greater satisfaction and more opportunities for true down time.
- Be organised – plan time well and set aside time to complete tasks that you are likely to be put off. Ensure you have everything required for the task and that you are free of distractions, such as your phone.
- Be Mindful– notice all the excuses that come into your mind that are designed to stop you from achieving your goal. Then ask yourself how you will feel “if you don’t complete the exercise” and how you feel “if you do complete the task”.
- Get Support – if you are having trouble with self starting, let someone know your goal and ask them to support you in staying on track. You may also want to enlist a tutor, trainer, mentor or group. Avoid isolation as this can trigger negative self-talk that is de-motivating.
- Set realistic goals – if your productivity has been low for a while don’t decide to tackle too much too soon with the risk of failure.
- Reward Yourself – after achieving your goals reward yourself with an activity that is just for fun.
- Make a mental note of how you feel every time you accomplish what you have set out to, this can be used as incentive the next time you are tempted to procrastinate.
B. Psych (Hons) PhD.
Registered Psychologist, MAPS