"Procrastination means putting off intentionally and habitually the doing of something that should be done."
It is voluntarily delaying a course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. So, procrastinators usually are people who know what they want or need to do and yet don't do it. This affects their work, personal lives, and ability to succeed. People may disguise avoiding completing a task by telling themselves they will complete it at the last minute or pretending to be occupied by a different activity.
Procrastination often leads to feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt, shame, and depression. But what causes procrastination?
1. Stress and Anxiety: Too overwhelmed and worried even to begin working on tasks.
2. Difficulty Concentrating: Noisy, the phone is ringing, the desk is cluttered, etc.
3. Fear of Failure (Perfectionism): "If I don't achieve a certain standard, I am a failure." "If it's not perfect, I am a failure."
4. Rebellion: "You can't make me do it."
5. Preoccupation with Personal Problems: Being distracted by issues like financial difficulties, relationship concerns, etc.
6. Lifestyle: An unhealthy lifestyle such as untimely eating, irregular sleeping habits, and lack of proper exercise.
7. Lack of Enjoyment: You don't like the task. So, you turn to more enjoyable activities that provide instant gratification.
8. Poor Time Management: Uncertain of your priorities, goals, and objectives.
9. Lack of Self-Confidence: Not confident about yourself and your ability to perform the task.
10. Inability to Prioritize: Especially when there are multiple tasks, not prioritizing can make you feel overwhelmed.
Techniques to Overcome Procrastination
There's a long list of strategies you can use to overcome procrastination. Remember, there is no rehab for this bad habit. It's something you have to conquer yourself, but not necessarily alone. Some of the ways to beat procrastination and live a more relaxed life are:
1. Use Daily Schedule and Weekly Diary
Unrealistic time estimates may trigger procrastination. Perhaps you don't bother with estimates, are a slow starter, or are unable to balance your tasks and deadlines. An excellent way to establish realistic timelines is by creating a personal timetable to keep track of your tasks. You should develop a habit of using a personal list to track your time. Here's a sample activity/time-tracker for you!
2. Be Self-Aware
The biggest reason most people procrastinate is that they choose to procrastinate. It would help to remember that everything starts and ends with the self. The sooner you accept that procrastination is something you can control, the better you'll be able to overcome it.
3. Identify Your Procrastination Patterns
Ask yourself, "In what ways do I procrastinate?" Take a pen and paper. Write how you think you procrastinate. By putting it down, you will be able to focus and identify incriminating factors more clearly.
4. Face Your Fears
Failure is a part of success. What matters is that you dared to try and are willing to try again. Accept your fears. Everyone, even highly successful people, fears failure. Examine the thoughts and feelings that might be holding you back from leaving your comfort zone. No hurry, though. Take it one step at a time. Start by trying new things that are easy and low-stakes and work your way up.
5. Break Tasks Down
An imaginary or real lack of the skills required to complete a task might trigger procrastination. You can combat this with a moderate amount of preparation, such as breaking the task into steps and sub-steps, reminding yourself that you are smart and capable of learning new things, and enrolling the help of a friend or professional with certain aspects of the task.
6. Establish Clear Goals
Having a purpose gives meaning and direction to life. And to be able to fulfill it, you must have clear and well-defined goals so that you can plan your actions. This will motivate you to acquire the resources required to achieve those goals. Use the SMART goal-setting process.
7. Discard Old Habits
Old habits tend to die hard. So, even if we know that a specific habit is standing in the way of productivity, we keep doing it anyway. A good way of breaking free of old habits is to look for new things to do that you might love. Easier said than done, of course, but the rewards of doing it can be incredibly transformative in the long run.
8. Monetize Your Time
The habit of procrastination can be expensive. One way to realize that is to assign a money-value to the activities/tasks and imagine how much you are losing out on for every incomplete task. This alone can serve as a strong motivator not to procrastinate for some people.
9. Do Not Stop
Even if you fall back a few steps in your effort to not procrastinate, do not worry and definitely do not stop. Start over. If you're a chronic procrastinator, you will experience problems staying on course for the first few weeks. So, even if you miss out on some tasks, it's alright. Go easy on yourself.
10. Ask For Help
If nothing else works, you might want to seek some help. Whether that is a friend, family member, or a certified coach, don't be afraid to reach out and gain more perspective.
Whatever be your reason for procrastinating, you can overcome this habit with the tips mentioned here, and more importantly, by understanding and realizing that procrastination is harmful to your mental health and quality of life. It can also be expensive for your business or organization by affecting your performance.
That's why it is important to see it as a real, high-impact problem that needs to be resolved. Remember, it takes consistent and conscious efforts to break free from the habit of procrastination.
Write down 1-2 procrastinating behaviors that you will change for the next three weeks.
Share your 3-week goal(s) with someone close to you and ask them to check up on you.