Modern lifestyle involves a lot going on. The current generation engages in a variety of engagements, which makes their management difficult. We often end taking up more activities than we can manage and end up piling most of them, panicking, and effectively finishing none. In other scenarios, even manageable tasks are postponed until the deadlines, either due to the absence of motivation or due to a lack of proper “mood”. These behaviors do not take long to turn into habits, and the vicious circle of procrastination spares none.
Procrastination- an Insight
Procrastination in its simplest form can be defined as the act of delaying one or more tasks. This when elaborated upon can also be seen as a process of performing more desirable tasks first, and avoiding the less desirable tasks, which in turn leads to their accumulation in the long run. It is, however, important to understand that procrastination is different from laziness. Laziness involves a feeling of not wanting to attempt a task, whereas procrastination involves a will to perform, but lacks the motivation required. Procrastination is a very common behavior and is exhibited by most humans at some or the other point of their lives. Procrastinators are divided into two main categories:
• Chronic procrastinators- Procrastinators who have problems finishing every task.
• Situational Procrastinators- Procrastinators who delay based on the subject of the task.
Why do people Procrastinate?
Procrastination can result from a number of reasons. Some of these are listed below:
1. Lack of Motivation
Lack of self-motivation is the most common cause of procrastination. Lower levels of motivation are usually seen in scenarios where the driving force for a task is extrinsic, rather than being intrinsic. One does not connect to the task which is to be performed and hence procrastinates doing it. Most students delay completing their assignments or project papers since the subject does not incite inherent interest in them. The rewards do not seem appealing enough and the task thus seems forced, leading to a lack of motivation.
2. Excessive Perfectionism
Another common cause of procrastination is the desire for excessive perfectionism. Carol Dwick in his book “Mindset: The new psychology of success”, explains that people have a fixed mindset. This implies that we only believe in a certain set of our abilities. These abilities, in accordance with the fixed mindset, can neither be improved nor developed. Perfectionists fear not being able to complete a difficult task flawlessly, and thus end up not attempting it at all.
In a number of cases, performing certain tasks lead to anxiety. Such tasks are therefore delayed in order to avoid the related uneasiness. Procrastination in this case, however, leads to a positive feedback loop, which makes the person even more anxious as a result of procrastination. He thus procrastinates the task even further, and the cycle repeats.
4. Dynamic Inconsistency
Dynamic inconsistency is a situation in which the preferences of the decision-maker change overtime. A very famous example of dynamic inconsistency is the study on dynamic human behavior, conducted in 1999. Individuals were made to choose between two categories of movies, highbrow and lowbrow. They were given two situations: one, according to which they had to watch the movie immediately, and second, which asked the participants to watch the movie over a course of three to four days. In an ideal situation, the choice made by a person should have shown no change. However, as many as around 70% of the participants changed their choices based on the conditions. A person might thus feel a better drive towards completing a given task right before the deadline, rather than doing it days beforehand, causing him to procrastinate.
5. Abstract goals
Unrealistic goals often lead to procrastination since the task anyway seems unachievable. There is a lack of motivation, which in turn leads to procrastination.
Reasons why you should never procrastinate:
1. Builds up pressure: Postponing tasks overtime leads to piled up work which becomes more difficult to complete. Increased numbers of undesirable procrastinated tasks build up more pressure and result in higher degrees of related stress.
2. You lose time: Utilisation of time is an important principle that opposes the idea of procrastination. People who value time are well aware of the cons of procrastination. Every second spent procrastinating is a second wasted. Since time never returns, procrastination again proves to be a bad idea.
3. Sloppy work: Completing a task right before the deadline leaves no time for revision. The resulting work is thus sloppy and usually in a dire need of improvements. Finishing work beforehand leaves room for corrections. Procrastinated work is thus usually not the best, and this style is therefore not advocated much.
4. You might run out of time: In a number of cases, the complexity of a procrastinated task is undermined due to its constant avoidance. The night before the deadline is then usually not enough for effective completion. This causes stress, which often leads to headaches. In the worst-case scenario, one might run out of time, not being able to present the required task. All efforts put into it, no matter how little, go in vain owing to poor time management and brilliant procrastinating skills.
5. Promotion of negative feelings: The inability to perform a task can incite feelings of worthlessness. This, in turn, results in self-defeating behavior. Chronic procrastination has also been shown to cause depression, anxiety, and hypertension in the long run.
How to overcome Procrastination
Now that we know why we should never procrastinate, it is important to have a guide on how procrastination can be avoided. Following are a few steps that you can take in order to overcome procrastination and start a more productive lifestyle.
1. Recognize your behavior
Realisation of procrastinatory behavior is the first and the foremost step towards its avoidance. The reasons for procrastination vary from person to person and are therefore subjective in nature. A close analysis of one’s personal procrastinatory behavior is thus necessary to attack it effectively. Figure out when, why and how you procrastinate and try to avoid such situations or circumstances.
2. The ten-minute rule
Procrastination usually results from an initial lack of motivation. A starting push in the right direction thus works wonders for solving this problem. According to the ten-minute rule, the initial push can be generated by performing the required task for as little as ten minutes. Once into the flow, it becomes easier to continue without having an urge to give up.
3. Forgive past behavior
Studies have shown that blaming oneself for having procrastinated in the past has a counter-productive effect. It makes one question their abilities, which in turn leads to self- defeating behavior as mentioned above. Accepting past procrastination, however, does not encourage giving up. It only advocates the idea of moving on avoiding procrastination in the future.
4. Maintain a to-do list
To-dos serve as constant reminders of unfinished tasks, ensuring that you never miss out. Moreover, to-dos can be personalized according to every individual, pertaining to their own set of actions that instigate the most productivity. For example, a person who works better under stress can design a to-do with shorter deadlines, tricking himself into performing a task under pressure. A to-do list is the simplest, most effective way of distributing work and fighting procrastination.
5. Minimize distractions
Diversion of attention from the task in hand leads to a lack of focus. Distractions, thus, should be kept away during hours of work. It is advised to put your phone on silent, and probably keep it at a distance if possible. In case of work involving laptops and tablets, the best way out is to either switch off background data or hide gaming and social media apps to avoid distractions.
6. Organize your tasks
It is necessary to prioritize your tasks in order to manage them effectively. Difficult and easy tasks should be organized separately in either increasing or decreasing order of their importance. It is highly advised to perform undesirable tasks at the start of the day since a drained evening brain would only procrastinate them further. Easier tasks can be handled between difficult tasks or can be managed in durations when you feel too tired to work.
7. Break your work
Burdensome tasks that require a lot of time and effort can get a little too overwhelming at times. The easiest way out in such scenarios is to break the initial task into smaller tasks. Smaller goals are comparatively easier to achieve and are thus more appealing to the brain. These small tasks can then be combined to achieve the final product.
8. Boost your energy
Lower levels of energy can have a direct impact on one’s performance. Regular breaks and a healthy diet are therefore necessary in order to assure smooth accomplishment of tasks in hand. Proper sleep and regular exercise also help in boosting energy, which in turn maximizes productivity.
9. Change environment
Working in the same environment for long hours can get monotonous and reduce productivity. A change in the environment, such as moving from a library to a coffee shop is enough to refresh the system and boost it for further work.
10. Reward yourself
Procrastination often results because the rewards associated with the task do not appeal enough to the actor. In the case of such a scenario, you can reward yourself with a thing of your choice upon completing a specific task. Since the reward now is something you like, it will keep you motivated and will encourage you to finish the task.
It is important to understand that procrastination only serves short term gratification. Long term happiness can only be achieved via constant hard work. The population today is heavily affected by the cons of procrastination and it’s high time to start working on it. It’s never too late on the road to productivity, and little habits incorporated today can bring huge changes in our lifestyle tomorrow.