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What Is Procrastination? How To Overcome It?

Henry Wheeler Shaw (also known as Josh Billings—pen name) a humour writer and lecturer from the United States once said, and I quote “The greatest thief this world has ever produced is procrastination, and he is still at large.”

It’s Sunday evening, tomorrow is Monday and you have a proposal to submit to your boss concerning the new products the company is supposed to market to its customers but up until that moment you haven’t done much. You start cursing under your breath wishing you had started sooner so you wouldn’t have to go through the amount of stress you are currently passing through.

What went wrong? How did it get to this point? You had the weekend to prepare, so how are you now in this position? The answer is, you probably spent Friday evening after work partying with friends, had a hangover on Saturday and probably spent the rest of the day checking social media, watching Netflix, and doing other stuff you would have still done later if only you acquired time management skills.

Does the scenario above sound similar? Does it look like something you would have done? If it does, then you are not in it alone. The truth is, what you are suffering from is called procrastination and according to researchers, 95% of us procrastinate to some degree. Even though it may seem comforting to know that you are not going through it alone, realising how much you have done and how far you could have gone if only you didn’t keep procrastinating can make you sad.

However, if you are reading this article, it means you have realised that it has become a problem and just like every other problem, you are seeking a solution. If that’s the case, then you have made it to the right space and in this blog post, you’ll learn about procrastination and how to cure procrastination.

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination can be defined as an act of unnecessary delay or refusing to complete tasks until the very last minute and in the worst-case scenario when it’s past the deadline. It’s mostly associated with ignoring important tasks simply because they are unpleasant and not enjoyable in favour of one that looks more attractive or is more enjoyable.

Researchers who have carried out research on procrastination defines it as a form of self-regulation failure (a core feature of many social and mental health problems) that’s characterized by the illogical delay of tasks despite its potential negative consequences.

The negative consequences that come with procrastinating can result in the individual feeling ashamed or guilty and if left unchecked will ultimately lead to reduced productivity which affects your financial well-being and reduces your ability to achieve academic and career goals. In worse cases (chronic procrastinating), it could even result in depression, failure, or even job loss.

6 Types of Procrastination

The first thing you should know is that laziness is not a type of procrastination. People often mistake laziness for procrastination when they are actually different.

Laziness has to do with the unwillingness to do anything in particular whereas procrastination is an unresolved approach to avoid conflict; something you know want or need to do, while some energy pushes against it (i.e., you are interested in something else), the other energy pushes towards it. This means that you become torn between impulses making you unable to separate the Want-Self from the Should-Self. Thus, it becomes tough to choose a clear commitment to action.

However, there are six different types of procrastination and being able to understand the category you fall into will help in changing not only how to think, but also how you speak, and act, based on that particular type. The six types of procrastination originate from three different types of behaviour; the first two focuses on attention to detail, the middle two focuses on the future, and the last two focuses on relationships with others.

The six different types of procrastination are:

1. Perfectionist: the perfectionist is disinclined to start or finish a task because they pay too much attention to detail and wouldn’t want anything to be out of place.

2. Dreamer: the dreamer isn’t a big fan of details, and that makes implementing ideas difficult for them. Dreamer often has beautiful or amazing ideas but become reluctant because of the steps (details) they’d have to take to achieve them; they rather have someone else worry about the details, and when that isn’t possible, they procrastinate.

3. Worrier: the worrier is always bothered about what could be. You’d often see them worrying about the “what ifs” a lot more than they should. They are too cautious, and because of that, they are afraid of doing what needs to be done. This type of procrastinator can be seen as a symbol of stress and anxiety.

4. Crisis-maker: the crisis-maker loves living on the edge and is addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with it. The crisis-makers believe he works better or thrives under pressure, so they often wait until the last minute before performing a task.

5. Defier: the defier is a rebel and often seeks or wants to kick against rules. They enjoy procrastinating and use it as a means to set their own schedule to get things done, one that others can’t control or predict. They often say things like “Don’t worry, I’ll do it” but sometimes end up not doing them and when they do, they do it on their own time (not the scheduled time or time frame).

6. Overdoer: the overdoer doesn’t know how to say no, and because of that, they are unwilling or unable to establish priorities and make choices. The overdoer also suffers from time inconsistency (changes in preferences or taste over time) due to their inability to say no.

Also, note that a person can experience more than a single type of procrastination.

What are the Common Causes of Procrastination?

People procrastinate due to a variety of reasons, but in this section, you’ll find some of the most common reasons why people procrastinate.

Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of criticism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Task aversion
  • Decision fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Fear of failure
  • Avoidance
  • Trouble focusing
  • Waiting until the last minute
  • Resisting challenges
  • Difficulty defining goals

How to Stop Procrastinating?

As you already know, procrastinating affects you negatively, and just like every other habit (good or bad), it can be stopped. Learning ways to curb procrastination early can improve your mental and physical health.

If you have been struggling with putting things off then you can try the following tips below to get back on track.

  • Perform the task for a few minutes.

Whenever you feel like procrastinating, use the Zierganick effect. The effect describes how the human brain becomes active or alert when you start something and stays that way until you finish it. This means that once you can persuade yourself to start it, the brain’s desire to complete it will take the driver’s seat, and you’ll find yourself performing the task without stopping until it’s completed. However, if it’s a long task or project, it’s not advisable to burn yourself out in the process—in that case, you can take scheduled breaks before continuing with the task.

  • Perform the hard task first.

If you have a list of tasks to perform daily, where some are harder (in the sense that it requires more concentration and energy) than others, starting the task may become difficult due to the hard tasks. To avoid procrastinating, start with the difficult tasks when the brain is still active (possibly in the morning; the brain is most alert at around 10 am) and once you are done with the harder tasks, you wouldn’t have trouble completing the easier tasks (the ones requiring little or no energy and concentration).

  • Trust in your ability.

Most people procrastinate because of the fear of not succeeding. If you are sure that you have the right knowledge and skills needed to complete a given task, then trust in that knowledge and skill. Tell yourself things like “you can do it”, believe in your skills and implement the strategies and skills you have learnt to self-regulate.

  • Manage your environment

Most times, no matter how determined we are to complete a given task, if we are surrounded by distractions, the will to carry out the task or see it through reduces greatly. Thus before working or performing a task, start by managing the environment; you can do that by removing things that are likely to distract you, and if, after doing that, you can’t seem to focus, then you can practice mindful meditation to help relax your mind and body.

  • Set a short deadline for yourself.

It’s no secret that the longer the deadline of a project or task, the more we procrastinate. Hence, if you want to do important tasks quickly without procrastinating, set a shorter deadline for yourself. And after completing the task on or before the deadline you set, you can be kind to yourself by rewarding yourself with a gift or doing something you enjoy doing as a way to motivate and congratulate yourself.

Conclusion

Procrastination may not seem harmful at first, but if left unchecked and you continue procrastinating, it’ll get to a point where it becomes chronic and chronic procrastination is not healthy because it can affect your mental health, physical health, and financial well-being as it could lead to a job loss.

So then, after identifying that you are a procrastinator, what next should do? Do not wait until you become a chronic procrastinator; start implementing steps or strategies to curb them.

Therapy helps to delve deeper into the triggers of procrastination, like perfectionism, and fear of failure and facilitates working on these deeper issues.

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