Procrastination is the act of avoiding, delaying or postponing tasks that must be accomplished. It involves seeking instant gratification, by performing less important but more enjoyable jobs, instead of the ones that really need to be done.
Reasons for procrastination include fear of failure, boredom, or disinterest in the task at hand. Some psychologists believe such behaviour is a mechanism used to cope with the anxiety associated with beginning or completing a task. We all prefer to avoid negative emotions and delay stressful activities – it’s basic human nature.
Procrastination often perseveres until the last minute before an impending deadline, when we suddenly spring into action and complete the task in a panicked rush. It can arise in any aspect of life – putting off a trip to the doctor, avoiding a stressful discussion with your partner, delaying the submission of your tax return, or browsing Facebook when you should be completing a work-related assignment.
Excessive procrastination can result in feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and inadequacy. It creates unnecessary stress, and adversely impacts the quality of the completed task. Procrastination is counterproductive, and can easily become an entrenched habit. And while some procrastinators may claim they perform better under pressure, this is often simply an excuse to justifying putting things off.
If you frequently find yourself procrastinating, then try following these seven steps to help break the cycle before it becomes detrimental to your health and productivity
Set a schedule
Evaluate your goals and set a firm time to tackle the job you’re procrastinating about. Record it in your diary, and make sure you keep that appointment. Be disciplined and stick to the schedule you establish.
Move to another location to perform the task. That way, you’re there for a specific purpose, to complete a specific job. Eliminate noise and distraction. By changing your environment, you’ll gain a fresh perspective. You’re less likely to be diverted, and more likely to finish the task.
Be aware of the negative thoughts that lead to procrastination. Say to yourself “I can do this. It won’t take long.” Use positive affirmation to convince yourself that it can be done. And then just do it.
Dive straight in
Jump right in, just like you’d enter a cold swimming pool. Dipping one toe at a time only makes it harder. Once you’ve started, the task won’t seem so bad, and you’ll wonder why you ever put if off.
Make it public
Tell your friends, family or colleagues that you’re going to do it, and ask them to follow up with you, helping to keep you on course. When your task becomes public, it makes you more accountable and you’re more likely to achieve a positive result.
Take little steps
A large project can be intimidating. Break your task down into smaller blocks that you can tackle one at a time. This is easier than attempting to complete the entire project all at once, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and progression as each component is ticked off your checklist.
Don't be scared
Are you putting off a job because you believe it will be an unpleasant experience? Most of the time, the activity turns out to be much less painful than anticipated. Figure out what you’re scared of, and you’ll be able to identify the best way to overcome your fear.
Everyone procrastinates to some degree. But by using these techniques you can stop procrastination in its tracks and start completing those tasks that you’ve been putting off indefinitely.
To avoid relapse, review your established goals, and praise yourself for accomplished tasks. After you’ve finished a major piece of work, don’t forget to reward yourself. By giving yourself something fun to look forward to, you’ll feel more motivated, and you’ll positively reinforce the benefits of being proactive and getting your work done quickly.
And once you’ve stopped procrastinating, you’ll find your leisure time becomes so much more enjoyable, without that nagging guilty feeling at the back of your mind telling you you’re supposed to be working on an important task.