Dealing With Procrastination

 

The word procrastination is derived from “pro” i.e. Latin for in favour of and “crastinus” i.e. of tomorrow1. As a term it therefore, refers to avoiding a task till some unstated point of time.  One may put off a task due to various  reasons like tending to something important, to get more time to plan the activity at hand, or even because they don’t have resources to complete a task presently. But procrastination is distinct from such occurrences, as in it involves actively avoiding a task despite potential negative or unwanted consequences.

Procrastination is also not about poor time management. The essential element is that a person chooses to do something else or even nothing, instead of taking on a pending task, despite having ample time.

Academic procrastination1 is a common phenomenon. In this, a student knows he or she must attend to an academic task that needs completion in a stipulated time limit. And yet, students end up failing to perform the task in the given time period. In fact, studies have shown that academic procrastination is a common element of student life with upto 95% of students claiming to have procrastinated at least some point in their life.

A major part of deciding on how much procrastination works and doesn’t, is related to its consequences. We all avoid some things we need to get done for various reasons. We lack interest in them, find them boring, want to attend to a more fun activity, etc. Such occurrences are pretty harmless and can be managed in the long run. But, consistently indulging in such behaviour is not fruitful either. This is because procrastination has been found to be linked to higher stress levels2, feelings of shame3 as well as lowered performance levels4.

So why do people procrastinate?

The answer to this, though not exact, can be manifold1,5.: Fearing that once a task is done and you will be judged for it, can lead to delaying the task. Some people find themselves doing this out of concerns of being considered a failure at a task. In some ways poor management skills and self discipline can make a task overwhelming and may lead to putting it off until later. In addition, issues in prioritizing things can also lead to procrastination.

The question that some of us are faced with is about how to deal with procrastination as a habit. Like any habit, consistent efforts are required to avoid procrastinating. Some ways to do so include1,5,:

 

  • Identifying the “why”: Start with trying to understand why you are procrastinating. Chances are you may find yourself struggling with certain concerns like the ones mentioned above. Once you get even a slightly better idea of such reasons, keep them in mind for future reference and look out for such patterns

 

  • Setting priorities: Go through the list of tasks you need to complete. And then move on to decide which task requires more attention or diligence. Knowing where and when to start can help ease the potential pressures attached to completing them.

 

  • Remember the consequences: You may have identified a pattern related to procrastination which surrounds feeling guilty or overwhelmed or even dejected after delaying a task for long. Remember such occurrences. When you find yourself leaning towards procrastinating, ask yourself “what will this finally get me?”.

 

  • One piece of the puzzle at a time: Start small. Take one step at a time when doing something you want to procrastinate. Make a schedule for it. For example, you can divide the task into different parts and completed each one by one, or you can decide on beginning your list of work from the activities you don’t like so as to move on to ones you rather enjoy. The point is to deal with a seemingly challenging task with patience and planning.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

1.Procrastination and how to beat it. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/docs/learningguide-procrastination.pdf

2.Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). Longitudinal study of procrastination, performance, stress, and health: The costs and benefits of dawdling. Psychological Science, 8, 454-458.

3.Fee, R. L. & Tangney, J. P. (2000). Procrastination:  A means of avoiding shame or guilt? Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 15, 167-184.

4.Ackerman, D. S., & Gross, B. L. (2005). My instructor made me do it: Task characteristics of procrastination. Journal of Marketing Education, 27(1), 5-13

5.How to stop procrastinating: Overcoming the habit of delaying important tasks. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_96.htm

 

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