As the clock ticks down and I get closer to my deadline, I stare blankly at my computer screen and wonder how I got into this mess again.
I had known about the project for weeks; I had put it off until the last minute, and now I was paying the price.
I struggled with procrastinating, both at home and at work, until I was in my 30
Putting off everything from doing the laundry until I had nothing left to put on to paying bills, I kept putting off important work projects until the pressure was unbearable.
Despite the many negative consequences of procrastination, fights with my partner, and the stress It created, I struggled for years to break the cycle.
I always found excuses to put things off, telling myself I worked better under pressure or needed more time to perfect things.
I used to focus too much on my present self and not enough on my future self.
I liked the immediate benefits of the present, especially since the costs of my decisions wouldn’t be felt for a long time.
Today I am a recovering procrastinator and have taken a different approach, and I coach others to find ways to stop procrastinating and achieve their goals.
I never thought I would go from a chronic procrastinator to coaching others in the same area.
Procrastination is a common personal and professional problem that most people I coach face, and despite its many negative consequences, it can be difficult to overcome.
Why You Should Care About Procrastination
Procrastination often results in missed opportunities, unfulfilled potential, lower quality work, poor performance, and missed chances in life.
It is emotionally draining, generates stress and anxiety, reduces motivation, and destroys our self-esteem.
Much of our stress and unhappiness stems from our inability to identify the reasons behind our tendency to procrastinate.
We can not take measures to overcome things we don’t know exist.
This article explores the many reasons for procrastinating and provides evidence-based strategies to overcome this habit.
Procrastination is when we keep putting off essential tasks or decisions that must be made, frequently until the last minute or even after the deadline.
Procrastination is all those distractions that lure us away from crucial tasks and commitments.
It is the detour we take from our goals and responsibilities.
Nevertheless, procrastination is a functional behavior that serves a purpose or fulfills some of our needs; otherwise, we would not keep doing it
For some, procrastinating may temporarily relieve stress, anxiety, or boredom or allow them to prioritize other tasks that they perceive as more urgent or enjoyable.
Still, when we procrastinate, we take a path that ultimately results in incomplete objectives and unproductive results, adding more stress to our lives.
Understanding the Psychology of Procrastination
Procrastination is a complex behavior with many underlying reasons.
Some factors contributing to our procrastination include fear of failure, perfectionism, lack of motivation, poor time management skills, and an overwhelming workload.
Understanding these underlying reasons is necessary to succeed in developing personalized strategies to overcome procrastination.
Lack of Motivation
One of the most common reasons for procrastination is a lack of motivation when we struggle to find the necessary drive to start or complete a particular task.
There are different reasons for this, including but not limited to a sense of disinterest in the task, a lack of self-confidence, or a clear and specific step-by-step plan to complete the task.
The problem is not that we lack motivation but rather a lack of motivation to engage in activities that we feel are meaningful and fill a purpose investment in the long term.
Internet and Social media
Being constantly connected to the internet and social media drives our procrastination tendencies.
With cheap dopamine on social media and other internet distractions, essential tasks become boring at best and unbearable at worst.
To make matters worse, social media and the internet can create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), making it hard to disconnect and focus on the things that truly matter.
Much research has shown that frequent social media use is associated with higher levels of procrastination, especially regarding academic work. Still, I believe that this applies to many more areas of life.
Energy Levels and Fatigue
It may not surprise that when our energy levels are low or we experience fatigue, our capacity to accomplish tasks and maintain productivity can be significantly impacted.
This is evident in the daily observation of students who appear exhausted and run down, resulting in suboptimal functioning of their bodies and minds, making even the simplest tasks seem daunting.
Consequently, they procrastinate or avoid tasks altogether, leading to a cycle of stress and further fatigue.
An important part of stopping procrastination is prioritizing rest and self-care before our energy levels drop.
Taking care of ourselves is a part of stopping procrastination because it helps us recharge and regain our focus and productivity.
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons for procrastination.
We often delay commencing a task or project because we fear falling short of expectations or making mistakes.
Being overwhelmed can also significantly contribute to procrastination.
Think of the loss of control when a task is overly complex or challenging, and we are uncertain about where to start.
This sense of overwhelm often gets amplified when other responsibilities or tasks compete for our attention, making it arduous to prioritize and concentrate.
Procrastination – a Habit or Coping Mechanism?
As a habit, procrastination is a learned behavior that we may develop over time, often due to a lack of knowing our needs and values and setting healthy boundaries to protect our energy and time.
In most cases, procrastination becomes a habit we engage in without realizing it.
At the same time, procrastination can be a coping mechanism to manage stress, anxiety, or other emotions we perceive as negative or uncomfortable.
We put off tasks to temporarily avoid or reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. However, this coping mechanism is problematic, especially when it becomes chronic and prevents us from accomplishing essential tasks or meeting our goals.
Understanding the underlying causes of procrastination is crucial to developing strategies to overcome it, whether primarily a habit, a coping mechanism, or both.
Perfectionism is another major reason why we procrastinate.
As a former perfectionist, I often found myself putting off starting a task because I thought everything needed to be perfect before I began. This, of course, made me overwhelmed and made it even more challenging to get started.
My fear of being unable to complete a task further contributes to procrastination.
While procrastination may provide short-term relief, it adds more negative consequences, such as missed deadlines, reduced productivity, increased stress, and lowered self-esteem. It can even contribute to more procrastination.
What we procrastinate on tends to limit our ability to achieve goals and fulfill our potential.
Places We Go When We Procrastinate and Strategies to Overcome Procrastination
If the underlying causes of procrastination are not addressed, we will continue to use procrastination as a coping mechanism to deal with strong feelings and emotions.
Ultimately, this leads to chronic procrastination, more stress, and anxiety.
Knowing where we go when we procrastinate, we can develop personalized solutions and strategies to achieve our goals.
Here are some strategies to stop procrastinating:
Low energy or fatigue:
- Take breaks when needed, and be sure to get enough rest and sleep.
- Prioritize physical activity or exercise to boost your energy levels.
- Eat food that does not drain your energy
Lack of motivation:
- Break the task down into smaller, manageable steps.
- Find ways to make the task more exciting or meaningful.
- Track, measure, and evaluate your progress
Fear of failure:
- Change your mindset to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Set more realistic goals for yourself, and don’t forget to focus on small wins
- Focus on the process rather than the outcome.
- Set realistic standards for yourself and recognize that perfection is a delusion.
- Reframe “mistakes” to something more empowering.
- Focus on feeling good rather than being perfect.
- Break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Prioritize based on importance and urgency.
- Ask for help or support.
Lack of focus:
- Identify and eliminate time-wasting activities every day
- Be mindful of activities that harm your long-term goals and that you tend to spend a lot of time on, like scrolling through social media or watching TV.
- Use time-management techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique, to stay focused for short periods.
- Gather information and consider the pros and cons of each option.
- Set a deadline for making a decision and stick to it.
- Seek advice or input from mentors and coaches.
- Create a clean and organized workspace, car, or wherever you are executing what you are procrastinating.
- Use a planner or calendar to stay organized and track all your tasks.
- Prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, but also on their value and meaning.
- Learn to say no first and Say, ” I will get back to you.”
- Prioritize tasks based on what you need.
- Stop curling and let others step up.
Distorted sense of time:
- Keep track of how long tasks take to complete.
- Set realistic timelines for each task. (it often takes twice as long)
- Allow extra time for unexpected delays or setbacks.
Change your environment:
- Changing your environment can help shift your mindset and increase productivity.
- Try working in a different location and adjusting your workspace’s lighting, temperature, or noise level.
NOTE TO SELF: Showing up, getting started, and learning are the most important things to avoid procrastinating.
The Benefits of Overcoming Procrastination
Overcoming procrastination leads to increased productivity and improved mental health, freeing up mental and emotional space.
A study in the Journal of Social Psychology found that participants who procrastinate experience higher stress levels and did not report as high well-being as those who do not procrastinate.
Procrastinating is not an option if we want to reduce stress and anxiety and improve how we feel about ourselves.
When we take action, we signal to ourselves that we are a person who gets things done to achieve our goals.
That is powerful.
The Role of Mindfulness
An emerging area of research has been exploring the role of mindfulness in overcoming procrastination.
As you might already know, mindfulness is being present and fully engaged in the current moment. It has been shown to reduce stress, improve well-being, and increase our focus and attention.
Increasing awareness of the present moment and cultivating an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment helps us overcome the cognitive and emotional barriers contributing to procrastination.
Being mindful helps us protect our minds and reduce stress and anxiety.
Procrastination is a habit that can be difficult to break. Still, it is not impossible, and the most important thing is that it gets a lot easier with practice.
Identifying the root cause of why we procrastinate, breaking down the task into smaller steps to fit into our calendar, eliminating distractions, and practicing mindfulness can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, improve our mental health, and help us reach our goals.
Take care of your basic needs like sleep, rest, and healthy food.
Learn to say no.
If you want to overcome procrastination and make better choices in the long run, you need to find a way to get your present self to act in the best interests of your future self.