Chronic procrastinators can tend to rationalise their procrastination. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
‘‘I need to feel anxiety to get going and therefore I will wait until I feel anxious before engaging in the task’’
‘‘I need to feel anxiety to be creative and therefore I will wait to feel anxious before engaging in the task’’
‘‘Even though I am not getting down to the task I am collecting the data I need to do the task. The longer I put off getting down to the task, the more data I will collect and the better I will do the task.’’
However, you are probably aware that procrastination carries a great amount of negative consequences. Not reaching your goals, putting extra stress on yourself or just loosing opportunities can be some of them.
When dealing with procrastination you are often dealing with discomfort or frustration intolerance. It is important to acknowledge that starting a task brings discomfort and avoiding it results in momentary relief, happiness even. While avoiding tasks brings you joy in the present moment, in the long run it can leave you with lot of stress and prevent you from achieving your goals. When working on frustration intolerance regarding health behavior Neil Harrington came up with this question: Would you tolerate this discomfort if terrorists threatened to kill your family? Then why not tolerate it for your own health?’ Keeping in perspective that tolerating a task and starting what you planned will get you closer to your goals, and that it is just a momentary hustle, could help you to, at least, start the task.
1. Write it down
What are the main distractions. What steals your attention? Facebook, a phone call, that smudge on your wall, cleaning your table, cooking lunch, returning that very important email, decorating the garden…
Monitor your activities with a detailed schedule. Become aware of your habits.
Write down, what you were thinking, what you were doing, what you felt (guilty, scared?) and what distracted you.
2. Identify your thoughts
What are some thoughts that make you avoid starting a task? Are you a perfectionist and afraid that you will fall short?
Are you afraid of missing out on something and can’t keep your priorities in line? Are you afraid of unstructured tasks?
Do you feel bad because you can’t know for sure that you will make it even if you start right away or you don’t know for sure your idea will work? Are you really bothered with feelings of uncertainty?
Do you just feel that things shouldn’t be as hard?
Identify what is blocking you and remember other times when you were in a similar situation and thing turned out well. Also think about the worst case scenario and image surviving that as well. Try not to catastrophize and practise this to take away some of the fear.
3. Surround yourself with anti-procrastinators
Another great advice is that you are who you surround yourself with. Having a group of study buddies or friends from the same field makes it so much easier to stick to your tasks and keep feeling motivated. Being surrounded by hardworking and ambitious people helps you get and stay in the same mode.
4. ‘Want to’ instead of ‘have to’
While keeping up with your ambitious buddies you might feel that it is given that a lot of your time will be spent studying, seeing your other friends enjoying the sun can make you feel crazy for not avoiding the Saturday study session. Here, it can help you to keep your goals in check and remind yourself that YOU CHOOSE to educate yourself more because YOU WANT TO reach a certain goal (which will better your life in the long run). It also helps to just leave an open option to ditch the study session. Sometimes reminding yourself that you are a free human being with an ability to make a choice can alleviate the pressure of FOMO. Remind yourself what you are choosing to do every day and why. Just replacing ‘I need to, have to, must’ with ‘I want to’ can help you feel more in control of your life. You can also ask yourself: When I am 50, and sitting on my rocking chair, what will I look back on and be happy I did?
5. Be authentic
Some of the severe procrastination problems regarding college education can have something to do with your desires being neglected. Why are you doing that task? Is it something you need to do to reach a goal you want? Or are you doing it to reach a goal someone else wants you to? Did you give in your parents wishes? Or maybe you just followed a path that is more values in your culture.
Did you go on to study dentistry when you really wanted to be a historian. Or did you go to a university when you really wanted to just work on your dancing career. If so, acknowledge that this might be making you unhappy. Then choose, not for your parents, or status, but for yourself, do you wish to continue on this career path – what are the upsides and downsides of it, or do you want to try something else – and what are the upsides and downsides of that?
Keep in mind that life is hard and you don’t need to be 100 percent fulfilled while doing your everyday tasks. That is unrealistic. But it helps to connect your tasks to your future goals and YOUR values. Like if you get that diploma you will be able to dedicate yourself to dancing more but you will also have a plan B to land on.
6. It takes time
Don’t expect to start studying for 6 hours everyday if you didn’t before. Start with little goals and add on to that. Routine is all and building it could take a long time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet all of your goals at first and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Especially you, 20smtn people trying to position yourself on every field in you life. This is a chaotic developmental period and it is totally normal to not have the time to do all your work and go to the gym and go out enough and etc. Also, keep in mind that changing behavior doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel transformed or motivated all the time. There will always be tasks that need to be done right away whether you feel like it or not.
7. Urgent – important matrix
Eisenhower’s Urgent – Important Principle can help you in organising your tasks. It can help you determine which of your activities are important and which are distractions.
It looks something like this:
|Important||DO first||Plan when to do|
|Not important||Delegate||Don’t do|
8. If chaos reigns
Procrastination is not always a bad thing. If you are working on a task where you need to be creative but don’t feel inspired at the moment or if you need to collect more info until you start doing it, it is OK to avoid starting. There is also a thing called smart procrastinating. While working on a project you can feel inspired to start something else. Starting something promising feels better that finishing something you are doing that needs problem resolving. While this will postpone your first project it might as well lead you to a really great future project. As with everything in life, balance is the key. Don’t just keep on starting a lot of new projects before finishing previous ones.
Dryden, W. (2012). Dealing with Procrastination: The REBT Approach and a Demonstration Session. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 30(4).
Dryden, W. (2000a) Overcoming procrastination. London: Sheldon Press.
Knaus, W. J. (1998). Do it now! Break the procrastination habit. New York: Wiley.
Chu, A. H., Choi J. N. (2005). Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of “Active” Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance, The Journal of Social Psychology, 145(3), 245-264
Wohl, M. J. A., Pychyl, T. A., & Bennett, S. H. (2010). I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination,
Personality and Individual Differences, 48(7), 803-808.