Understanding Procrastination & What To Do About It

Originally posted on Celi-chan In Wonderland Blog, November 15th, 2017

I admit it. I am a serious procrastinator. Hell it took me years before I started this blog from the time I first thought about doing it. I feel that I really need to make more of an effort to stop my procrastinating. And from the statistics I’ve seen there are quite a few people, yourself included I’m sure, who struggle or feel a significant amount of distress over this issue. So in order to shed some light on this phenomenon, lets start by establishing what procrastination is, why people do it, what happens when people do it, and how to avoid doing it.

 

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is defined as the putting off of doing something unpleasant or burdensome until a future time;  or to postpone habitually.

People often procrastinate by doing a less urgent task, or more pleasurable one, over a more urgent and less pleasurable one. This can lead to postponing til the “last minute”, or just before the deadline for that urgent task.

 

 

Causes of Procrastination

Now there are a few possibilities as to why people procrastinate. Some psychological causes include:

  • What’s known as the pleasure principle. Which is that people prefer to do tasks that they considered to be pleasant or fun. So when someone thinks a task will be unpleasant or boring they of course delay doing it.
  • Procrastination can also be a coping mechanism, or an effort to adapt to one’s environment, in order to control one’s own behavior or provide psychological comfort. For example, someone with anxiety associated with starting or finishing a certain task could make use of procrastination.
  • Another possible cause is perfectionism, which is the obsessive striving for perfection through achieving unrealistic goals or meeting high standards, and is often followed by overly critical misconceived judgments of the self.
  • Also, some people believe to work better under the pressure of approaching deadlines, which could lead to the postponement of a task.

 

 

Other causes include more physical aspects like:

  • Genetics: Research suggests that procrastination is and can be hereditary
  • Another possible cause of procrastination may be found in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which is responsible for attention distribution, planning, and impulse control, while filtering distractions from other regions of the brain. Low activation or damage to this area of the brain can reduce a person’s ability to filter distractions, thus leading to poor organization, attention loss, and procrastination.

 

Results of Procrastination

Anyone whose struggled with habitual postponing may have experienced some emotional results of procrastination such as feelings of stress, anxiety, and guilt. Procrastination may also cause health problems related to these emotions such as nausea or stomach pain. Another result of frequent procrastination would be social criticism or disapproval for being unable to finish tasks or keep commitments. These results of course can culminate into a procrastination loop, or doom cycle as I like to call it.

 

You’re Not Alone

Because this phenomenon is so widespread it’s actually considered normal for people to procrastinate to some degree. It only becomes a concern when it disrupts normal functioning, like working a job, or causes large amounts of personal distress, as these could be signs of underlying psychological issues. Of course many people who experience chronic procrastination tend to avoid seeking help for it, either because of the stigma associated with seeking professional help, or because of their personal beliefs about procrastination, such as it’s caused by laziness, a “weak” mind, or low ambition.

 

 

 Ways to Prevent & Stop Procrastination

I’m sure by now you’re wondering, “How do I stop procrastinating?” Well I’m about to list a few suggestions:

  • Firstly, Limit distractions. Put your phone on silent or turn it off completely. Maybe even let people know you’ll be unavailable for a certain amount of time and request that they contact you later. If you spend lots of time on certain websites like Facebook, twitter, pininterest or what have you, there are certain services and programs that you can use to manage your time better.
  • And if your current environment is distracting, then make a change of scenery. Find a space that’s more conducive to what you need to do and get organized, focus on the task at hand. Or if you find your environment overbearing, add something to make it more relaxed. Play soft and slow instrumental music (don’t play something like electronica or rock music quietly), light a scented candle or use  an oil diffuser, add a plant or fresh flowers, and adding more natural light could help too.

 

 

  • Reviewing your tasks is important. Know what you need to do then break it down into smaller steps. Take breaks often as you go and be sure to reward those small victories (try not to over do the rewarding part though).
  • And what’s even better, is reviewing your tasks or goals with a friend. Accountability can be a good motivator to get things done.
  • Change the way you think about the task(s) you postpone. For example, you might find chores like cleaning somewhat boring or a waste of time. If you consider those tasks as something essential that needs to be done in order for you to feel more comfortable or to be more productive within your environment, you’ll be more likely to do it. 
  • Being determined to buckle down and get things done is great, but don’t over do it by putting even more pressure on yourself, or by making a boring and unpleasant task even less enjoyable.
  • Also a good thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is subjective, so stop trying to write the perfect paper, or devise the perfect plan, or waiting for the perfect moment of opportunity.

 

Understanding and implementing these suggestions I’ve listed will help lead you on the right path towards ending habitual procrastination. But in the end, YOU need to take the first step towards whatever you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s washing the dishes, going to the DMV, or working towards your personal and professional goals.

 

Having Trouble Getting Motivated?

There is an interesting thing called temporal motivation theory that I talk a bit about in another article HERE, which is especially helpful in understanding the reasoning behind procrastination. There’s also some other great suggestions in THIS article that can help when dealing with procrastination as well. So be sure to check that out! For more articles on the subject checkout the article, Procrastination: Good, Bad, Or Universal?

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did then please share it! Or let me know what you think in the comments below! Don’t put it off now!

 

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