Posted 09 March 2016

Too much time getting nothing done? Here are some tips on how to avoid procrastination.

Procrastination – it’s something that we’re all guilty of. Whether conscious not, procrastinating has become a habit for many people, regardless of age.

Procrastination is defined to be putting off an action or event despite a definite negative outcome. This is not inclusive of intentional delays, which are usually due to a lack of time. It may be something as simple as doing your homework a little later than intended, but for many of us procrastination becomes part of our everyday routine. We put off work by doing things like eating, exercising, and going on social media, or maybe just taking a little break. Although some of these activities may be good for your health, using them as a substitute for a more important job places a lot of unwanted stress on your body.

A common misconception with procrastination is that it is simply poor time management. We waste time on unnecessary tasks and in doing so miss out on doing the important stuff. However, there are many other factors that cause procrastination. Here are some of the common reasons:

Anxiety – Procrastination can be used as a means of escaping from a task that causes you stress. It may be a coping mechanism to give you a brief moment of calm. Unfortunately, this is a short term solution to what could very well be a long term problem, and avoiding the issue will result in even more anxiety in the future.

Lack of motivation – Some people feel like they have to be in “the zone” to work productively. Similarly, you might think that you can only work well when under pressure, so you purposely put projects off.

Perfectionism – It’s easy to get into the mindset that things have to be perfect from the get-go, so it becomes hard to start.

Being overwhelmed – When we have too much to do in a short amount of time, it feels easier to try and forget about the workload than complete it.

Altogether, procrastination is more or less just a bad habit that is hard to get rid of. Unfortunately, this means that the easiest way to get out of this habit is to consciously, consistently stop yourself procrastinating until it becomes an instinct. The amount of time it takes for this differs with every individual, but on average it takes around 66 days to get into or out of a habit (link: http://jamesclear.com/new-habit) — Not 21 days, as believed previously.

Here are some ideas for getting out of procrastinating:

  • Write your goal down and not just once. Write it on some sticky notes and put them everywhere! It’s especially good to place them where you go to procrastinate, for example, on the computer, the couch, or the fridge. This keeps your mind conscious of your goal.
  • Tell everyone that you’re stopping yourself from procrastinating. And I mean everyone. Telling other people makes your goal seem like less of a dream and more of a reality.
  • Reward yourself when you reach a milestone! Not with something that will cause you to slip back into old habits, and something that you genuinely enjoy. If you enjoy reading, buy yourself a book once, say, you go a month without procrastinating. Or with clothes, if you enjoy shopping. As long as it doesn’t create another problem, it’s safe!

Forcing yourself to be consciously aware of something constantly sounds like a daunting task, but remember that you don’t need to do everything at once. Take things one step at a time! If you have a lot of work to complete, concentrate on one task at a time— or make a list, if that helps. Write with enough time to do a few drafts, if you’re a perfectionist.
 All in all, good luck getting out of your pesky procrastination habits, and remember that your mental health is of the utmost importance!

Extra links:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/to-stop-procrastinating-start-by-understanding-whats-really-going-on-1441043167
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_96.htm
http://tetw.org/Procastination

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