Tips for dealing with Procrastination
Procrastination is the thief of time — Edward Young
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination, or putting things off, is a form of avoidant behaviour that we all use from time to time. It is the practise of carrying out less important tasks in preference of more important ones, or participating in pleasurable tasks over less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time[i]. We sometimes procrastinate in order to escape or distract ourselves from the jobs that we need to do. Some common distractions include surfing the Internet, listening to music, watching movies, going out and seeing friends, eating or smoking. Sometimes we seek pleasure in our distractions, which is not a bad thing — but excessive avoidance is the issue that is responsible for turning worries and anxieties into life-limiting problems.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
There are many reasons why we procrastinate. We may procrastinate to avoid a stressful situation, such as a student procrastinating over their assignments and handing them in late as a result. It may be used to delay starting working on your goals, such as exercising. Procrastination can also be related to expecting too much of yourself and tending to be a perfectionist, as well as stem from fear of failure or criticism, a fear of uncertainty, self-doubt and a desire to be approved of by important people in your life or a desire to be in control of things. Sometimes it is related to self-doubt [iii].
We often procrastinate to reduce the fear of the task in the short term. Having anxiety about something can lead to avoidance and the next time we face the same situation, the anxiety can be worse and it is very tempting to avoid again. People who expect a lot of themselves in relation to perfectionism, wanting approval or fear of failure are often quite productive, but having these expectations can cause stress or anxiety and possibly defeat.
Have you heard the saying ‘If you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is to get straight back on’? This saying suggests that if you avoid an activity you are afraid of, the fear grows bigger, and you might be robbing yourself of the chance to show yourself you can do it.
Some tips for avoiding procrastination:
- Identify avoidant behaviours – what do you fear? What do you use to escape your fears?
- Have short and long term goals – write them down and break them down into smaller steps.
- Be kind to yourself – use kind words, and don’t expect more of yourself, than you would do others.
- Reduce ‘all or nothing’ thinking, such as; “It won’t be any good unless it is perfect”. This will reduce the pressure you place on yourself.
- Reward yourself – use a timer, and after 30 or 45 minutes, have a rest, take a walk or have a drink ….
- Break tasks down – one of the biggest reasons we tend to procrastinate is because we become overwhelmed by tasks and don’t know where to start. Break the project down into smaller pieces!
- Keep a journal/ write out a chart to keep track of your progress – write down what you do and how much time you spend on it, and record when you finish the task (notice the feeling of satisfaction) [ii].
- Let go of perfectionism – set some limits on what you do, and remember, it’s okay to do an average job some of the time!.
- Learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, such as anxiety. One of the best ways to do this is to be aware of where the feeling sits within the body, notice what it feels like (even visualise it), put some space around it and breathe in and out of it.
- Remember that change is always possible.
“What is Procrastination?”. Andrew Dobson. Last Modified 2013. http://www.mindfithypnosis.com/what-is-procrastination/.
“18 Powerful Tips to Overcoming Procrastination”. Merelisa Fabrega. Last Modified 2016. http://daringtolivefully.com/overcoming-procrastination.
Harris, R. 2007, The Happiness Trap: Stop struggling, start living, Exisle Publishing, Wollombi, NSW.
Howell, C. 2016, Listening, Learning, Caring and Counselling The essential manual for psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors or other health care professionals on caring for their clients (MANUSCRIPT). Exile, Wollombi, NSW.
[i] “What is Procrastination?”. Andrew Dobson. Last Modified 2013. http://www.mindfithypnosis.com/what-is-procrastination/.
[ii] Harris, R. 2007, The Happiness Trap: Stop struggling, start living, Exisle Publishing, Wollombi, NSW, p. 2.[iii] Howell, C. 2016, Listening, Learning, Caring and Counselling The essential manual for psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors or other health care professionals on caring for their clients (MANUSCRIPT). Exile, Wollombi, NSW.