The Reasons and Effects of Procrastination and How to Take Charge
Fight Procrastination Day has, again, come and gone. If you’re like me, you didn’t even notice that this day was on September 6th this year, because all the days seem to be blending together. But, for those who did recognize this day, were you able to take charge of your procrastination?
Procrastination is to be slow or late about doing something that should be done or to delay doing something until a later time because you don’t want to do it. But it’s more than that, it’s how you feel when that big deadline is approaching, how anxious you get, how hard it is to push past that idea in your head that you have time when you don’t.
Whether you suffer physically (like me) or you suffer inside by doubting yourself and your abilities, anyone out there who finds themselves procrastinating – you are not alone.
It’s time to really explore what procrastination is, what it stems from, how it affects us, and potential solutions to take charge and show it who’s boss.
When I was still in school, I used to be a chronic procrastinator and after rushing through a task to meet a deadline, I told myself that I would stop procrastinating and give myself more time. With my will power at its high point, I’d manage to do exactly that — for one or two assignments. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or what, but willing myself to not procrastinate worked. However, for the next assignment and the next and the next, I fell into that same procrastinating pit.
If you’re in that same pit and cannot get out, the first step, as with all bad habits, is to recognize the signs.
What are the signs?
The signs or symptoms of procrastination can be either pretty obvious or non-existent. In some cases, you might even dismiss the obvious signs due to your own perception of the situation at hand. I’ve gotten better at recognizing the signs. I also learned that someone who procrastinates and somehow breaks the habit can fall right back into it. It’s just like any other bad habit.
Whether it is a task you like or a task you detest, you can find yourself lying to justify putting it off. I know a lot of people truly believe that you can only procrastinate when the task is difficult or boring, but that’s just not the case. Even something you love to do can become a daunting task that you don’t want to set aside precious time for. Before any task, I would always find myself saying things like “I’m just not in the mood, I’ll do it tomorrow”. Sometimes, I still tell myself that and have to stop and remind myself that lies like this one will put me right back into that procrastinating pit. There are other signs to look out for too, signs that may seem minor but are really quite damaging:
- Filling the day with low priority tasks
- Spending a significant amount of time on the internet
- Saying yes to unimportant tasks when a deadline for an important task is approaching
- Tasks that require very little effort don’t get done
- Rushing to complete tasks
- Leaving a task on your to-do list for a long time
- Waiting for the right mood or time to start or finish a project
- Wasting time doing other things when a deadline is approaching
How can procrastination affect you?
Procrastination can manifest with physical symptoms as well as mental ones. Stress usually contributes to procrastination, in my case, this can cause bouts of stomach upset, migraines, and anxiety attacks. Unfortunately, this is not the extent of it, with issues such as compromised immune system, insomnia, chronic illness, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Not only is this bad in general, but it is also especially bad during a pandemic in which compromised immune systems can leave you susceptible to a worse strain of the virus. In addition, procrastination can affect how you work and can cause resentment and frustration from those on your team.
If you find yourself feeling bad, that’s procrastination. According to the New York Times article, Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control), procrastination is a “way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks – boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.”
Procrastination has a lot to do with your negative feelings towards a certain task. In my case, when it came to finishing essays on time, a part of me felt overwhelmed and anxious. I doubted myself and my ability to write a good essay and so I would put it off and put it off and put it off until I only had two days or less to do it. In that time I put way too much pressure on myself and would, therefore, put off the task until it was too late. The essay then would not be good and would validate my negative feelings and the cycle would continue.
Another reason for the vicious cycle is the momentary relief we feel when we do procrastinate. If we’re rewarded for something, we tend to do it again. The relief is temporary but we still feel that as a reward. “This is precisely why procrastination tends not to be a one-off behavior, but a cycle, one that easily becomes a chronic habit.”
What can you do to help yourself take charge of procrastination?
The takeaway from the information in the New York Times article is that we need to stop beating ourselves up whenever we procrastinate. If anything, that only makes the behavior worse. Instead, we need to take a beat and focus on why we might be procrastinating over a certain task or tasks.
As a procrastinator, I have found certain ways to help my situation that I want to share with you.
Reduce the amount of stress in your life
What I have learned about this particular habit is that even though it can cause chronic stress, it can also be brought on by stress. I found that I didn’t start procrastinating until I was under a lot of stress and anxiety in my life (this does not necessarily have to come from work, either).
Everyone is stressed right now, thanks to the raging pandemic right outside our door, and this stress can be very damaging to our health, our well-being, and our ability to be productive. If you are feeling overwhelmed with everything, you need to take some time out for you. Rest, relax, read a good book, or just binge-watch a television series. It is also important to take required breaks and vacation.
Try not to focus your life around the news. Stay informed, but not to the point where the news is all you consume all day long.
Do your research
This type of habit requires time to figure it out, what it is, what it can cause, and how we can overcome it. Learning more about the subject is helping me to work my way through it in a way that makes sense to me.
Trick your brain
In an earlier post, I discussed how procrastination felt directly related to the time I thought I had that ended up being wrong. If you relate procrastination to time, you too know that sometimes we procrastinate because we think we have more time than we actually do.
Because I had such a hard time with chronic procrastination and deadlines, I decided to trick my brain into thinking I had less time. So, I would move each deadline back a week or a couple of days, depending on how much time I had.
I’ll be honest, it worked a lot of the time, it was just a matter of keeping that changed deadline in my head. This sometimes requires writing it down somewhere – in your planner, on your calendar (either online or on paper).
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself
The more pressure we put on ourselves and the task at hand, the more we tend to put it off because that pressure can become overwhelming and stressful.
Take the pressure off. You don’t need that stress. Just relax, take a deep breath, and start the task. Believe me, once you start, getting to the finish line feels a lot less daunting.
Focus on you, you, you
Focus on you! Take time to confront what you’re feeling about a certain task, really work through it and dig deep to find out what exactly is causing you to keep putting that task off. It’s better to be in the know than in the dark, especially about your own feelings.
Forgive yourself when you do procrastinate. “Researchers found that students who were able to forgive themselves for procrastinating when studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less when studying for their next exam.”
Everyone is different and, therefore, we all overcome problems like this differently.
Procrastination has its own day, so that must mean that all of us procrastinators are not alone. That is the one big thing to keep in mind. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you have taken charge of your procrastination, I implore you to let us procrastinators know how you did it, what your secret is, and how you feel now.
If you, like me, have fallen off the wagon, please let us know all about your experience as well.
The article below really helped me, so take a few minutes for you and check it out.