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Learn more about procrastination, why people procrastinate and practical ways to stop procrastinating in the near future.
The term procrastination comes from the Latin word procrastinationem, meaning “deferred or putting off.” Procrastination is the active process of voluntarily but irrationally focusing on unimportant tasks instead of the task at hand, delaying crucial tasks until the last minute. Laziness, in contrast, means an unwillingness to do something, inactivity or apathy.
Individuals procrastinate when they ignore a more important task that might be difficult or unpleasant for an easier and more enjoyable task.
However, if you frequently procrastinate, you may feel guilty and miss out on fulfilling important tasks and goals.
Sometimes is not just a bad habit; it can have negative consequences like job loss and depression and make one feel disillusioned and unmotivated.
Research shows chronic procrastination affects approximately 15-20% of adults worldwide. Various factors, such as personality, time management, emotional regulation, biological factors and decision-making styles, can lead to procrastination.
Difficulties with time management are organization, including task prioritization, disorganization, distractibility, and forgetfulness contribute to procrastinating.
Personality traits such as impulsiveness, self-control, lack of conscientiousness, and self-efficacy are also linked to procrastination, task delay and aversiveness.
Procrastination can result in overwhelming negative feelings, including greater stress, guilt, anxiety and frustration. In addition, unhappiness, low self-esteem and self-confidence are all effects of procrastination.
Procrastination can also result in unproductivity, impacting performance and making it harder to achieve goals which creates even more stress. The stress can cause other health issues such as insomnia, digestive issues and headaches.
There are several different types of procrastinators, and they can be divided into the following categories:
There are different ways you can overcome and prevent procrastination. It first starts with becoming fully aware that you indeed have a tendency to procrastinate and analyzing what can be the reasons why you do so.
The first step to avoiding procrastination is recognizing that you are putting off a task or switching focus unnecessarily or without a valid or genuine excuse.
Signs you are procrastinating include filling your day with low-priority tasks, putting off and delaying important tasks on your list, leaving high-priority tasks in the middle and getting distracted by unimportant tasks, or telling yourself that you are waiting for the right mood to finish the task.
Once you recognize your procrastination problem, you will be in the right mindset to determine the next step and be more productive.
Before learning how to stop procrastinating, you must understand the reasons for your procrastination.
For example, are you avoiding a certain task because you are afraid of doing it, find it difficult, unpleasant, or boring, or are the other tasks important to complete?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you must find ways to get it done more quickly, so you can focus on tasks you enjoy.
Sometimes we procrastinate when we have large tasks that seem too difficult to complete.
Focusing on one part at a time by breaking down the task or work into smaller parts helps simplify the tasks and fuels your motivation to complete the task by making it seem more doable.
Making a list or writing down how you will break down the task into smaller parts will help you have clear steps to follow and easily track your progress as you move through your list. Starting with easier tasks will help you focus your attention, build confidence and gain momentum.
Tackling the hardest tasks when you can concentrate and work effectively will also help you complete tasks on time. Determining an intentional focus for yourself, whether starting with a small task or finishing larger tasks first, can help you stop procrastinating.
Decisions that we make come with an energy consequence. When you wake up in the morning, you spend a lot of time and energy thinking about what you need to do today, which can increase the chances of procrastinating.
Approaching each day without giving it a thought beforehand or making decisions ahead of time, you will waste your energy and time thinking about what you need to do and what not to do.
When we ask ourselves so many questions, we are compelled to make decisions draining our self-control and making us feel tired, which increases procrastination.
Therefore, reduce the number of decisions in your life by making decisions ahead of time and creating reasonable goals and habits for certain areas to boost productivity and effectiveness.
A few simple examples of such tasks include picking your clothes for the morning the day night before or deciding what time you want to hit the gym today.
Different environments impact your productivity differently; for example, your workspace might make you sleepy or tired. Therefore, being in an environment that motivates you to work is important.
Distractions in your work environment can hinder progress, whether that is time spent on your cell phone, constant movement, noise or checking social media.
Distractions can increase your stress levels and procrastination, and a better environment can help reduce every possible distraction.
Therefore eliminating distractions from your environment and workspace is critical to change your work habits, stopping procrastinating and increasing productivity.
Organizing might be another reason for your procrastination.
The tendency shows that people who are organized, create effective plans and schedules, and utilize a to-do list are more successful at overcoming procrastination as they organize tasks based on deadlines and priority.
Think about reducing the number of decisions in your own life to stay focused on meaningful tasks and goals, and making decisions ahead of time also help reduce stress levels and boost productivity and effectiveness.
Creating a detailed timeline with specific deadlines for all the tasks you need to complete helps avoid procrastination.
Having set deadlines means that you need to finish a certain task by that specific date, which urges you to act, work on it promptly and not put it off and gives you ample time to finish it.
Allocating specific tasks to scheduled time blocks will help you manage your tasks and time more efficiently.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to reflect on the day, what was done well, what can be improved, and what you need to make progress on; quickly map out what you will do the next day and schedule time to complete it to avoid frantically figuring these things out the following day.
Offering rewards to yourself can motivate you to work harder and complete tasks timely, whether it is giving yourself a sweet treat or watching your favorite movie after a day of productive work.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to make decisions and plan your days well in advance.
Creating a schedule for the upcoming days will allow you to be more efficient and productive without wasting time thinking about what you will do the next day. For example, each night before bed, you can write down your plans for the next day in your notebook.
The plans could include something that you need to work on:
Besides that, whatever else needs to be completed the next day must be mapped out; this will enhance self-efficacy, give you ample time to complete the task and not procrastinate.
It is always important to take breaks when you are trying to overcome procrastination or completing a difficult task.
When you are not motivated or tired, taking a break will help you get back on track and be more productive. If required, reschedule the task or continue with it later.
Research shows that taking five-minute breaks can recharge you, clear your mind and make you feel less tired.
Tools such as the Pomodoro time tracker can help you take breaks at specific intervals and help you manage breaks more effectively.
Your company knows you and your surrounding people can influence your behavior. Therefore spend more time and surround yourself with people that inspire you to take action, work hard and teach your spirit and drive.
Sharing your goals with your friends, family members, colleagues, or anyone you know will make it easier for you not to forget important tasks/projects, as they will continue asking you about your progress whenever you communicate with them.
Sharing your goals with others will motivate you and keep you accountable. One of your friends or acquaintances also acts as your motivation buddy.
A motivation buddy who has their own goals can help you avoid procrastinating.
With a companion and support, the whole process will be easier, and you will be able to support each other, be transparent and hold each other accountable for your plans and goals while learning from one another.
It can be easy to penalize yourself for procrastinating, telling yourself you are lazy and unproductive for doing so.
However, attacking yourself will increase procrastination by making you feel more anxious, stressed and frustrated, lowering productivity and increasing a negative self-image.
Being understanding and mindful of the situation will help you develop self-compassion and forgiveness.
Practicing self-compassion and being forgiving can reduce the negative effects of procrastinating.
Focusing on the present moment and accepting your thoughts non-judgemental and non-reactive will allow you to overcome and prevent future procrastination.
Procrastination can start as just a bad habit; however, over time, it can seriously affect an individual’s life. Therefore addressing procrastination and finding ways that help you beat procrastination while providing long-term rewards and benefits is critical.
Learning to stop procrastinating requires time and patience; therefore, using the strategies described in this blog and figuring out what works best for you can help you care about your future self and avoid procrastination.
The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.