Procrastination is one of the most common problems we face today as a society. Most of the time we know that it is a problem, we know that we need to fix it, and we know that putting the effort in will be beneficial. What we don’t know is why it is a problem or how to stop it. Procrastination is any act of avoidance that prevents us from starting or completing a task, sometimes until right before a deadline or even after a deadline. There can be a multitude of reasons that we procrastinate and they can run in complexity from simply not wanting to do a task, to more psychologically complex like a fear of not being good enough or doing well enough.
Reasons We Procrastinate:
- It is not an enjoyable task: it is human nature to not want to things that we do not enjoy. This leads us to put it off and avoid until we no longer can. It also creates a lack of motivation that leads to procrastination as well.
- We have other things we want to do: along the same lines, we are going to put things we want to do first and procrastinate on the others. Easier tasks will also be easier to do first.
- It is less of a priority: sometimes even boring or necessary tasks are distracting and lead to procrastination. It’s easy to justify procrastinating on something we don’t want to do when the other tasks seem just as important or even vital. It’s much easier to use cleaning, laundry, or kids as an excuse to not get something else done because it is all things that absolutely need to be done.
- Being too tired: not getting enough sleep or dealing with fatigue or exhaustion leads to a lack of motivation and therefore procrastination. It is hard to start difficult tasks on a good day, being tired compounds that substantially.
- Not having enough time: when a day is too busy and we already feel like we can’t get everything done, of course the things we do not want to do are going to get put off for last.
- Family obligations: this is especially the case when we have kids. Kids become the priority and it is often difficult to see beyond them to what we need to do. It is also easy to use them as an excuse or reason to not have to do these things, because we cannot neglect our children.
- Not knowing how to do the task: not feeling that you are competent or have the necessary knowledge to complete a task is often a cause of procrastination. If you don’t know how to do a task, you often won’t know what to do first or how to start.
- Mental health reasons: anxiety or depression create overwhelming emotions and reduce distress tolerance, meaning a task that is overwhelming then becomes too overwhelming to face, leading to procrastination.
- Need to be perfect: looking for the perfect time to start or feeling that a task has to be done perfectly makes a task seem impossible. There is no such thing as perfection and there will never be a perfect time for you do do something, this only leads to setting up impossible standards and creating procrastination.
- Feeling overwhelmed/having too much on your plate: when you feel you have too much to do, you become overwhelmed. This often leads to disorganization or even difficulties focusing. Because of that it is difficult to start a task or especially difficult to complete it.
- Fear of failure: being afraid to fail or do something incorrect builds a task up to be more insurmountable than it is and makes it difficult to tackle.
- Personality predisposition: some people are just more predisposed to procrastination due to personality traits. There are so many personality traits that impact procrastination and unfortunately they are difficult to overcome, but not impossible.
Ways to Reduce Procrastination:
- Plan ahead: don’t just expect yourself to sit down and start. Plan ahead and prepare yourself for what you have to do. Break it all down, write it out, and schedule it out. This will reduce the uncertainty and anxiety that may come along with having a large task to tackle.
- Make a to-do list: list everything out. If there are a number of things that you are procrastinating, only put those tasks on it. Putting tasks that you don’t procrastinate but also need to get done will lead to you completing those tasks on your list and still avoiding the rest.
- Break it down into steps: rather than focus on the one major task that needs to be done, break it down into smaller tasks. It is much easier to tackle five small tasks than to complete one large overwhelming task that we may not know what needs to be done or how long it is going to take. This also allows you to see progress and success.
- Prioritize: figure out what needs to be done first. This can go along with making a to-do list but the difference here is to make sure you don’t simply put all the easy things first and hard things last. This also means that sometimes things that seem to be important may need to be sacrificed. Cleaning the kitchen or doing the laundry may have to wait to get something else done.
- Eliminate known distractions: everyone has certain things that tempt more than others. If it is television, work in a room that does not have one. If it is your phone, put it in the other room. If you cannot regulate this on your own, ask someone to help you by temporarily taking away the distractions. If people are your distraction, move to a place where you can be away from them. If you have kids, having your spouse watch them and going to the library may help. If your work place is too busy, find an empty room if possible or find other ways to block people out such as headphones.
- Reward small accomplishments: breaking a task down into smaller tasks that allow measurable accomplishments and success will create positive feelings and allow you to build forward momentum and see success. Success builds success and the more progress and success you feel and see yourself making the more motivated you will be to continue.
- Remember the end result/reward: remind yourself of the reward at the end. If you have to, make physical reminders such as post it notes or reminders on your phone. When overwhelmed or avoiding, it is often hard to see the benefit of a task, reminders will help increase motivation and decrease procrastination.
- Tell other people or make it public: having other people know provides external motivation. It is much more difficult to not complete a goal if others are aware of a goal and can see you not achieve it. It also provides opportunity for outside support and reminders, making it easier to ask for help if needed.
- Ask for help: as mentioned above, support from others can significantly reduce procrastination. If it is a task you cannot or are struggling to complete on your own, ask for help. This can mean either asking for reminders or even assistance in completing tasks.