What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. It is a process of struggling with habitual hesitation. The word has an origin from the Latin procrastinatus, which itself evolved from the prefix pro-, meaning "forward," and crastinus, meaning "of tomorrow. Procrastination is the art of being pro-tomorrow (or later)! The only problem with that is a weakness of intention, and poverty of imagination are deadly attributes. When we procrastinate, we tend to limit our potential, stifle our creativity and roadblock our progress.
Why does Procrastination happen?
In most cases, Procrastination usually transpires when people fear or dread or have anxiety about an important task that is pending. It is a coping strategy that many people develop to get rid of the negative feelings that they are experiencing. In those moments, individuals will procrastinate by going on their phone, checking email, or even completing goals from their to-do lists (even though they are not the urgent task you should complete). It provides temporary relief until the reality of a deadline sets in again, and people tend to experience a whole range of emotions ranging from anxiety, fear, shame and guilt.
Another reason for Procrastination is perfectionism. There is a psychological battle raging within about being good enough for these individuals. Often, they may be battling with the Imposter Syndrome (the nagging doubts about that somehow, we haven't earned the right to be in the place or position that we are in). These individuals tend to be highly concerned about what other people will think and may delay, postpone or adjourn tasks to avoid judgement. This can develop into a habit of last-minute work practices that become internalised as performing better under stress.
What are the consequences of Procrastination?
Here are some of the expected effects of Procrastination that can harm the individual's life:
- Loss of Precious Time: Time is the one currency that we can never get back. Time invested in Procrastination is time that we can never get back. All processes either lead to your destiny or your destruction. Unfortunately, Procrastination is a one-way street to disappointment, delay and regret. It can leave individuals feeling frustrated in themselves and with life.
- Missed Opportunities: Procrastination has a way of leaving a path of wasted opportunities behind due to our habit of delaying or postponing something. This could be anything from networking, a promotion opportunity, commitment in a relationship or a new contract for your business. Once the moment is past, we end up feeling a great sense of disappointment within ourselves. What makes matters worse is that on some occasions, those opportunities only come around once.
- Habitual Stagnation: One of the powerful effects of Procrastination is stagnation. The inactivity of the progression of moving forwards means that your goals and dreams are rarely achieved. When we are met with disappointment, we tend to make excuses or justifications for our inaction. The truth is excuses sound best to the person that is making them up. Ultimately, we are left feeling unfulfilled, perplexed and demotivated.
- Lack of Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is an individual's subjective evaluation of their own worth. Low self-esteem is when we have an inadequate assessment or calculation of our value. Procrastination has an effective way of eroding our self-esteem and created a vicious cycle of delay – disappointment – lower self-esteem. We become stuck in this pothole; we get in our own way, hold ourselves back and trip ourselves up by overthinking and limiting beliefs.
- Bad Decision-Making: There is a rule of thumb that has passed the test in many people's lives – that what we practice we become good at. Unfortunately, this includes Procrastination. The more we put off making decisions, the more damage we are to doing to our decision-making skills. Decisions can often be made on fear or desire to stay in our comfort zone rather than being based on our values, goals, or the right thing to do. When Procrastination's foundation emotionally drives us, the result is often a poor decision being made.
Key questions to ask yourself
Sometimes we are not aware of our Procrastination cause, while at other times, we know precisely why we are putting a particular task off. To help you gain some clarity the next time you happen to find yourself procrastinating, be honest with yourself and try asking yourself some of the following seven thought-provoking questions to unlock insight:
- Why am I afraid to proceed?
- What is the worst outcome that could happen?
- What could transpire if I disregard this responsibility?
- What is my belief about myself in this situation?
- What do I hope to gain long-term by putting this off?
- Is my inner critic trying to persuade me about something that is not true?
- Am I trying to protect myself from a specific process or outcome?
Tips for Conquering Procrastination
Here are six tips that you can use to help you win your battle with Procrastination:
- Begin with the Why: When procrastinating, we tend to focus on the short-term gains and complete the tasks that are easy to do but not important while avoiding those tasks that may be more difficult and need to be completed. This is why it is crucial, to begin with, the why. Why does this task need to be completed? What are the benefits to me or others? What are the consequences of avoiding this task? Remember, Indecision is the thief of all opportunities, so make a list of procrastinating costs.
- Time Management: One of the most common forms of stress that we experience is the feeling of being overwhelmed with far too much to do and having too little time to do it. In fact, "time poverty" is one of the biggest single problem facing most people today. This is why Time Management is critical! The two indispensable keys to time management are: 1) the ability to set priorities; and 2) the ability to concentrate single-mindedly on one thing at a time. Always ask yourself… "what is the most valuable use of my time right now? "
- Let go of Perfectionism: Perfectionism, in psychology, is a person's concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection. It is often accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations. Perfectionism manifests itself as an all-or-nothing mentality that often causes us to experience intruding thoughts. Perfectionists tend to hold off until things are perfect, so things never end up getting finished or take way too long. Perfectionism, in many ways, is routed in fear – fear of being judged, fear of not being good enough, fear of the unknown etc. So instead of seeking to be perfect, focus on being good enough and getting the task done.
- Improve Your Self-regulation: This involves controlling one's behaviour, emotions, and thoughts to pursue long-term goals. More specifically, emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. Procrastination is often termed as a 'failure to self regulate'. Therefore, it is essential to become aware of how and why you respond to things and implement strategies to address them. This often starts in the mind as the saying goes… 'Change your thoughts, change your life'.
- Set shorter deadlines: The last-minute.com decision-making process can develop into a habit of last-minute work practices that become internalised to perform better under stress. A simple way to combat this is simply breaking down the task into small chucks and giving yourself shorter deadlines to complete it. Remember that the further away a deadline is, the more likely a procrastinator tends to procrastinate.
- Remove the distractions: Every procrastinator will have a set of resources that they use to distract themselves from the task they know they should be completing. This could be answering unimportant emails, going on Facebook or Twitter, checking their messages on their phone, making a cup of coffee etc.
This is why it is vital to disconnect and limit the chances of being distracted by the vices that generally keep you bound. If social media or pop-ups commonly hinder you on your phone or computer, help is at hand. There are apps that you can use to help you focus and avoid distraction. These include:
Freedom for blocking distractions on all your devices at once.
LeechBlock for free browser-based website blocking.
RescueTime for time tracking with built-in website blocking.
Forest for motivating you to put your phone down.