Becoming Better is a series that focuses on improving upon habits that are an essential part of who you are.
Clock's ticking, deadlines near but you are still scrolling through Instagram. Have you watched a match instead of completing an assignment or avoided finishing your household chores to chill with a friend? On numerous occasions we tend to put important things off our to-do lists to indulge in more enjoyable, easier tasks.
Procrastination refers to the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It often entails a certain degree of self-deception. Procrastinators comprehend the ramifications of their behaviour but altering their actions is more effortful than the task at hand.
Procrastination is different from laziness
Lazy people engage in no activity and feel okay about it. On the contrary, procrastinators have the drive to engage in an activity but can't initiate efforts to begin.
Take this self-test quiz - Are You a Procrastinator?, to identify how much you procrastinate?
Procrastination interferes with our productivity and clouds our thinking while making decisions. (Source: Lifehack)
Why do we procrastinate?
Procrastination interferes with our productivity and clouds our thinking while making decisions. In fact, a petite procrastination can also leave you feeling guilty and unpleasant. While, prolonged procrastination demotivates you to work, sometimes even causing you to lose your job.
With too many tasks on the plate, it often creates confusion to set a priority. It is difficult to decide whether the task is important or not, what is right or wrong, leaving us demotivated to indulge in any actions.
Behavioural psychologists explain that human brains have a tendency to evaluate immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. For instance if you have set a goal to lose weight, you are anticipating a mental picture of how you want to look in future. In doing so, your brain values the actions you need to undertake (such as exercising, or dieting) to gain the long-term benefits. You can only set goals for the future, it is your present self who needs to take action and work towards that ideal future. At the time of making a decision, you do not think of the future self but enjoy the instant gratifications of your actions (like eating a cookie or watching a movie instead of exercising).
Procrastination is an unhealthy way of coping with negative moods induced by certain actions- frustration, boredom, anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, etc. Aversion to any activity is contingent to the nature of the task or the situation. For instance, the activity may be inherently unpleasant like cleaning your untidy drawer or reading a lengthy document. Procrastination may also stem from deeper issues like low self-esteem, anxiety, self-doubt or insecurity. Delaying or avoiding the activity may seem as a good idea at that moment to avoid the experience of negative emotions, however, it may only compound the negative emotions attached to the task.
Having the right motivation
|Intrinsic Motivation||Goals-based motivation||Extrinsic Motivation|
|Having a personal meaning, purpose to an action is the strongest form of motivation. This type of motivation focuses mainly on the process and not the outcome to sustain motivation for longer.||People are usually excited to work for their goals, however, after achieving those goals, the motivation starts dying and individuals start procrastinating again.||When individuals engage in activities that are outside their interests or out of compulsion the brain releases less dopamine resulting in boredom and delaying of activity|
What type of procrastinator are you?
Passive Procrastinator - Procrastinates because they face difficulty making decision and initiating on them
Active Procrastinator/ Crisis-maker - Deliberately delays tasks as they feel more challenged and motivated working under pressure
Perfectionist - Delays task as they fear not being able to accomplish the task with precision.
Over-doer - This type of procrastinator undertakes too many activities at once and then struggles finding the time to start and finish the activity
Defier - Delays activity because they believe others should not guide their timetable
Worrier - Avoids to delays because they uncomfortable with any change and fear leaving the 'known'
Dreamer - Procrastinates because they are unable to pay attention to details
Does that mean taking a break is procrastination?
Absolutely not, relaxation is not procrastination. Relaxation revives your energy while procrastination depletes your strength. If you are low on energy, you often feel stressed or depressed increasing the likelihood of delaying your responsibility. Tea-time breaks, walk breaks or long vacations help you deal with work stress and clear out your mind's block.
With too many tasks on the plate, it often creates confusion to set a priority. (Source: Inc Magazine)
How to overcome procrastination?
Forgive yourself for procrastinating
Forgiving yourself to procrastinate in the past makes you feel better and positive about yourself, thus reducing the likelihood of avoiding the tasks in the future. If you ruminate or blame yourself for procrastinating you are more likely to associate negative emotions with the activity and so everytime you decide to finish the activity it is going to reproduce those feelings of guilt, blame and frustration and you may avoid/delay activity due to a negative mood. Therefore, self-forgiveness is the first step towards breaking this chain of procrastination.
Behavioural economist Katy Milkman defines temptation bundling as combing a behaviour that is beneficial for your long-term goal with a behaviour that feels good in the short-term.
- Listening to music while exercising.
- Watching your favourite show while ironing your clothes.
- Eating at your favourite restaurant only when you have a meeting with a difficult client.
The 2-Minute Rule
More often than not the problem lies around initiating the behaviour, once you commence the task it is less painful to continue doing the task. Identify the activity that you are procrastinating and list down the first task of that activity and make that your goal. For instance, If you are procrastinating to workout, the first task of this activity will be to wear your workout clothes & shoes. Once you dress up to workout it removes the friction of starting and you are more likely to finish your exercise routine. The 2-minute rule helps you to maintain a routine for a longer period meaning you are more likely to accomplish the entire task.
Use Visual Cues
A visual cue/reminder triggers you to initiate the action and track your progress. It acts as a stimulus to sustain our motivation for a longer period of time. A calendar cue helps to track your consistency and progress. This can have an addictive effect on motivation that is witnessing progress prompts you to continue with the activity to achieve more progress. For instance, if your goal is to finish writing a 10000 word essay, knowing how many words you have finished every time you write will motivate you to write more and finish faster.
Rephrase your self-talk
Using the statement 'I need to' or 'I have to' implies compulsion. If you change your self-talk to 'I choose to' it empowers you with autonomy and choice and gives you the freedom to control your actions.