We’ve all been there before – dreading a task and trying to push it away, but it keeps popping back up. Procrastination is common, and you’ve probably faced a task you have stalled a few times before, whether it was an assignment at school, a small yet time-consuming task at work, or even just folding your washing. Today, we will unpack procrastination, what it is, why we do it, and reasons you may start to procrastinate out of the blue.
What is procrastination and why do we do it?
Let’s start at the start – what is procrastination? Procrastination involves having trouble persuading yourself to do things you should or would like to do.
Commonly, people procrastinate tasks that appear either tricky, unpleasant, or simply dull. Tasks that hold a high or low urgency can be procrastinated if you don’t want to do them. Your internal voice may be the reason for this. Brushing off tasks and finding something else to do instead of simply ignoring tasks are ways you might procrastinate. However, procrastination should not always be perceived as laziness. Often, the reason behind procrastination has a deeper meaning.
Reasons people might procrastinate:
Not feeling capable of performing a task is a valid reason to feel like you want to push a task away. This might occur when you start a new job, a new role or simply do a new task for the first time. Feeling inadequate refers to feeling as though you are lacking the quality or quantity required or insufficient for a purpose. These feelings may become overwhelming, resulting in delaying tactics.
When approaching a task, a fear of failure is a common feeling. No matter the size of the task, it can be daunting. Some questions that might fill your mind when procrastinating in fear include “I am worried I’ll do badly” or “I haven’t prepared enough for this”. Both can be exacerbated by the stress of deadlines, work pressures or even self-inflicted pressures. Fear may position you to push a task away, which is very common.
Stretched too thin
Do you ever feel like you simply don’t have the time to complete a task? Other priorities taking over? This is common, especially if you have a busy schedule. When this feeling occurs, the little tasks tend to get pushed aside whether you have the desire to get them done or not. This type of procrastination should not make you feel guilty, rather open-minded to readjusting priorities and allocating time to the tasks that never seem to disappear.
Perfectionism is another reason to procrastinate your workload, as more time than necessary is spent on tasks. People who are perfectionists typically believe that nothing they do is worthwhile unless it is perfect. Therefore, they often return to tasks repeatedly until they’re satisfied or the deadline is up. This can typically happen when tasks are open-ended, meaning the tasks is never ‘complete’ per se. For example, cleaning your room will never be done as you can always make it cleaner. Therefore, you can end up cleaning for longer than necessary.
Don’t know where to start
Not knowing where to start can be a huge time waster. Tasks that appear large, time-consuming, or daunting can be hard to face – especially if the deadline is approaching quickly. Breaking down your tasks can allow for the task to appear more doable and achievable.
Is procrastination bad?
So, is procrastination bad? There are pros and cons to procrastination that you might not realise. Procrastination can be good, as it provides an opportunity to reflect on what’s most important and where your priorities should lie.
Another element of procrastination that can be viewed as a positive is the motivation for small, mundane tasks that suddenly appear when you’re procrastinating. Procrasti-cleaning is one of them. Instead of doing your work, cleaning might seem a favourable option. But hey, at least your house will be clean! However, don’t forget the important tasks you still need to get done.
Lastly, some people do their best work under pressure. Creative ideas may flow as the deadline grows closer. As the time for dwelling and mind-wandering is cut out, you may end up being more productive.
Although there are “pros” to procrastination, it’s not ideal. Procrastination can lead to poor performance, increased stress levels and even self-defeating. So, let’s look at some tips to beat procrastination.
Tips for procrastination:
1. Readjusting your mindset
Forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past, and view your upcoming tasks as a fresh start.
2. Make a detailed plan
If you have multiple tasks on your list, break them down and rank their priority. Using colours can help you organise your tasks and easily view their priority. For example, red tasks are a high priority, yellow tasks are a medium priority, and green tasks have a low urgency. When breaking down your tasks, adding a time frame or a predicted time length can also help, as you’ll know roughly how long it should take before starting a task.
3. Minimise distractions
If your phone is a common distraction, simply put it out of reach and far enough away you won’t be tempted. If you are also distracted by music, background TV or radio, then off they go! Don’t forget; it’s only for a short time.
4. Reward yourself
Setting time increments can help your workload seem more achievable. A popular method is 25 mins of work rewarded with a 5-minute break. However, for others, this may be 2 hours of work with a 30-minute break – find out what works for you. This may change every day for you. Rewarding yourself should stem beyond scrolling on your phone. Instead, opt for some fresh air, a bite to eat or a hot cup of tea.
5. Talk it out.
Talking through your priorities can be very beneficial and can calm the mind. Whether this is with a colleague, a family member or even a pet, talking it through can do wonders.
Procrastination is very normal, and everyone experiences it in some way throughout their life, so don’t beat yourself up about it. If you are actively trying to beat procrastination and aren’t having any luck, seek support from someone you trust. Got a great procrastination tip for us? Send us a message!