Procrastination has been a problem since as far back as human beings have inhabited the earth. It’s nothing new.
The ancient Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle have developed a word to describe this type of behavior. They call it Akrasia.
Akrasia is basically acting against your better judgment. You choose to do one task even though you know you should do something else. You could say Akrasia is a lack of self-control.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the action of voluntarily putting off something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so.
The word procrastination is derived from the Latin word procrastinatus, which itself came from the prefix pro-, meaning “forward,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow.”
Procrastination is commonly perceived in a negative way because it can be an obstacle to your productivity. In this case you should be actively employing strategies to stop or prevent procrastination.
Even though procrastination is usually associated with inadequacy, depression and low self-esteem, it is sometimes considered a good response to tasks that are risky or has the potential to give a negative outcome.
The Prevalence Of Procrastination
According to a study done in 2004, 70% of university students saw themselves as being procrastinators while another study done in 1984 revealed that 50% of the students would procrastinate consistently and considered it a major problem in their lives.
In another study done with university students, procrastination occurred on a greater level with tasks that they perceived as unpleasant.
A phenomenon called time inconsistency has been uncovered through behavioural psychology research.
Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to prefer immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.
It sheds some light on why we choose to procrastinate instead of getting important tasks done, despite the negative consequences associated with it.
The problem that this phenomenon uncovers is that you are making goals and decisions for a time in your future but you have to take the necessary actions now in the present to achieve those goals.
The situation that arises as a result is that your brain prefers immediate rewards and will put off those actions for which it won’t see immediate results.
The Pleasure Principle
According to Freudian psychoanalysis, “the pleasure principle is the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain to satisfy biological and psychological needs.”
The pleasure principle may be one of the causes of your procrastination. You may prefer to delay tasks you find no pleasure in to avoid the stress you may experience because of it.
However, putting off those tasks may cause you more stress in the long run. As the time approaches to complete the task, you may start to experience more stress and you may decide to delay the task even further to avoid the negative feelings associated with it. Here are some ways to do the tasks you don’t enjoy.
Psychologists categorize this behaviour as a mechanism for coping with stress and anxiety associated with the unpleasant task.
However, Piers Steel indicated in 2010, that even though anxiety causes people to delay tasks, it could also induce them to start working on the task early to get it out of the way.
The most common coping response of procrastination tends to be avoidance instead of problem-solving. This response is used to reduce stress.
While avoidance is a negative response, it does offer instant pleasure and as a result it is very attractive to most procrastinators.
Other coping responses used by procrastinators include:
- Denial and trivialization: This is when the procrastinator pretends as if they are not really procrastinating. They just choose to give another task more importance over the one they really don’t want to do.
- Distraction: Finding other tasks or actions to immerse yourself in, in order to prevent your awareness of the unpleasant task that needs to get done.
- Valorisation: Patting yourself on the back for what you accomplished in the time that you should have been doing something else.
- Blaming: Attributing the blame for your procrastination to factors outside of your control, instead of accepting responsibility for your own actions.
Procrastination is normal at a certain level. In fact, you can use procrastination to prioritize your tasks as you will be unlikely to delay the tasks you truly value.
However, chronic and excessive procrastination will become a problem and has the potential to impede your normal functioning.
If this happens, procrastination can result in health problems.
It can also cause you to experience stress, anxiety and guilt over not living up to your full potential as well as having a tarnished reputation because you didn’t carry through with your responsibilities or commitments to others.
According to dictionary.com, perfectionism is a personal standard, attitude or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.
Perfectionism is usually seen as a good trait. However, perfectionism is not the same as just wanting to be the best version of yourself. Learn how to stop being a perfectionist when you don’t need to be.
Writer and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Brene’ Brown, explains that perfectionism is used by people as a protection against the pain of blame, shame or judgement.
Perfectionism is a set up for procrastination because perfectionists usually pursue perfection in goals that are unattainable and this oftentimes results in failure.
If your expectations are unrealistic and do result in failure, you run the risk of experiencing low self-esteem, self-hate and general unhappiness.
One of the ways to prevent procrastination is to understand that it is ok to fail at some things sometimes.
In some instances, success is achieved only after learning and becoming better through your failures.
How To Manage Procrastination
Below are some strategies that you can employ to manage your procrastination:
- Be honest with yourself when you evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and when you set your short and long-term goals.
- Make sure you are setting SMART goals and creating a cohesive link between the goals themselves and the tasks you need to do to achieve those goals.
- Plan and organize your daily activities in alignment with your goals.
- Make your environment conducive to what you need to accomplish. Minimize or eliminate if you can, any noise or distraction that might be an obstacle for you.
- Set priorities and be disciplined in executing tasks based on those priorities.
- When doing tasks you perceive to be unpleasant, schedule them in small blocks of time to prevent overwhelm and abandoning the tasks altogether.
- Whether you are a ‘morning’ or a ‘night’ person, be aware of your “power hours” and use them for maximum productivity.
- Reward yourself for tasks you have accomplished and be sure to track your progress and make adjustments if needed, along the way.
I hope you found value in this blog post. If you’re ready to stop procrastinating and start taking action, then be sure to put these strategies at work.