Can’t stop procrastinating? Find out how to deal with this problem
May 27, 2021
It seems that all imaginable possibilities are at our fingertips, but for some reason, we cannot reach them. It is because we tend to procrastinate, which means we put things off until later. By doing so, we waste time that could be invested in something meaningful. We lose the chance to achieve more and fulfil our potential. If you feel you are wasting your time and can’t stop procrastinating, you need several proven methods. So how to stop procrastination?
What is procrastination?
Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare – to postpone until tomorrow. However, this is more than a voluntary delay. Procrastination also comes from the ancient Greek word akrasia – doing something against your better judgment.
When someone procrastinates, instead of working on important, meaningful tasks, they find themselves doing trivial things. Procrastination is one of the main barriers to making the right decisions and fulfilling our everyday duties.
Research shows that people are more likely to regret things they have not done rather than appreciate what they have achieved. And the sense of regret and guilt caused by missed opportunities stays with a person much longer.
While wasting our time hesitating and procrastinating, life goes on – Seneca
Procrastination in research
Dr Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University in Canada says, “People engage in an irrational cycle of chronic procrastination due to their inability to deal with negative moods around a task.” So procrastination is, in effect, an emotional problem. If you can’t stop procrastinating, take a look at some research on this topic:
“What I’ve found is that while everybody may procrastinate, not everyone is a procrastinator”, said Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University and a pioneer of modern procrastination research.
Nevertheless, his work has shown that up to 20% of people can procrastinate chronically. In their case, “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals or responsibilities, which can put them on a spiral of negative emotions.
Procrastination as a regulator of negative moods
“Procrastination is an emotional regulation problem, not a time management problem”, said Timothy Pychyl, a member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University.
In 2013 study, he and Dr Sirois showed that we can understand procrastination as “the primacy of short-term mood repair over the long-term pursuit of intended action.” Simply put, procrastination is focusing on the “urgent need to deal with negative moods” rather than getting the job done.
Forgiving yourself procrastinating
The vital thing is to forgive yourself when you procrastinate. In a 2010 study, researchers found that students who were able to forgive themselves for procrastinating while studying for their first exam ended up procrastinating less in preparation for their next exam.
They concluded that forgiving oneself promotes productivity by allowing “the individual to move past their maladaptive behavior and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts.”
Forgiving yourself procrastinating allow you to move past this destructive behavior and focus on the upcoming challenges
Effects of procrastination in professional and private life
Procrastination is a failure to deal with negative moods triggered by specific tasks. While procrastination can ease the pressure in a short time, it comes with high emotional and physical costs. It can also threaten personal and professional relationships.
Students who routinely procrastinate tend to get lower grades; employees who procrastinate do lower-quality work. And chronic procrastination may result in lower productivity and destructive effects on mental and physical health. They may include permanent stress, general mental distress and low life satisfaction. It also comes as insomnia, immune and digestive disorders, depression or chronic cardiovascular disease.
In the next parts of this article we will tell you how to prevent these negative effects by straightening up your values and cultivating positive habits. ⬇️
Why we can’t stop procrastinating?
Procrastination is driven by various thoughts and habits, but essentially we avoid tasks or put them off because we think about them as dull or difficult. We don’t want to make ourselves unhappy or we fear that we won’t carry them out well. People also procrastinate when they are confused by the complexity of a task or overly distracted or tired. What are the other most common reasons?
8 main reasons for procrastination:
Everyone puts things off sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid complex tasks and instead devote their time to more pleasant things. Procrastinators are aware of their actions and consequences, but changing their habits requires even more effort than completing the task ahead. Find out why you can’t stop procrastinating. ⬇️
1. Decision paralysis
The number of opportunities that the world today offers is staggering. With too many choices, it is easy to get confused about what is a priority, what is essential and what’s not, and what is right and wrong. Therefore we lose our motivation to act and in effect we procrastinate.
2. Lack of self-discipline
3. Goals set too high
It happens that we set ourselves too big goals to achieve on a given day, which overwhelms us and opens the way to procrastination. There is no vision of achieving the goal, so we spend our time trying to start and we end up wasting time.
The solution may be to break down a big goal into smaller ones – they will eventually sum up into achieving the primary, main goal. Learn more about the right setting your goals: Short term vs long term goals.
4. Excessive perfectionism
Perfectionists tend to stick to an action longer than necessary. In the case of many activities, deadlines for work provide an impulse for efficient performance. Sometimes the perfectionist has to consider that 80% of the solution is good enough.
5. Paralysing fear
Procrastination also allows us to stay in a safe zone. When we procrastinate, we do not meet something. We do not take any risks, and thus avoid making mistakes; we are not exposed to potential failure. There are many ways and techniques to overcome fear. Try them.
6. Lack of self-control
You get down to work, and you immediately find the need to go to the bathroom, eat something, watch an exciting program or maybe take a nap. You may even come to the conclusion that it’s time to finish work. Using this approach, you often consolidate your bad habits before the day at work becomes full of meaningful activities.
7. External circumstances
They are often a great scapegoat for the procrastinator. For example, while you’re working, a friend is calling. Instead of letting him/her record a voicemail, you answer the call and talk for 45 minutes. Either it’s a beautiful day to go out and enjoy the weather, or your dog needs to go for a walk. You say to yourself, “I have to clear my head anyway.” But 30 minutes later, you are no closer to start.
8. Ignoring time value
The time we spend on earth is limited and finite. In light of these facts, time is the most precious resource we have. Unlike time, money can be borrowed, saved and earned; however, every second you waste is lost forever. Realising that life has an end should persuade you to manage your time more carefully.
Thomas Edison said he did not fail 10,000 times with the development of a light bulb; instead, he learned 10,000 ways how not to make a light bulb
6 ways to stop procrastinating and get things done:
Overcoming procrastination is possible but requires effort and a lot of mental energy. A practical approach, which has worked well for many people, is to engage in a highly structured regimen of cognitive-behavioural therapy.
In short, when you can’t stop procrastinating, simple cognitive tricks can do the trick:
1. Personal vision
Personal vision is one of the tools that help you understand your skills and priorities. It visualizes how you commit to living your life. A clear one integrates your abilities, interests, personality, values, family of origin. E.g. “My personal vision is to have a life of meaning for myself and others”.
By creating and remembering it, you will never feel lost in your priorities and goals again. It also enables you to focus your efforts on the appropriate activities and set goals to avoid constantly switching between tasks.
2. To-Do Today
When to-do lists become too long, your tasks tend to overlap, which can lead to procrastination. To-Do Today’s strategy encourages you to complete the most critical and urgent work each day, prioritise the schedule, and limit new tasks. Thanks to it, you will do much more with less stress and fatigue.
3. Meeting with yourself
This tool will help you get through the “Meeting With Myself” at a time allotted to you. It serves to ask yourself how far you have come recently, what direction you would like to go in life, and what else you can improve. Focus on long-term planning and an overall flashback of your personal development.
4. Consider your next step
At the beginning of a given task, consider what the next step will be. Focusing only on the “next action” helps calm your nerves.
What’s more – don’t wait until you are in the mood to complete a specific task. “Motivation follows action. Start, and you will find out that your motivation will follow”, as Dr Pychyl says.
5. Make temptations uncomfortable
According to Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits, we can understand procrastination and “use it to our advantage”. How? By putting obstacles between ourselves and our temptations.
For example, Rubin advises removing tempting applications from the phone or “give yourself a really complicated password with not just five digits, but 12.” By doing so, you make the reward of temptation perhaps not immediate, but you add friction to the procrastination cycle.
6. Record the time
It’s vital to comprehend what you are investing your time in. Therefore, record the start and end times of activities, e.g. start productive work at 8 am, and when you stop it, write down the time. At the end of the day, add time spent on planned productive activities to time spent thinking.
It’s about maximising the time you spend working. You should balance your work time with sleep, exercise, good food, and rest outside of work. Analysis in the TimesheetKiller reports how much time we spend on specific tasks and what we do at work when we aren’t completing work associated tasks.
Lack of willpower is often seen as the leading cause of procrastination, but it is mainly the intrinsic motivation that helps us overcome the habit of putting things off
If you can’t stop procrastinating and want to fix it, don’t ask, “What can I do to change it?” – ask, “Why is this happening?” If you start with WHY, you will find the answer that solves the underlying problem.
So now – go back to “8 main reasons of procrastination” we described above and define the reason WHY you can’t stop procrastinating. ⬆️ That will be the first step to the improvement. Good luck!