Procrastination: Stop Postponing!


You have probably already encountered the term procrastination. It is psychological practice (normal to a certain extent) of postponing responsibilities, sluggishness in performing tasks or postponing decisions that are unpleasant. Other equivalents of the term procrastination are e.g. sluggishness, impassivity, slackness or delaying.

Procrastination is not laziness. We could say that every one of us procrastinates to a certain extent. The problem occurs when this sort of behaviour becomes chronic and prevents us from normal daily life. Tasks that pile up increase the feeling of anxiety and inability to fulfil the set task.

Procrastination and Stress

Procrastination, hesitation and postponing tasks to a later time usually occur for the lack of vigour or drive for the given activity. The reason can also be worries that the task is too demanding, that the workload is too intense, that we don't understand the task sufficiently...

However, chronic procrastination may be a serious problem. People suffering from it often worry and are afraid to seek help because of the social stigma and a widespread opinion that procrastination is caused by laziness, weak will or low ambition. However, procrastination is not interchangeable with laziness and it is not rest either. A procrastinating individual is losing energy and their feeling of guilt keeps increasing. With the increasing number of unfulfilled tasks, the individual is increasingly stressed and the pile of tasks to do seems impossible to overcome.

Another reason for procrastination may involve inability to resist current experiences that are offered to the individual and they are more attractive at the given moment than the assigned work or study tasks.

Procrastination as Addictive Behaviour

Inability to stop a pleasant activity or persevere in work in order to fulfil tasks and responsibilities may also be considered a specific form of procrastination. At these modern times, typical symptoms of procrastination are playing online games on the computer, browsing the Internet and lingering on social networks for a long time. There has also been a recent phenomenon of procrastination not only for playing computer games, but also for watching online porn among boys, especially among students of high schools and universities. This causes addiction on repeated excitement accessible so easily. If a chronic procrastinator is driven from work always to the same activity, we can call it addictive behaviour. During its development, the ability of strong will and self-regulation is weakened, same as in other addictions.

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The Vicious Circle of Procrastination and Its Causes

Inability to fulfil one task leads to stress and subsequent problem pile-up. At the time when many people in the population work from home, this problem is getting hotter and hotter because people tend to be more prone to procrastinate. There is no universal cure. Causes of procrastination vary in every individual. It is usually triggered by a wrongly assigned task or very complicated task that makes us worry we won't be able to fulfil it properly. Other triggers are lack of time, energy or information about the given issue, or fear of failure, of the unknown, underestimating oneself, fear of negative evaluation. There are two types of procrastinators: the cool guy and the nervous guy. The cool guy keeps postponing the task because he/she is not fond of doing it, does not find it entertaining and so he/she prefers something else. The nervous guy keeps postponing because he/she is afraid of the consequent evaluation. It is paradoxical that most postponers do finish the task at the last minute and they are even able to get a very good result. The paradox is that if they worked on the task in full force, they could be really successful.

Who Deals With Procrastination?

prokrastinující studenti

Procrastination considered a serious problem, its description and search for solution occur only in the second half of the twentieth century. It is safe to say that we consider it an ailment of the modern time and it concerns mainly technically advanced societies. One of the main requirements of these societies on their functioning is maintaining a schedule in order to increase efficiency.

Procrastination usually develops in the period of young adulthood. It is a frequent problem and a common topic of conversation among university students. Quite a few university students have experienced the feeling when instead of writing a seminar paper they retreat to various alternative activities only to avoid the work concerning their studies. At such moments, even cleaning the apartment seems like a more entertaining and more attractive activity. Studies show that during their studies, at least 50% of students encounter procrastination, but more probably even 80%. Procrastination affects both sexes in the same way. Both men and women procrastinate approximately the same. 

Decision Paralysis

The decision paralysis is the moment when we face a decision and the options to choose from are hardly comparable at the first sight. That complicates the decision-making. The more options we have, the more demanding the decision-making gets. The more complex and demanding is the decision-making, the more energy it takes from us. We can simply imagine this decision paralysis as inability to decide between the first and second option which leads to us choosing the third option which is not that important and essential at the moment. At such times, it happens that instead of some of the important activities we know need to be done we begin to watch TV series, instead of working on a report we go out to see some friends or we find ourselves watering our long-neglected plants instead of working on our tax return papers.

The decision paralysis is not unpleasant and vicious only in the decision-making aspect. Another problem is that when choosing from multiple options, chances increase that we will regret our decision later. Sometimes, we tend to retrospect on what would have happened if we had made a different decision. In cases when decision-making involves selecting education, employment or a partner, this is an unpleasant condition, far from ideal. 

We regret our decision more often when it is possible to change it. When we cannot change our decision, we tend to be more satisfied with our decision. For example the more it is easier to change a partner, the less we will be happy with the one we have chosen. This may be one of the reasons of increasing unhappiness in marriages and increase in partner crises and divorce rate.

How to Fight Procrastination - Useful Tips and Tricks

Motivate Yourself More

Try and get a grip on why do you want to work on the given task. Try to find really good reasons and write them down. If you fail to find at least a single reason, we have some bad news. Motivation to work may not come to you in that case.

Put up notes with tasks to do at some visible spot. Check your tasks regularly in the morning and determine what do you need to cover on that given day. In the evening, assess the success.

Determine some reward, but do not enjoy it until you fulfil the set task.

Do not make up any excuses and apologies for not doing the task. Do not make excuses to yourself and take responsibility for your behaviour.

Improve Your Organizational Skills

Determine the most important task of the day that simply must be fulfilled. Sometimes it helps forcing yourself to do the unpleasant tasks at the beginning of the day to get them off your back; then you can move on to the less demanding and more pleasant activities.

Learn to estimate the time necessary to fulfil a task realistically.

Set real goals and fulfil your tasks in time.

When coping with a demanding task, set out the nearest possible step you won't consider that demanding. Fulfilling a task in a series of steps seems to be a more bearable option than to letting it hit you in its entire weight and not being able to move on.

Remove Your Absent-Mindedness

If you find yourself in a situation when you stop concentrating on the assigned task, try to resolve to continue your work. The first step to control your concentration is to name the cause that is distracting you.

Remove all distracting things from your surroundings.

Straighten up and organize your work environment. Adapt it so outside stimuli don't distract you from your work.

Be determined to fulfil the task. You will work better without online entertainment, radio and TV. Enjoy them only on your breaks or after work - you will even be able to enjoy them more.

Fight Procrastination - 5 Basic Tips

  1. Internet, radio and TV divert your attention. Are you writing a seminar paper? Cut yourself off from the Internet and keep only the resources you are using for work. Otherwise it may happen that you spend much time by browsing the Internet. A TV turned on is a killer to focus on your work task. You should leave it turned off during any work. Working with music on is beneficial for some people, however radio host talks may distract you and turn your attention to various news and competitions.
  2. Create a realistic schedule and try to stick to it. Devote yourself fully to the work at hand, but don't force yourself into doing it. You don't have to do everything at once. Work in parts and subsequent steps.
  3. Do not get confused and create a daily to-do plan. Colourful sticky notes or an erasable board with markers are great helpers. Separate work and entertainment.
  4. Rest regularly. When you are tired, you are also irritated and you will not get much done. Take breaks during the day and maintain some sleeping regime. You will be more alert, satisfied and efficient.
  5. Be determined. Determination is the most important thing when fighting procrastination. You will do nothing without being determined.

If you have tried all the aforementioned advice, tips and procedures and you still see that your fight with procrastination is not successful, turn to experts for help. Procrastination is not impossible to solve, but doing so involves energy and determination to get out of the vicious cycle of bad habits.

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