Written by therapist Treshana Lewis
“Procrastination is the habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill
Everyone struggles with delaying or postponing a task from time to time. Then there are some of us who feel entangled in procrastination’s web of unproductivity, distractions, unfulfilled responsibilities, and shame. At times, there is a feeling of hopelessness because it seems as if the more time passes by, the less we are able to get done.
In this blog post, we will take a look at why procrastination happens, and explore strategies for sustaining a healthy work-life balance without many interactions with procrastination.
Understanding the Roots of Procrastination
There are various causes of procrastination, from low self-confidence, to perfectionism, anxiety, depression, a lack of structure, unwillingness to work or use energy (laziness), ADHD, impulsivity, discomfort, avoidance, or an inability to motivate oneself to name a few. Researchers have closely linked procrastination to the process of recycling the same sad, dark, or negative thoughts.
If you’re struggling with procrastination, it’s vital to recognize and understand the root of it, trigger points, and any avoidance behaviors you may have. This will help you address your struggle with procrastination from the appropriate angle.
Identifying Procrastination Patterns and Behaviors
It’s important to note that delaying the completion of a task in order to re-prioritize an overwhelming workload (not induced by procrastination), is not considered procrastination. There are other life interruptions that may interfere with one’s ability to complete a task, for example, the death of a loved one, pregnancy, or maybe you’re a part of a group project and your classmate is late with completing their portion of the assignment. Again, this is not considered procrastination. However, when we begin postponing tasks indefinitely, or switching focus with the intention of avoiding doing something, that’s where procrastination is setting in.
Signs that you may also be procrastinating are the following:
- Your days are jam packed with low-priority tasks.
- An item is left on your To-Do list for an undetermined amount of time, even though it is important.
- Not responding to emails, texts, or phone calls., also known as “left on read.”
- Beginning a high-priority task, and then going off to clean your room or taking a walk.
- Engaging in unimportant tasks/activities that other people ask you to do, instead of completing the important tasks already on your list.
- Waiting to be in, “the mood,” “feel inspired,” or, waiting for,“perfect timing,” to begin working on a task.
Consequences of Procrastination
- Losing time which can lead to feelings of regret.
- Missing opportunities which prohibit you from advancing professionally or personally.
- Unmet goals which can lead to unfulfilled purpose or potential.
- Minimal or mediocre work performance which can eventually lead to loss of job or career.
- Exacerbates low self-esteem which leads to self-sabotage and feelings of being unworthy of success.
- Damaging your reputation due to others experiencing you as unreliable, not trustworthy or feeling burdened by having to, “clean up behind you.”
- Puts your health at risk. Procrastination is known to increase levels of stress and anxiety which have ramifications to one’s mental and overall physical health.
Reframing Thoughts and Internal Dialogue
If we see the act of work as a resource through which we can experience life, and not as a burden, we will view it as more than an interruption to life. What would happen if we looked at each task as an opportunity instead of an obligation? We tend to do things with more fervor when we have a choice. Using the phrases, “I get to,” or, “I choose to,” empowers us to take ownership of our work.
We all love rewards! Identifying the benefits of completing a task. (i.e. paycheck, being able to help someone else, feeling accomplished, peace of mind, etc) can provide an extra measure of motivation. Rarely are there negatives connected to the outcome of completing a task.
Just Do It
Tackle the task as soon as it arises. When we see life through the lens of procrastination, we tend to inaccurately estimate the amount of time or effort a task may require. Have you ever walked away from a task thinking, “it’s easier than I thought it would be,” or, “it only took me a few minutes”? That’s exactly why we should give way to Nike’s slogan and, “Just Do It.”
Committing to doing every task for a minimum of 10-15 minutes before you give way to your feelings can be very helpful! You may find that in those 10-15 minutes, the feelings of, “Why do I have to do this?” or, “I don’t want to do this,” will subside. During this time, I encourage you to eliminate as many distractions as you can, such as silencing your notifications or going to a quiet space. Believe it or not, if we are not intentional about eliminating distractions, we will seek them out.
Confront Your Feeling
Mr. Rogers once said, “Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expressions always takes strength, not weakness.” It takes strength to acknowledge our procrastination, and sometimes more strength to curb the urges procrastination may bring and to establish new behaviors and thought patterns.
No matter the cause of your procrastination, we can all take steps to tackle procrastination head on. It takes strength to talk about our struggles and to reach out for help when we need it. Our team of therapists are here to support you. Please feel free to give us a call to schedule an appointment.