All of us, more than once, postponed tasks we did not want to do and did something unimportant instead. Nevertheless, procrastinating or delaying actions is beginning to be an object of study from psychology, demonstrating that it is a complex concept with multiple causes and manifestations. If you want to learn more about this and learn how to stop procrastinating, read this article.
What is procrastination in psychology?
What is procrastination? To fully understand the term, we will proceed to reveal its meaning, as well as the reasons why it happens and the consequences of procrastination. We will also distinguish between its types.
Please note that procrastination and laziness are different things. Read this article to learn more.
Meaning of procrastination
The etymological origin of the word procrastination is found in Latin; pro means forward and crastinus refers to the future. Procrastination, therefore, is the act of putting off or postponing activities and situations in favor of other activities that are more pleasurable, even if they are useless. This action means avoiding responsibility or action by performing other tasks that serve as a refuge and excuse.
Two different levels can be distinguished in procrastination: occasional and chronic.
- Occasional: refers to those who do not procrastinate all the time, but just sometimes.
- Chronic: the second level describes those who do it constantly and in many different situations.
Why do you procrastinate?
Among the causes or explanatory factors of procrastination, the following have been identified:
- Problems with self-regulation and time management: inability to postpone immediate gratification and low tolerance for frustration, as well as difficulties in organizing time may cause the tendency to procrastinate.
- Fear of failure and perfectionism: faced with an action that offers no guarantee of success and there is a possibility of failure, people may unconsciously try to avoid that moment as a way of protecting their self-esteem.
- Low self-esteem and self-image: irrational beliefs that cause people to see themselves as not very capable and, therefore, tend to avoid certain activities or actions.
- Anxiety: large amount of work can increase the sense of vulnerability and the development of catastrophic thoughts, which may cause people to experience difficulties in making decisions, uncertainty and immobilization.
- Perception of the action: if the action to be performed is perceived as overwhelming, difficult, boring or stressful, the likelihood of procrastinating increases.
- Procrastinating behavior: it is an avoidance behavior that is used as a mechanism to avoid a task that causes anxiety or fear, so another action is performed that provides temporary relief as an escape from stress.
- Timeliness: time is one of the factors that influence procrastination, so the further the goal is, the greater the tendency to procrastinate, in many cases due to loss of motivation.
- Impulsiveness: impulsiveness and impatience lead to a lack of self-control, which may explain procrastination.
Types of procrastination
Based on the different causes of this procrastination, different types of procrastination behavior are distinguished:
- Procrastination by avoidance: procrastination is avoidance behavior due to fear of failure or feelings of vulnerability to a task.
- Procrastination by activation: refers to the delay until the end or limit, until there is no choice but to perform the task.
- Procrastination by indecision: the person spends too much time thinking about performing the task or considers too many options, mentally ruminating in a neurotic manner.
Consequences of procrastination
In extreme cases, this avoidance can lead to the development of dependence on these other activities or external elements that perform the function of avoidance, such as television or cell phones, which sometimes lead to addiction. This trend is present in all demographies, and not only among young people, as was usually assumed due to the existence of the so-called student syndrome, which refers to the phenomenon when students postpone completing their tasks until closer to the deadline. However, this attitude is not limited to the field of study, but is also present in many other spheres of life.
How to stop procrastinating
If you are wondering how to stop procrastinating, you should know that procrastination is considered a problem of will, that is, related to the will. It is also related to a lack of self-regulation and self-control, as well as to issues in planning and time management. Therefore, the approach to combating the procrastination tendency is normally aimed at working and training these competencies, increasing the person’s organizational skills, responsibility and self-motivation.
How to stop procrastinating: 15 steps
Procrastinating behavior has a range of negative consequences, such as guilt, stress, poor performance, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, etc. For this reason, it is important to incorporate a set of habits that will prevent or reduce the tendency to procrastinate on a daily basis. Here are some keys and strategies to prevent procrastination:
- Start performing the task: The first step to learning to stop procrastinating is to force yourself to start performing the task. To facilitate this initial effort, you can add pleasant elements that will help you overcome that resistance and motivate you, such as listening to your favorite music or another self rewarding activity. The hardest part is the first step; once it is taken, it is much easier to keep going.
- Eliminate distractions: to make it easier to focus on an activity, conduct a stimulus check, keeping those that are tempting or make it difficult to perform the task out of sight or close by. Also try to minimize the possible interruptions you can foresee.
- Analyze your work environment: how do you stop procrastinating? Continue to evaluate your current work environment and the elements that make it up, and try to determine if they (disorder, light, etc.) are hindering our activity. It’s also good to change workplaces from time to time.
- Goal Setting: setting goals using the SMART technique can help prevent procrastination. The acronym in English suggests that when setting goals, they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely to promote their achievement.
- Simplify: one of the elements that can generate this attitude of procrastination is the perception of the task to be performed as overwhelming, difficult, and/or arduous, making it bigger than it really is. To overcome this perception and increase willpower, it is advisable to divide the objectives in order to make them smaller, including the steps to be taken in each sub-objective. In this way, it is possible to see with greater clarity and detail what actions and procedures are needed to achieve the goal.
- Planning: to avoid procrastination, make use of calendars, lists, timelines and agendas that are visually useful for planning the tasks to be performed based on the goals and organization of time. How do you stop procrastinating? Regularly check and evaluate adherence to your plan.
- Schedule breaks: take a break on regular basis, for example, every 45 minutes, while performing a task. In this way, your vision of the work to be performed will not be so negative, since you know in advance that you can take breaks and when they will take place.
- Manage energy: to avoid procrastination, when planning, don’t just do it based on temporal criteria, analyze yourself and identify at what hours or at what time you have more energy or your productivity is higher and take that into account when planning your day.
- Set limits: set a time limit for completing a task and get your small reward for completing it on time.
- Use apps: there are several mobile apps that can be helpful in your goal to stop procrastinating, some of them are Todoist, Quality Time, Corkulous, Stay Focus, Time Tune, etc.
- Look for company: how to stop procrastinating? Seek companions, because doing those tasks we are trying to avoid with another person can be an incentive to do them, and it can also promote taking responsibility for supervising another person.
- Make it public: if you announce to those close to you what tasks you need to accomplish, you are more likely to feel responsible for accomplishing them in front of other people and feel a little more pressure not to fall into procrastination.
- Reflect: spend a few minutes thinking and analyzing the negative consequences of putting off each of the tasks, evaluating the cost of not doing so.
- Reward yourself: it is important to include motivation in the process of stopping procrastination, so reinforce yourself with small rewards that you will definitely enjoy.
- Be flexible: do not treat yourself too harshly if you cannot stop procrastinating within a short period of time, as it is a process and involves creating habits. Therefore, pay attention to and record even small advances and progress you make.