Procrastination

Procrastination is referred to the act of delaying the completion of tasks until last minute or past the deadline.

What is procrastination (Cherry, 2020)?

  • Procrastination is referred to the act of delaying the completion of tasks until last minute or past the deadline

  • Researchers often define procrastination as a failure of self-regulation characterized by illogical delays in tasks despite negative consequences

  • One of the main reasons people procrastinate is because they lack inspiration and motivation to complete the task in that specific moment

  • Procrastination is not a time management problem but rather a difficulty managing negative emotions such as boredom, anxiety, stress, etc. (Lombardo, 2017)

 

What types of procrastination are there (Cherry, 2020)?

  • There are two main types of procrastination:

    • Passive procrastinators – task is delayed because the individual has trouble making decisions and acting on them

    • Active procrastinators – task is delayed purposefully because the individual feels challenged and motivated working under pressure

  • Procrastination is also based on different behavioral styles of procrastination. The following are different types of procrastination behavioral styles:

    • Perfectionist – tasks are put off due fear of being unable to complete the task perfectly

    • Dreamer – tasks are put off because the individual is not good at paying attention to detail

    • Defier – tasks are put off because the individual does not believe someone should tyrannize their time

    • Worrier – tasks are put off out of fear of change

    • Crisis-maker – tasks are put off because the individual works best under pressure

    • Overdoer – tasks are put off because the individual takes on too much and has difficulty managing their time

 

What are the causes of procrastination (Cherry, 2020)?

  • Academics – researchers found that 80%-95% of college students struggle with chronic procrastination

    • Cognitive distortions leading to academic procrastination:

      • Overestimating how much time is left to complete tasks

      • Overestimating how much motivation they will have in the future

      • Underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete tasks

      • Assuming the “right frame of mind” is needed in order to complete the task

  • Depression – feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and lack of energy make it difficult to start/finish even the simplest of tasks

    • Depression also leads to self-doubt – having difficulty navigating a task or feeling insecure about your abilities to complete it makes it easier to put the task off and work on other tasks instead

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is often linked with unhealthy perfectionism causing fear of making mistakes and doubts about doing the task correctly

    • Those suffering from OCD also have tendencies towards indecision which causes procrastination, rather than making a decision to start/complete a task

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – those suffering from ADHD get easily distracted by outside stimuli and internal thoughts making it hard to get started on a task

    • Those suffering from ADHD struggle even more with starting tasks that are difficult or not interesting to them

  • Other common reasons for procrastination:

    • Not knowing what needs to be done or how to do something

    • Not wanting to do something or not caring if/when the task gets done

    • Not feeling “in the mood” to do it

    • Being in the habit of waiting until last minute

    • Believing you work better under pressure

    • Thinking that you are able to complete the task last minute

    • Lacking initiative to get started on the task

    • Forgetfulness

    • Blaming sickness or poor health

    • Waiting for the “right moment”

    • Needing time to think about the task

    • Delaying one task in favor of working on another task

 

What are the consequences of procrastination (O’Donovan, 2021)?

  • Losing valuable time – procrastinators often spend extra and unnecessary time worrying about the task that needs to be completed or feeling guilty that task either didn’t get completed by the deadline or not completed at all

  • Blowing opportunities – many opportunities are missed due to procrastination

  • Not meeting goals – not meeting goals reduces the possibility to better your life

  • Ruining a career – many careers are ruined when deadlines are missed

  • Lower self-esteem – not meeting deadlines can cause feelings of failure and unworthiness of success

    • One study found that procrastination could be predicted by low levels of self-esteem

  • Poor decision making – decisions are made based on criteria that would most likely not even exist if procrastination was not involved

    • Negative emotions such as stress, low self-esteem, anxiety, etc. impact our decision making

    • Decisions are also rushed during the time of procrastination

  • Damaged reputation – saying you will do something that you do not end up doing can damage your reputation

    • Damaged reputation is also closely associated with lowering self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Risking your health – procrastination is linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression which are all linked to health problems such as heart problems, obesity, diabetes, and accelerated aging

 

How can I overcome procrastination (Lombardo, 2017)?

  • Procrastination is a problem with your mindset and not time-management so, rewarding yourself for progress and letting go of perfectionism can help decrease procrastination tendencies

  • Eliminate catastrophizing – one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is due to making a bigger deal than necessary out of the task (e.g. doing the task will be “unbearable”)

    • Think about the amount of anxiety or stress you will feel if you do NOT complete the task

  • Focus on the “why” – focus on the long-term results of completing the task

    • Think about the benefits of completing the task

      • E.g. If there is an exercise program you have been avoiding – focus on the improved mood and boost of self-esteem you will get from completing the exercise program

  • Utilize a calendar – block out time on your calendar to work on the task

    • This will eliminate the “when I have time to do it” mindset

  • Be realistic – tasks often take longer than expected so block out more time in your schedule to complete the task

  • “Chunk it” – break the task into smaller and more manageable pieces

  • Stop making excuses – waiting until you “have time” or are “in the mood” are excuses

    • Waiting for these things to happen can mean you never start your project as you may never “have time” or “be in the mood” to complete the task

  • Partner up – find someone to hold you accountable

    • Connect with someone at certain time intervals (e.g. once per week) and commit that you will have a certain task done by the next time you meet

    • It is recommended that you do not use your significant other as an accountability partner as this can cause tension in the relationship

  • Enhance your environment – your environment helps hinder your productivity

    • Turn off notifications during the time you plan to work on your tasks (phone calls, texts, emails, messenger, etc.)

    • Stay off social media during your time working on the task

    • Hold off on any unnecessary internet searches

  • Reward good behavior – establish a reward for when you do what you set out to do

    • ONLY reward yourself once you have completed the task/goal

 

 

References

 

Cherry, K. (2020). What is procrastination? VeryWellMind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-

psychology-of-procrastination-2795944

 

Lombardo, E. (2017). 11 Ways to overcome procrastination. Psychology Today.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/better-perfect/201703/11-ways-overcome-procrastination

 

O’Donovan, K. (2021). 8 Dreadful effects of procrastination that can destroy your life. Lifehack.

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/8-ways-procrastination-can-destroy-your-life.html