Why do we Procrastinate and How to Stop it?
17-10-2018 | Posted By: Chhavi | 985 View(s)
“I’ll do this tomorrow.” “I don’t have everything I need to get started yet.” How many times have you found yourself saying these things? Do you keep delaying tasks and never finish them? If you do, then we bet you are not alone. There are many people who procrastinate which in turn makes them stressed. Procrastination is the action of delaying something.
One of the most common questions people who procrastinate ask is “Why procrastinate when I know it causes so much anxiety?” People who keep delaying tasks know what they need to do, they know that if they keep postponing their tasks, then it is going to make them anxious. But they don’t do it, or they wait until the last minute. This pattern repeats itself, and people feel caught and trapped in a vortex of stress, anxiety, and procrastination.
One might think that procrastinators are lazy, disorganised and just don’t care about their work or life. But the truth is procrastinators are often hardworking, smart, capable people who just can’t get things done on time and have no idea why. Let us explore the various reasons why people procrastinate.
Why do People Procrastinate?
1. They Strive for Perfection
People who want everything to be perfect end up procrastinating a lot. Some people are highly worried that they might make a mistake and their weak will be exposed. The fear of making a mistake is a real thing, but it can cause some people to delay their work. In one of the famous books ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’ written by Carol Dweck, this kind of mindset is addressed.
In this book, the psychologist Carol S. Dweck explains the power of one’s mindset. He relates successes in sports, work, and other areas of human endeavour to how one thinks about their abilities and talents.
In his book, he has explained that people either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. People who have a fixed mindset believe that their abilities cannot be developed, and hence focus on their current talents and intelligence. These kinds of people believe that they were born with what they have and cannot improve their abilities. They believe that talent comes naturally and effort is not needed for success.
How is a fixed mindset dangerous? Because it doesn’t allow one to grow, learn, and improvise on their skills. Alternatively, a growth mindset allows a person to believe that skills and abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. They believe that they are born with individual talents and strengths but they can develop their skills. These people have a desire to learn and overcome problems to achieve great things in life.
Dweck explains that people’s mindset reveals how people can advance in their careers. He says that if a person has a correct mindset, then they can positively change their lives and the lives of others.
Experts believe that people who procrastinate tend to have a fixed mindset. They avoid doing certain tasks because they don’t want to make a mistake and look imperfect. They think that if a task is not in line with their given talents, they will fail and hence they postpone the task and think it is best to set it aside for another time.
Being a perfectionist is a positive trait but thinking too much about perfection can be detrimental. People who are perfectionists always want everything to be perfect and hence they set an unrealistic standard for themselves which makes them procrastinate.
2. They are Demotivated
Procrastination also comes from demotivation. Lack of motivation can come from many causes including:
• Unexpected emergency
• Lack of energy
• Negative thoughts
• Working in a bad environment
• Lack of confidence
• Inability to find new ideas
• Unclear goals
A study was conducted at Carnegie Melon University that revealed that people don’t feel motivated when they find little or no value in the projected outcome of their work. However, if people are able to see clearly how their work connects to their goals, interests, and concerns, they can be motivated to work. Hence when people do not feel motivated at work, they tend to delay tasks and procrastinate.
3. They Get Distracted a Lot
Do you browse the Internet while studying or chat on Whats App when you are at work? There are many modern-day distractions such as text messages, social media, email, side tasks, etc. which makes people procrastinate due to which they keep delaying their tasks.
A survey was conducted recently by Career Builder which found that 1 in 5 employers believe that workers spend under five hours every day being productive. It was also found that over half of the employers say that workers’ smartphones and the Internet are to blame, followed by gossip around the workplace.
Distractions make people procrastinate. If you find yourself getting distracted at work, you must remove any temptation first and focus on the task at hand.
4. They are Stressed
Everyone is subjected to stress. Any new job or a new work environment can put you into stress until you adjust. Your level of stress can affect what you do. When a person is distracted by stress, he or she is more likely to put things off and suffer from a procrastination accumulation effect.
This is where you feel anxious and stressed, put things off and then feel more stressed thinking about what you have left undone. You then feel overwhelmed and this vicious cycle continues. Manage stress to stop procrastinating.
5. They Don’t Know how to Get Started
If the task you are doing is unique, new or complex, then you may feel uncertain about how to go about the work which may cause you to procrastinate. Even if you figure out the first step, once you start considering the process as a whole, you realise that you have not correctly estimated the level of time and commitment that is needed to complete the task.
You can do something to get rid of this problem. Follow the “getting things done” approach. Break down the complex task into a series of smaller tasks.
Start by writing down the specific tasks that you need to do. Decide which task need to be prioritised, and do it. Organise the rest of the task. Review the breakdown of tasks constantly and do each task, one by one.
6. They do not Like that Task
If you do not like a particular type of work, you can delay it. Also, if you have a bias against a particular type of task, you may procrastinate. You may think you are bad at this task, or you have seen others getting failed or having a hard time finishing a task. You may think, “I cannot do this task.” This may cause you to procrastinate.
7. They are too Overwhelmed
Being overwhelmed can also make us procrastinate and delay tasks. When there is a lot to do and everything is to be done urgently, you may freeze and think that it is impossible to handle everything. So instead of getting on with the tasks, you may do something different instead.
For example, you might have a complex report to write. You also have a presentation to prepare, and you also have to pack because you are leaving for your hometown. On top of this, you have to attend interschool competition of your kid. Now there are too many tasks for you to handle and you may delay some tasks because you do not know how to prioritise.
When there are lots of tasks in hand, you may find it difficult to prioritise. You may make bad decisions about what to do first and how to spend time. When you feel overwhelmed by too much work, you should focus on key tasks.
8. They Fear the Unknown
Do you avoid conversation with your spouse because you want to avoid an argument? Do you have a mole on your body that needs to be checked but you are delaying a health checkup because you are scared what might come in the test reports? If you do this, then you have a fear of the unknown which is very common but can hinder your growth. Some people do not take any action because they think doing so may reveal something that they don’t want to hear. Some people don’t want the truth to come out and hence keep procrastinating.
These are some of the common reasons why people procrastinate. Procrastination is not a good thing for life in general. It can ruin our studies, work and personal life. It is best if we take our tasks in hand and do not procrastinate. But how? Now we are going to learn about different ways to stop procrastinating.
How to Avoid Procrastination?
1. Do not Punish yourself
First, you need to accept that you procrastinate and need to learn to stop. But don’t punish yourself for that. If you start taking stress for procrastinating, you will end up taking more stress and then find it a lot more difficult to get your work done. Do not be angry with yourself and don’t waste your time thinking about why you procrastinate. Do not think too much and accept there is a problem and needs to be mended.
2. Change your Work Environment
If you think the environment you are working in is impacting your productivity then you should change the environment. Work in a clean environment. Keep your room and office desk clean.
Hang motivational posters on the wall. Have a photo at the desk that you love. Work in an environment that inspires you.
3. Identify Your Triggers
If you allow yourself to get triggered to procrastinate, you will always procrastinate. Find what triggers you to procrastinate and then eliminate those triggers.
Suppose if you are in love with Netflix and know that if you start watching a series on Netflix, you won’t do anything else and delay tasks, then it is better to uninstall Netflix from your mobile or laptop and never subscribe it again unless you learn how to give priorities to urgent tasks first. It might seem extremely difficult at first, but it will be worth it. The key to stopping procrastination is to find why you procrastinate and then eradicate those reasons.
4. Be with Supportive People
Many psychologists say that the type of people we hang out with have a huge effect on our personality. If you hang out and spend time with people who do not love working and do not give importance to their work, you may start procrastinating too.
If you have the habit of procrastinating, you should hang out with people who inspire you to work. Look for the people, colleagues, friends, and family members who trigger you to take action. This will help a lot you in staying motivated and energetic.
5. Break your task into smaller tasks
You may have a problem finishing a big project or writing down a whole essay. But instead of thinking about the task as a whole, break it down into smaller tasks. This way you will not feel overwhelmed.
For instance, instead of thinking “I have to finish this project by tomorrow” tell yourself “I am going first to collect the data, make graphs, and then prepare the content.”
6. Practice “Motivational Self-Talk”
People who talk to themselves in a motivating manner seem to be more dedicated to their work. “Self-talking” can help people stop procrastinating and do their work on time. It is an excellent way to calm yourself, stay focused, and achieved your goals.
Say your name when you are “self-talking” and tell yourself that you can do this, and you will do this. This can help you not to procrastinate. Have some ‘me-time’ to stay happy and relaxed.
7. Don’t think about Perfection Always
It is okay if you want to be the best at what you do but being perfect always is not possible. There will always be something in which you won’t be able to get perfection. Striving for perfection can hold you back and you may not do a particular task because you will think you won’t be able to do it perfectly.
You must understand that perfectionism isn’t always necessary. You should tell yourself that you will do the task in hand and if you are not able to do it perfectly, you will learn from the mistakes and improve. But just get going!
8. Stay Away from Distractions
There are many things which can distract you from work. Identify what distracts you – It can be your mobile phone, a website, etc. For example, if you have the habit of texting with your friends and you just cannot ignore a message even if you are at a workplace, then you should keep your mobile phone on silent mode or away from you when you are working.
9. Make a list of Goals
Make a proper list of all the goals you need to achieve. Write both short-term and long-term goals. When you see all your goals written down at one place, it will help you plan things accordingly.
10. Set Priorities for Different goals with proper deadlines
Make a plan to schedule your time. Make a weekly list in which you should write about short-term and long-term tasks and include deadlines for each task.
You can categorise the tasks into four categories: tasks that are needed to be completed immediately, tasks that can be rescheduled, tasks that can be delegated to someone else and tasks that are not important or can be eliminated.
This will help you prioritise your task well.
11. Do not Multitask
Multitasking doesn’t always help people because it can prevent you from finishing tasks effectively and quickly. Do not over-complicate things by multitasking. Keep focused on 1 goal at a time, and give all your energy and hard work to that. This way you won’t feel overwhelmed by your busy schedule and you will be able to achieve your goals effectively.
12. Take help from a Therapist
Stress also causes procrastination. When things are not going well in life, we take a lot of stress and may resort to binge-eating, oversleeping and procrastinating. Stress is a part of life and cannot be eliminated, but taking too much stress can stop you from growing in your life.
You may feel demotivated to get up from the bed, eat healthily, and go for work. Stress causes a lot of problems. If you are taking too much stress due to which you have started to procrastinate, you should take help from a doctor. It will help you to not procrastinate.
13. Do not Think too Much about the Result
One of the major reasons why we procrastinate is because we have the fear of the unknown. We think too much about the end result, about the success/failure of the task due to which we don’t get the courage to start the task. What if I don’t succeed? What if I fail and lose my job? If you think like this, then you must stop! Focus on your present. Write down all your fears on a piece of paper, crush it and throw it in the dustbin. Have faith in yourself and do the task without thinking much about the success or failure of the task.
14. Motivate Yourself
Being demotivated is another reason why many people procrastinate. Have confidence in yourself and believe that you have the ability to achieve your goals. Train yourself or take help of a friend in doing the task. But do not lose motivation or else you will procrastinate always.
15. Have a Goal Buddy
You can plan fun outings with your buddy to reward both of you when you meet your goals. If you keep procrastinating, cancel these events as a little bit of punishment.
Get a buddy who also has some set of goals. Both of you can check in on each other’s goal completion. It is not essential that you have the same goals, but you can talk regularly about each other’s goals and help each other in achieving those goals.
Also once you meet your goals, you can enjoy some fun time to celebrate your success and reward both of you for having achieved your goals.
16. Have fun once in a While
Stress and anxiety have the capability to take a toll on your life and make you so sad and depressed that you may not want to do anything. That is why it is essential to give yourself a little treat every once in a while to keep yourself happy.
Go for a trip, watch movies, hang out with friends, or do anything that you enjoy to avoid stress. Even if you are working on a big project that has a strict deadline, do not overburden yourself. Eat on time, sleep well, and spend some quality time so that you don’t end up hating your work.
17. Do the Hardest Task First
Pick the hardest task first and do it in the morning itself. People are most energetic in the morning after they have eaten their breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast and then start working. You will feel better and relaxed once it is done and then you will feel motivated to move on to easier tasks for the rest of the day.
Some people may feel more energetic during the evening or night. Everyone is not a morning person after all. If you do not feel energised during the morning, you should figure out the time when you are most motivated and use that time to your best.
18. Eat a Healthy Diet
This might seem weird, but our eating habits have a huge impact on our brain and how we work. To work properly, one must need a healthy mind and a healthy body.
Procrastination and stress are related to each other and poor eating habit is one of the leading causes of stress. So eat a diet full of vegetables and fruits to keep stress and other memory problems away. Eating healthy will also help you stay energetic and allow you to work properly. Eat dopamine foods to stay happy.
19. Listen to your Favourite Song without Lyrics
There are many people who are not able to stay focused and work in a completely silent room. However, listening to music with lyrics can distract you. You can listen to music without lyrics. This will help you stay motivated and not procrastinate.
20. Get a Good Night Sleep
We delay work when we don’t feel energetic and not getting adequate sleep is a reason for not feeling energised. To work properly and not procrastinate, one must lead a healthy life. Not getting proper sleep can make you stressed and affect your work. Get a good night sleep if you do not want to procrastinate.
So now that you know why you procrastinate and how to stop it, what are you waiting for? Start following these tips and be the best version of yourself.