In everyday life, we are all faced with mundane tasks that we just don’t want to do. The logical thing would be to just get it done, scratch it off your to-do list, and move on with your day/week/life, right?
Well unfortunately for a lot of us, that just isn’t the case. We’re natural-born procrastinators and we’ll be damned if we don’t binge watch the most recent season of Ozark (in one sitting) before filing our taxes, or finally tackling that looming pile of paperwork that’s been sitting on our desk for nearly three weeks.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is considered to be an unnecessary failure of a person’s self-regulation. It’s when someone postpones a decision or action until they can no longer afford to do so; until that deadline is so close that the “panic monster,” a term coined by Tim Urban, takes control and the procrastinator is forced to finally complete their work, usually in a rushed and sloppy fashion.
An article from SolvingProcrastination.com states that, “Studies suggest that procrastination chronically affects 15%–20% of adults, and that approximately 25% of adults consider procrastination to be a defining personality trait for them.”
So, what can us procrastinators do to kick our bad habit that we know is wrong yet feels so right?
#1- Go easy on yourself
Just like sneaking into the kitchen for a midnight snack, procrastination is delicious in the moment but is generally accompanied by a sense of guilt and dread. We procrastinators are fully aware of our vice and can really do a number on our own self-esteem and self-compassion.
Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve caught yourself procrastinating, and it likely won’t be the last (no offense), so don’t beat yourself up about it. Doing so can lead the procrastinator to falling into a spiral of despair and self-judgement, which can, in turn, make the task appear even more daunting and encourage us to prolong it even further.
Remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world; just focus on doing your best.
#2- Break the task up into smaller pieces
Duh, right? But seriously, this may sound obvious, but to us procrastinators it’s actually something we should really consider. In an article from The Washington Post, Joseph Ferrari, author of “Still Procrastinating?: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done,” and a Psychology professor at DePaul University, refers to the phrase, “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” because procrastinators actually have the polar opposite problem. We’re all so focused on chopping down the whole forest, that the first tree seems as impossible as finding a needle in a haystack.
Ferrari continues, “You can’t do one tree? Give me three branches.” Once you’ve chipped away little by little, before you know it, you’ll be a third the way there, then halfway, then the homestretch, and voila, you’ve done it!
#3- Use a planner
In a Forbes article about the value of career planning, studies conducted by online retailer Zulily and third-party researcher ENGINE found that both planners and procrastinators are driven by the need to manage their anxiety, but unlike procrastinators, planners exhibited greater emotional control and less stress overall.
By planning out your days or weeks with a journal/planner, you’re making your goals real and tangible, not just one of the many thoughts that swim through the back of your brain like what you want for lunch that day.
Write it down and make it real. Don’t just mull it over as you try to fall asleep while telling yourself, “Tomorrow, I’m giving it my all!” We’ve all been there and we know it doesn’t work. By the time the next morning comes around, you’re still in bed endlessly scrolling through your Tik Tok and Instagram feeds, still lying to yourself, “Yeah, I’ll get to it at some point.”
Procrastination is a paradox; it’s a short-term anxiety reliever, but by delaying the inevitable until it can wait no longer, we actually create more anxiety for ourselves. We convince ourselves that we can’t fail if we don’t try, or we’re so obsessed with perfection that a simple task is elevated to a stress-inducing nightmare.
While postponement seems to bring some relief, it’s just a quick fix; so, use these tips to overcome those instant-gratification traps and live a more proactive life.