Have you noticed your tendency to dawdle and put off tasks until the very last minute? Maybe you’re feeling under pressure about the amount of work you need to get done. Avoiding tasks until they’re due is called procrastinating, and it’s something that affects a wide variety of people. From college students to the workforce, plenty of people suffer from procrastination issues.
Fortunately, there are things you can do about it. You’re not doomed to feel stressed forever! To get to the bottom of the issue, it’s important to understand why you procrastinate. Then, you can figure out how to avoid it.
In this guide, we’ll explain why people procrastinate, and how to avoid it in the future, helping you accomplish your goals one step at a time.
What Is Procrastination? 🤔
Procrastination is the act of postponing your choices or actions without real reason. It can be a symptom of wider mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, plenty of people without other health issues also find themselves procrastinating.
According to psychologist Piers Steel, those who don’t procrastinate are high in a personality trait called conscientiousness, which also means they are self-disciplined, persistent, and responsible. Procrastinators, on the other hand, may lack care or simply have poor time management skills.
Unfortunately, procrastinating can have some serious disadvantages over the long run.
Disadvantages of Procrastinating
Procrastinating can cause people to miss their goals or feel more stressed.
Here are some of the worst effects:
- Worse grades for students
- Worse quality work for employees
- Low mood
- Stress and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal or immune problems
Generally, it’s better to get your tasks done on time and avoid these consequences.
Active vs. Passive Procrastinator
There are several types of procrastinators. Some researchers split them into two groups: active and passive.
- Active: Delays the task intentionally because they feel that they work best under pressure.
- Passive: Avoid the task because they have trouble making decisions and acting on them.
Reasons for Procrastination 📝
When you understand why you avoid pressing tasks, you can learn to motivate yourself and remain organized. There are many reasons why people practice task avoidance. Here are six of the most common.
1. Vague Goals 🥅
Without goals, you won’t be able to motivate yourself. And yet, a whopping 92% of those with goals fail to achieve them! Why? Because they’re vague. Set yourself some goals to focus on so you can motivate yourself to achieve them.
2. Indecisiveness 😟
Sometimes, we overthink things and struggle to come up with the best course of action. This is a huge cause of procrastination, so it’s something you should try and tackle if you have tasks to be getting on with.
3. Impulsiveness 🏃♀️
Active procrastinators may rush to complete their tasks because they believe that pressure helps them perform well.
On the other hand, many workers find themselves distracted by other tasks or activities. If you impulsively abandon one task in favor of one you find more enjoyable, it can cause problems down the line.
4. High Expectations 🏔
Some people postpone tasks because they are afraid of failure. Having high expectations of yourself can create pressure, meaning that you feel too anxious to begin and creating high levels of stress.
5. Deadlines 📅
If the deadline is far away, you may not feel that the task is priority. However, deadlines can creep up on you quickly, so it’s best to avoid letting them build up. Poor time management skills like this can create a lot of stress when deadlines are fast approaching.
6. Mental Health Problems 🧠
As mentioned above, procrastination can be a symptom of a larger problem. In the case of broader mental health problems, a doctor can help you decide on the best course of action. Simply setting realistic expectations and learning time management may not be enough on its own, so it’s worth consulting a professional.
How to Stop Procrastinating
Studies show that chronic procrastinators may suffer as a result of their habits. For example, one 2022 study found that university students with severe procrastination issues experienced more psychological issues such as anxiety and insomnia, and lower quality of life overall.
As a result, there are some long-term benefits to preventing task avoidance. Here is a step-by-step guide you can use to address the issue.
1. Have an Accountability Partner
About 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. In other words, you’re not alone. Find a buddy who’s also struggling with task avoidance and pair up to hold each other accountable. You can even find a friend who’s super organized to keep you on track and teach you some extra time management skills.
Ensure it’s someone you trust and who you will be honest with, or this step won’t really work.
2. Establish Goals
It’s important to set goals that will keep you on track. Without goals, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and give up before you get very far. However, with realistic goals in place, you can work toward them and improve your self-esteem along the way.
Try setting SMART goals to ensure they’re realistic:
3. Figure Out The Problem
You won’t be able to overcome procrastination if you don’t understand the reason behind it. Remember, there are many reasons for task avoidance, so you need to figure out which one (or ones) applies to you.
It could be your levels of stress, for example, creating anxiety that leaves you paralyzed when it comes to decisions. In this case, you need to take a step back, recharge, organize, and prioritize your tasks.
4. Create and Implement a Plan
When you know what the problem is, you can create a plan. Your step-by-step plan should include techniques for overcoming task avoidance at different points, including solutions for different triggers.
Share this plan with your accountability partner to keep you on track.
Then, track your progress and improve your plan based on previous results. As you go, remove techniques that are ineffective and add in new strategies that might help.
5. Eliminate Distractions 📱
Distractions are a huge killer of productivity. In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded with potential distractions, from social media to online gaming. In the office, you might find yourself chatting to friends, while when working from home, you might impulsively begin doing other tasks like DIY or shopping.
If you want to stay on task, you need to eliminate distractions. Use noise-cancelling headphones and try to create a work environment that’s calming with no distractions. If chatting with friends is the issue, try to set clear boundaries.
6. Reward Yourself
Most importantly, you need to reward yourself. Give yourself a big pat on the back whenever you complete a task or reach a milestone in your plan.
Whether it’s taking yourself out for dinner, buying yourself a new pair of shoes, or treating yourself to a snack, make sure you treat yourself for all your hard work.
That way, you will associate completing tasks with positive rewards, and it will help you stay on track.
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With these steps in place, you can work toward a brighter, more productive workplace. Happy organizing!