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Do you wait until the last minute to start any task? Are your goals defined by deadlines? Do you find it hard to start a task assigned? Do you experience guilt for delaying your work? If you have answered yes to most of these questions, you may be struggling with procrastination.
Since the start of time, humans have had the tendency to put their work off until the last moment, before getting on with the task. This was so common that the Greeks coined a term “akrasia”, indicating a scenario when humans tend to go against their better judgement and postpone their tasks.
It is often seen that people tend to keep their work hanging, until the very last minute and experience high levels of stress and anxiety when the deadline arrives. Research indicates that 63% of people tend to leave their work undone until the last minute, while engaging in activities such as using social media or surfing the internet.
Additionally, many companies incur huge losses due to the procrastinating nature of employees. This makes it essential to address this phenomena, understanding why it happens and how to overcome it.
Most often, people tend to confuse procrastination with laziness, demotivation or something that a person does intentionally. However, a lot of times it is seen that procrastination is not in the hands of a person. Despite their best efforts, they are unable to start their work in a timely manner and complete it, without facing stress.
On failure of doing it properly, there’s guilt too, but starting the work on time remains challenging. Many individuals tend to report high levels of anxiety and lowered well-being due to this habit, making it crucial to address.
There is, however, proper science involved in people’s tendency to procrastinate. It involves a two-step process.
Another theory suggests that people procrastinate when they find the work too boring, challenging, aversive, or unpleasant, making them want to avoid it as much as they can. There are some who procrastinate to protect their self-esteem, just in case the work done is not good or up to the mark.
Often it can be very challenging to cope with procrastination, but taking small steps can go a long way in improving this habit. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but tweaking habits as per what may suit you can be helpful.
While approaching any task or project, divide it into smaller steps, so it doesn’t seem too overwhelming. When you create a timeline for yourself for smaller tasks, the work doesn’t seem burdensome and you start working in a timely manner, while adhering to the deadlines.
If you procrastinate because the task seems too boring, think about unique ways to make it fun or challenging. You could include a brainstorming session and think of incorporating it to make the work interesting and appealing, while breaking the monotony.
When you have a big assignment in hand, create smaller timelines for yourself to finish it. You can begin by jotting down your plan and how you wish to proceed in order to complete the task, based on your capacity. You could make these for every task, daily or weekly.
One of the key methods to overcome procrastination is setting up a reward system for yourself. This could involve you setting up small rewards for each time, such as getting a cup of coffee and a big one when you complete the task, such as going out for dinner. Once you get into the habit of following through and delaying your procrastination, you can reduce the frequency of the rewards.
One of the most effective techniques, which aims to address the issue at hand, identify factors leading to procrastination and challenge those thoughts is to PURRRR, which can be a mantra for all your work.
Pause: Often individuals engage in procrastination without giving it much thought, but when approaching any task, pause and think what is coming in the way of you achieving your task.
Utilize: Once you have identified factors that cause you to procrastinate, identify ways through which you can utilize the time you have best.
Reflect: In this step, introspect and identify what thoughts and feelings occur that make you want to procrastinate.
Reason: Once you have identified what distracts you, in terms of tasks, thoughts and feelings, you can try to respond and reason why it is more important to approach the task at hand first.
Respond: Once you have decided to move ahead with the task, keep reminding yourself to act now (reward next). Once you begin to incorporate this, start doing this for bigger tasks.
Repeat: Keep repeating this behaviour, and gradually the approach towards the task will begin, and procrastination will start to take a back seat.
An important way to counter procrastination is not to wait for the right mood or motivation, because it may encourage more procrastination. Another way to handle it is to tell someone trustworthy about your plans and ask them to check in on you; this will provide external motivation as well. Procrastination is a chronic habit, but consistency will go a long way in overcoming this, steadily and surely.