One of the biggest challenges in our life is procrastination. The understanding between those who delay their work and those who do it on time has always attracted the attention of scientists. Despite some clear differences between these two groups (social & psychological factors, outlook, vision, etc.), the fundamental differences between these two groups of people were not fully defined. In this article, I will talk about what is procrastination, what are the causes and how to cope with it using my own experiences throughout the years.
What is procrastination?
As a simple explanation of procrastination is the postponement of tasks for an undefined time period (or completely abandoning them). Unfortunately, we exhibit procrastination behaviours in all areas of life, and after a while, it becomes a habit. As a result, we are not as enthusiastic about our work as before, we do not have the motivation to complete them or we completely deviate from our goals. The work we postpone today can cause big problems tomorrow. Or when we put off doing what we need to do today, we create the risk of running out of time. With that being said, let’s focus on what are the causes of procrastination and how to beat procrastination?
1. Being a perfectionist
Perfectionism is the main cause of procrastination and perfectionism can’t beat procrastination forever. Many people try to complete their work in the best possible way. However, in most cases, they are reluctant to complete the work because they do not have enough resources to complete it. The main reason is the failure. For perfectionists, everything should be in order, without problems and in the best shape. Making mistakes is a big problem for them, and they tend to never make mistakes in their work. Therefore, in order to do their best, they are constantly waiting for the conditions to renew themselves. As a result, they constantly postpone their work by waiting for the right time to come. No matter how much you want to do everything perfectly, knowing that of the best of the best will always set you back.
2. Can’t prioritise
Not everything we do in life is interesting and fun. There are some issues, especially in the workplace, that is very tedious and tiring. In such cases, you are unable to complete the work and turn to other “interesting and fun” activities. As a result, you move away from your work and it becomes very difficult to return to your main tasks. In this way, you can’t beat procrastination and improve your efficiency. For instance, you have a report to prepare, but instead, you watch a movie, play a game, text your friends on social networks, and so on. Thus, not focusing on your main direction also harms your professional life. Procrastination is more likely to occur when you fail to prioritize your tasks. Therefore, before the start of the day, you need to choose the most important tasks to complete. Once you set your goals and tasks, this will motivate you to do something you do not enjoy.
3. Afraid to start
One of the reasons for procrastination is not starting work on time and being afraid to start. Because as long as you are afraid, you will always avoid work and as a result, you will not be able to complete the work you need to do. Afraid of starting occurs as a result of “failure” thoughts. Therefore you can’t beat procrastination and procrastination is in many ways directly related to this thinking. That is, instead of focusing on the nature and progress of the work you need to do, focusing on the outcome can frighten you and even cause you not to do it at all.
4. Mismanagement of time
One of the biggest problems associated with procrastination is often the deviation of the workday or schedule, untimely completion of planned activities, lack of efficiency and motivation, and in short, time management and productivity. Sometimes, you determine the work to be done at the beginning of the day, but after a while, you become distracted and turn to other activities. The reason is not scheduling tasks properly when planning.
Mornings are the best period to be productive and efficient. Every task you start during this period determines your day. Depending on the task status, your productivity may decrease or increase. If you complete the task faster, your brain will produce dopamine so quickly. This is a satisfaction of your brain which is the key factor of motivation. However, if you complete easy tasks so quickly, the level of dopamine will be higher. Once your brain reaches a satisfaction level, your attention will be distracted again. Therefore, you need to plan your day or week properly to beat procrastination.
How to beat procrastination
Procrastination is something that everyone has. Even the most efficient and productive people postpone their work from time to time. In fact, there are very simple ways to get rid of it.
- Determine your behaviour. You need to analyze your daily habits and actions. For example, observing how you approach a job, what you focus on at work, and what activities you prefer not to do, will give you a first impression of procrastination.
- Motivate yourself. Most people follow a nuance when it comes to a new challenge: you need motivation to get started. But motivation never exists from the beginning, it is achieved later. So if you want motivation, get it. One of the best books written on this subject is “The Motivation Myth” by Jeff Hayden. The author notes in the book that motivation is not the cause of any activity, it is the result of activities. In other words, in order to increase motivation, you should do your work on time and not procrastinate. There are two qualities you need to do this: be disciplined and develop a habit. Discipline is the systematization of activities that bring together all the nuances of ourselves and add value to us. When you are constantly engaged in these activities, it becomes a habit. That way, you don’t have to procrastinate.
- Catch the momentum. It is necessary to “start” to cope with procrastination. Procrastination is often caused by a long period of hard work and a decrease in our interest in it. For example, in many cases, when we want to start something important, we face some internal resistance. This resistance prevents us from starting, distracts us, and focuses us on other things. However, the mentioned resistance does not last long. If you can overcome inner resistance and “start”, you will not only complete the work on time but also motivate yourself to do more and not procrastinate again.
- 2 and 5 minutes rule. Procrastination is the result of “not being able to start.” Because our brain needs a “reward” to do its job. Once you have a long-lasting job, your brain already knows that you will not finish it for a long time. And because your brain produces dopamine, this knowledge will force you to postpone the task instead of finishing it. That’s why 2 minutes rule exists. Some tasks take less than 2 minutes: taking dirty dishes to the kitchen, tidying the table, throwing rubbish, cleaning the bed, and so on. If you have a job that will take less than 2 minutes, do it now. Otherwise, you will postpone it. If the work takes more than 2 minutes, then apply the 5-minute rule. The easiest way to fool your brain is to convince it that the task will take only 5 minutes (even if it takes several hours). To give you an idea, let’s say you have a report that needs to be done that will last for several hours. All you have to do is to convince your brain that “I will just spend 5 minutes on it, later on, I will do whatever I want.” As a result, your brain will be manipulated and you will focus on your task for longer than 5 minutes.
- Prioritise your tasks. One of the most effective ways to fight procrastination is to be able to prioritize tasks. Take a notebook and a pen and write down what you put off. Then add their reasons and the potential effects of the delay on you. Now you have a clear picture of the results of procrastination. Then list the tasks again according to their importance. Put an artificial deadline in each task. You already have a specific list. If the work is very long, divide it into parts and set a suitable time. Try to make the time-division realistic. That is, if you can focus on one job for only 1 hour, it doesn’t make sense to plan it for 2 hours, because you won’t do it anyway. Over time, your real focus time will increase. When you are done, draw a line over it. This will cause your brain to secrete dopamine and become more motivated.
Finally, procrastination does not always identify you. You continue as you work, no matter how you work. Do not forget that if you procrastinate a lot, it will become a habit. Therefore, stay away from devices, objects or activities that distract you while working. Reward yourself. Rewarding is the number one way to motivate and not procrastinate. Set an artificial deadline. Divide the tasks into parts. The most important thing is to always be honest with yourself, accept who you are and build a strategy accordingly.
Do not forget to read this article to improve your efficiency and productivity.
Follow the updates from my LinkedIn profile. Until the next article, stay tuned!