How Can I Stop Procrastinating?
Most people have procrastinated at some point in their lives, but when it starts to become a regular habit which hinders your development, it can be a problem. This is known as serial or chronic procrastination, and like many behavioural patterns, it can be very easy to slip into and difficult to break free from. We take a look at how to stop procrastinating.
It is easy to dismiss serial procrastinators as lazy or disorganised, but there could be a more significant cause behind this habit that keeps people coming back to it again and again.
Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, explains, “Serial procrastinators may find that the root of this negative habit lies in a difficulty coping with stress or other negative emotions associated with laborious tasks. In these cases, procrastination serves as temporary relief, but often ends up creating more stress because the task cannot be completed in good time. This can lead to additional inward guilt or shame around the habit. By treating procrastination as a symptom of a wider mental health issue and addressing the root cause, we can help break the cycle.”
In this article, we explore the psychology of procrastination and the steps that you can take to end the cycle.
What Is Procrastination And Why Do We Do It?
Procrastination takes place when a person distracts themselves from a task with another activity or activities that are usually less physically, mentally or emotionally taxing, and this leaves the person worse off. This habit can occur in reaction to any difficult, strenuous or even boring task, from cleaning your room to completing work projects.
Those who procrastinate might do so before beginning the task, putting it off until a later date. Others might find distractions throughout the task and find that it takes longer to complete than it should, if it is completed at all.
The act of procrastinating is an example of an impulse. The procrastinator favours instant gratification over the larger, delayed reward.
Procrastination is something that occurs in everyone’s lives at some point. Some reasons why we might do this include:
- Low motivation
- Low mood
- An urge to do something more enjoyable
- The goals of the task are not clear
- Lack of planning
- Feeling overwhelmed
Besides these common reasons for procrastination, there may be less obvious causes for those who serially procrastinate, including:
- Poor self esteem – doubts about one’s worth or ability to complete the task at hand
- Anxiety – constant feelings of worry about the task itself or the outcome
- Depression – it may be a struggle to find any energy or motivation to attempt the task, or doing so may contribute to low mood
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – those with ADHD may find that they procrastinate more due to having a shorter attention span in regards to certain tasks, or being hyper focused on tasks that they are more passionate about
In today’s world, it is easy to slip into a procrastination habit without realising it. Many of us have plenty of opportunities for distraction through the use of technology – from catching up with the latest news and online shopping, to mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds. Procrastination is as simple as turning on your smartphone.
However, while the occasional break from the daily grind may not hinder your progress, if you find yourself looking for distractions frequently, there may be a deeper issue to address.
Are There Any Benefits To Procrastination?
Many of us lead stressful lives, and in an environment and culture where ‘switching off’ is difficult or even discouraged, the ability to procrastinate may provide some relief from stress.
In addition, serial procrastination may be a sign that something in your day-to-day life needs to change in order for you to feel less stressed; for example, if you are constantly feeling distracted during your working day, it could be a sign that you do not enjoy what you do for a living, and switching jobs or careers may be key to improving your wellbeing.
5 Tips To Stop Procrastinating For Good
Finding it tough to focus on one thing at a time and seeing it through to the end? You may be able to help yourself get over the habit of procrastination by trying these five things:
1. Remove distractions
Sometimes, all that’s needed to focus is to remove any distractions that you find yourself drawn to. This could mean placing your smartphone in a different room, or turning on a setting that stops you from using social media apps during certain times of the day.
2. Use a timer
By setting a timer (you could use an egg timer, or a time management app) you create a sense of awareness of time in your mind, and this creates urgency in regards to task completion, helping to prevent distraction.
3. Reward your efforts
Make a plan to reward yourself with something you enjoy once you have completed a task without procrastinating. Doing this with each future task can train your brain to work without the need for distraction.
4. Break up the task
Large, complex tasks can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to tackle the whole task at once, break it up into smaller jobs that are both simpler and quicker to complete. This will help you feel like you are progressing, allowing you to build self esteem and maintain motivation.
5. Take time out
If you are battling a busy schedule, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unable to progress. Take time out to care for your mental health; when you come back, you should find that your focus has improved. Try to practise mindfulness during your time away to improve your ability to stay present.
Can Therapy Help With Procrastination?
There are many tools that you can use to help break the cycle of procrastination; however, if you notice that you are procrastinating constantly, and this is seriously impacting your daily life, you may want to consider spending some time with a mental health professional to see if there are any underlying issues that require addressing.
As mentioned earlier, serial procrastination is often a symptom of a wider issue such as a mental health condition. By seeking help, you can find the root of the issue and begin your journey to better mental wellbeing.
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