Procrastination is the habit of putting off more or less important tasks. Understanding the roots of procrastination and applying the appropriate strategies will make the difference between success in being more productive and the inertia of falling into this bad habit.
This phenomenon not only delays the completion of tasks, but also has a negative impact on people’s mental health. Anxiety and feelings of guilt about procrastinating can affect emotional well-being.
Why do we procrastinate?
Procrastination has different psychological causes. Some of the most frequent reasons are the following:
- Fear of failure: It is the fear related to disappointing others and being defeated. Postponing tasks can be a way to avoid facing possible negative results.
- Lack of motivation: Motivation is all those things that modulate the direction and intensity of a person’s behavior. If a task is not motivating for a person, it is much more likely that they will not complete it.
- Perfectionism: Some people seek perfection in everything they do and may procrastinate on certain tasks for fear of not meeting their own expectations or those of others.
- Self-control problems: Having enough self-control to resist the temptation to quickly receive rewards in favor of working toward long-term goals is sometimes difficult and can also lead to procrastination.
- Lack of planning: Not having a clear structure to follow to achieve our objectives can become overwhelming and, consequently, certain tasks can be left for another time.
- Lack of emotional connection: Not feeling positive emotion to carry out a task, that you are indifferent to or even that generates a negative emotion such as fear or shame, can lead us to leave it for later.
- Relying on a deadline: Some people may feel more stimulated to complete a task when faced with an upcoming deadline. If this urgency does not exist, it can lead to leaving pending tasks until the last minute.
Tips to not procrastinate
There are different strategies to stop procrastinating. Depending on the person and their situation, some will be more useful than others.
- Establish clear and realistic goals: You must define objectives that are specific and achievable. Having these types of goals gives you a direction to follow and an intensity with which to act.
- Break down tasks: Separate your larger, more complicated tasks into smaller, simpler tasks. This way, the task seems less overwhelming. You will make progress more quickly and you will be more motivated to see that you are achieving results little by little.
- Prioritize tasks: It is important to identify the tasks that are most important and urgent and focus on them, before tackling those that are less significant.
- Eliminate distractions: Deactivate notifications from your electronic devices, eliminate all noises from your environment so you can pay more attention to important things.
- Establish routines: When we repeat a behavior it becomes a habit. By generating habits that include time to dedicate to important tasks, we reduce the occasions in which we have to decide to do it. Since we will have it automated, it will be much easier. For example, going to the library to study every day.
- Find personal motivation: Connect on an emotional level with the tasks you have to do. Understanding the reason why a task is important to you can help you stay involved and keep moving forward.
- Celebrate small achievements: It is important to recognize and celebrate the successes you achieve, even if they may not seem significant. It will motivate you to continue.
- Set dates: If you are not sure when an assignment is due, set your own deadlines before the actual deadline.
Addressing procrastination means understanding these dynamics that promote it and applying strategies to overcome them. In addition, it can generate psychological problems such as anxiety and feelings of guilt. For all these reasons, the help of a mental health professional may be necessary. At Neuroscenter, we have a team of psychologists prepared to help you in your therapeutic process and personal growth.