Master procrastinator? Stop what you’re doing and read this
Your deadline looms but you decide to rearrange your sock drawer. Sound familiar? Here’s how to nip procrastination in the bud.
You have a to-do list a mile long … but instead of checking things off, you find a million other things to do instead.
Procrastination involves delaying a task or goal by doing something less important instead – even if you know there will be negative consequences.
But don’t mistake procrastination for laziness. It’s actually a stress response, says productivity coach Sally Foley-Lewis.
So why do we procrastinate and how can we stop?
Why people procrastinate
Sometimes a task seems so big that we’re unsure we can cope and don’t even want to begin thinking about it.
“We put it off because it’s the massive big elephant, not the small chunk that we can see,” Sally says.
“It’s that old line, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’. And the answer is: One bite at a time,” Sally says.
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Fear of success
Being successful in a task could mean extra work, an unwanted promotion or alienation by workmates.
“Some people might fear if they truly excel this time, then what expectations will others have? How will my reward show up?” Sally says.
Pursuit of perfectionism
If you feel your work must be flawless, you may procrastinate because you fear making a mistake and being judged.
“It’s a fear of failure, and ‘I don’t want to look like an idiot and put myself out there if it’s not going to work,” Sally says.
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Sometimes we get stuck because we’re bored. If people are unclear on a task, they might also think it’s pointless and boring.
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Why you shouldn’t procrastinate
It adds stress
Delaying tasks may feel good in the moment but you can wind up feeling guilty.
This in turn can affect motivation and ultimately, make you less productive and more stressed.
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It won’t make you feel better
Feeling overwhelmed can make us feel disappointed in ourselves. We may simply give up.
“People may say, ‘what’s the point, I may as well give up and become a couch potato. I’m not worthy, see – I can’t even do this simple thing,” Sally says.
Top tips to stop procrastinating
- Learn stress triggers: What do you do when stressed? By knowing, you can try to minimise unhelpful behaviours.
- Get clarity: Clearly understand the task and obtain all the information you need. Make a plan, with milestones along the way, to stay motivated. Break up tasks and leave boring jobs for when you don’t need to be at your peak.
- Take a breather: If you’re slipping into procrastination, don’t feel bad, just take a break. It can actually energise you.
Written by Melissa Iaria.