Procrastination – a challenge we have all faced at some point in our lives. And it turns out humans have been struggling with delaying, avoiding, and procrastinating important tasks for centuries. Ancient Greek philosophers, for instance, Socrates and Aristotle, developed the word: ‘Akrasia’, to describe this type of behavior.
Akrasia is defined as acting against one’s better judgement. It is the action of doing something when you know you should be doing something else due to a lack of self-control. Therefore, you could say that akrasia loosely translates to procrastination.
A more modern definition of procrastination is delaying or postponing an important task. So, whether you call it akrasia, or procrastination, or something else entirely, it is ultimately the thing that prevents you from following through on what you intended to do.
This thing affects nearly everyone at one point or another, with 20% of the population being habitual procrastinators.
Okay, a now that we have the definition, why do we procrastinate? What is happening in our brains that prevents us from performing tasks we know we should be doing?
Psychologist have identified various drivers for why people procrastinate, from low self-confidence to anxiety. Research has also advocated that procrastinators are often perfectionists. These individuals can feel that it is more acceptable to not tackle or avoid tackling a task out of the fear of not performing the task well.
Similarly, a lack of structure, and even an inability to motivate oneself to complete undesirable tasks have also been drivers for why people procrastinate. Research has also highlighted the idea that individuals who are prone to procrastinate are closely linked to rumination or being fixated on negative thoughts.
Now, the big question: How can we deal with procrastinating?
There are a variety of strategies we can employ to deal with procrastinating. Below, lists some concepts that aim to effectively help combat the creeping desire to procrastinate.
1: Give Yourself A Timeline
A strategy to help get unpleasant tasks completed is to give yourself a set amount of time to complete different components of the task. However, it is important to be realistic when setting these time frames and to allow for a potential delay. You don’t want to feel disheartened if you are trying to force yourself to complete complex tasks, you already don’t particularly want to do, within an overly ambitious amount of time. These timelines need to be realistic and used as a mechanism to hold yourself accountable for getting tasks done efficiently.
2: Set A Personal Challenge
If you’re putting off performing mundane tasks, try to challenge yourself. For example, see how many items of clothing you can fold from that pile of laundry during the ad break.
3: Reward Yourself
A way to make performing unpleasant tasks more enjoyable is to break the tasks into chunks and give yourself a reward or some time to celebrate once you have completed each task. This reward can be as simple as putting off getting that extra cup of coffee until you have sent that important email.
4: Remove Distractions
To avoid getting distracted, simply remove anything that you know usually distracts you. For example, turn your phone off or take yourself to a quiet environment where you won’t be tempted to engage in activities outside of the tasks you’re meant to be completing.
These strategies may seem ridiculously simple, but they have been proven to help deal with procrastination tendencies and build the momentum to feel empowered to tackle more complex tasks.
Would you like some tips on how to manage worrying thoughts? Click here to read my article, where I share five tips on how to manage worrying thoughts.