Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but they are very different. Laziness is when we are able to carry out some activity that we should be carrying out, yet are choosing not do so so because of the effort involved; not working, not doing anything, avoiding to make an effort by all means necessary; showing lack of effort entirely; or when our motivation to spare ourselves effort, surpasses our motivation to do the right, best, or expected action. Laziness is about avoiding responsibilities completely, and although it is normal for a person to feel lazy from time to time, when it becomes chronic, it may cause harm to one’s professional and personal life.
Procrastination means to postpone one task in favor of another or others which are perceived as being easier or more enjoyable, but that are typically less important or urgent. Further, the procrastinator does make effort and intends to complete the task under they are undertaking, and, often they do eventually complete it, although at a much higher cost to themselves. Procrastination is a result of poor planning, the fear of decision making, sometimes perfectionism, and manifests itself in postponing time-sensitive matters in favor of doing something less stressful and responsible.
This should not be confused with postponing, though there is a fine line between the two. Postponing something is not procrastinating. Sometimes we may need to postpone something if something more pressing comes up. In order for postponement to amount to procrastination, it has to represent poor or ineffective planning and result in a higher overall cost to the procrastinator. This may include lack of progress, accomplishment, or specific consequences.
Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into at some point in our lives. It happens. This can make us feel guilty, stressed, or ashamed. It can lead to reduced productivity, lost opportunities, and cause us to miss out on meeting particular deadlines, valuable experiences, or achieving our goals.
While it may be comforting to hear all this and hear that it happens to all of us at some point and time – this should not thrust us into complacency. Just to know that you’re not alone though can be compelling. It can also be sobering to realize just how much it can hold us back.
There are two types of procrastination, chronic and acute. Chronic procrastination has a deep, strong, and permanent psychological cause that may not be so easily eliminated. It can be done, but it takes patience and hard work.
On the other hand, acute procrastination can be caused even by small mood or energy swings throughout the day, or other small psychological triggers which aren’t a steady natural part of your psyche (like having a bad day, for example). Acute procrastination happens as an out-of-the-ordinary behavioral pattern.
Check out this Article written about the differences between Acute and Chronic Procrastination.
So what can we do about procrastination? Is there any hope to change? Absolutely!!! This is the beauty of being open to personal growth:
- Awareness. Awareness and self-knowledge are the keys to figuring out how to stop procrastinating. It is helpful to understand the reasons you are procrastinating before you can begin to tackle it. Often times, knowing our true reasons for procrastinating makes it easier to stop.
- Eliminate Distractions. Limit the number of distractions around you. Working in a quite and calm area can help increase productivity. Turn off the notifications on your phone, or turn your phone off; Have a plan to dedicate a certain amount of time to this project. Manager your time. You may even set a timer. An important concept in time management is that you don’t manage only your time, but also consider your energy levels.
- Set Goals. It’s best to start with writing your goal(s) down first. Then establish simple, reachable goals rather than goals that are unrealistic. and if you write it down, follow through no matter what. By doing so you will slowly rebuild trust in yourself that you will really do what you say you will, which so many procrastinators have lost. However, it all starts by writing it all down. That’s right, all of it…small goals, large goals, small tasks, large tasks….all of it. Don’t sabotage yourself though by having unrealistic expectations that you cannot meet.
- Prioritize. Remember that list we said to make? You can utilize this list to prioritize the things that need your attention first. Address your most critical or time-sensitive assignments first, and work your way down the list. Get the hardest stuff out of the way first thing. This will make everything else feel like it falls into place to be more manageable.
- Get Organized. You are more likely to procrastinate if you don’t have a set plan or idea in place for accomplishing your goal. Utilize a planner, desktop calendar, or digital tracker to keep track of appointments, project due dates, and other important tasks. By the way, even if you’re organized, you can still feel overwhelmed by a task. Take it slow, but not too slow. Allow yourself to incorporate being flexible.
- Take a Break. It doesn’t have to be long. Give it 10-15 minutes. A break can increase focus, reduce stress, and help you better retain information. Take a walk, excercise, pamper yourself, dance to some loud music, whatever works for you.
- Set Deadlines. Get yourself out of the habit by saying “oh I’ll just do it tomorrow” or “later”.
- Monitor Self-Talk. Talk to yourself in ways that remind you of your goals and replace those old, counter-productive negative habits of self-talk. Instead of saying, “I wish I hadn’t…or “It’s just not possible”…or “I can’t do it” – ” say, “I will …”I am making it possible”….or “I am capable of doing…” The way we speak to ourselves can literally affect the way we move forward with completing a task, and in many ways determines whether we even take steps to begin.
- Reward Yourself. Rewarding yourself is valuable when you create an incentive to work towards. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Make sure that after the completed result that you get something out of it (even if that is time to enjoy a favorite hobby, excursion, food, or experience).
- Hold Yourself Accountable. You and you alone are responsible for the effort you put into completing a project. You are in control of what you do complete or don’t complete in other aspects of your life; if you need help in holding yourself accountable, tell a friend or family member and ask them to check up on your goals, deadlines, and accomplishments. You can even hire a life coach to help as an accountability partner.
I am reminded of a quote that my dad used to tell me from Benjamin Franklin, when I was younger……