Why We Procrastinate

“I will get to it tomorrow.” Does that sound familiar? We have all put have put tasks off until the last possible minute, avoiding getting them done as long as possible. Very few people, if any, can honestly say they have never procrastinated. Have you ever wondered why exactly you or others procrastinate, though? According to Psychology Today, it isn’t because you simply think you have more time to get something done than you actually do. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with your time management skills at all.

Task aversiveness and procrastination are a result of viewing a particular task or project negatively. If you think something is boring, difficult, or painful, then you will put it off longer. Timothy Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University, explained that our minds think about procrastination like this,“avoid the task, avoid the bad mood.” While it may seem that you are helping yourself out by avoiding unpleasant tasks, you are actually creating a state of prolonged stress. As cited by Psychology Today, procrastination can lead to health problems, poor work or school performance, restless sleep, and self esteem issues. Supporting research also found that those who have a habit of putting things off have increased negative feelings and are more likely to be stressed and unhealthy in the long-term.

5 Ways To Tackle Procrastination

Now that you understand what procrastination is and why it happens, it is important to learn how to prevent it. Here are five simple ways you can train yourself to stop procrastinating:

  1. Stop Catastrophizing: Catastrophizing, or making a big deal about something, causes you to over react and build up stress and anxiety around a certain task. When you have a big project or task to complete, pay attention to your thoughts. If you start realizing that you are saying things along the lines of, “this is going to be horrible” or “I am never going to get this done in time,” stop and take a pause. Put things into perspective. Think positive thoughts, and you will notice a change in your motivation to get it done.
  2. Think About Your Why: Instant gratification and short-term benefits are tempting, but think about your long-term “why.” Why you started this workout program, why this project is important, etc. Once you realize how completing something now will benefit your end goal, it will be much easier to accomplish.
  3. Use A Calendar: Organize your to-do-list for the week, narrowing it down to what the most important task(s) are for each day. Then, mark off or highlight each task as you accomplish it. You can even color coordinate tasks to make the end result more appealing. Regardless, seeing that you have accomplished your daily goals will help keep you motivated to stay on track and not procrastinate.
  4. Create A Productive Environment: Your work environment can greatly affect your productivity. Make sure your desk and surrounding areas are clean and organized, and make sure you have access to natural light. If technology distracts you and you tend to use your phone or email to procrastinate, try giving yourself a block of time to complete a task without using technology. Put your phone away, close your email, etc.
  5. Reward Yourself: This can be one of the most effective ways to prevent procrastination. Think about a reward that will help motivate you to complete your scheduled task. It could be watching an episode of your favorite Netflix show, having a snack or lunch, or even a social media break. Whatever it is, you only get the reward once you finish what you set out to do.

For more great tips on tackling procrastination, visit Psychology Today!

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