Some of us just seem to have a tendency to procrastinate on our tasks. It’s an issue that we all face sometimes. However, it would be incorrect to attribute procrastination with laziness, poor time management, or a lack of self-control. It’s actually far from it! Notice how when you procrastinate, you’re usually doing some form of productivity. Whether it’s cleaning your room, going to get yet another glass of water, or alphabetising your entire movie collection. It just so happens that it’s not the task that you should be prioritising!
Ultimately, procrastination is a form of mild self-harm. It’s an irrational divergence from a necessary task that’s going to have negative consequences. Most importantly, your tendency to procrastinate is affected primarily by a bad mood; an emotional dysregulation. We procrastinate in response to emotions such as frustration, resentment, boredom, self-doubt, anxiety, and insecurity. Although procrastination may bring momentary relief, it’s an immediate (and short-term) response that is not only unhealthy, but is also a poor coping mechanism. Avoiding your task via procrastination will simply compound the negative associations you hold about the task, and lead to further stress and anxiety, self-blaming, and lower self-esteem. It’s a vicious cycle!
The solution to procrastination doesn’t lie within addressing your productivity, but with learning better emotional regulation skills. While counsellors and psychologists are well-equipped to help you learn such skills, here are some additional steps you can take to help yourself:
1) Practice grounding: When you’re tempted to procrastinate, stop for a moment and think of 3 things you can see, hear and touch, and what emotions you feel at the present. This can help to alleviate anxiety and focus the mind.
2) Focus on the next step you need to take at present, and only that next step. Avoid thinking of the bigger picture. Just think: “The one thing I will do next on this task is…” For example, “The next thing I will do is open my email.” Don’t wait to be in the mood to do the task. Action comes first and motivation follows!
3) Make your distractions and temptations inconvenient. For example, if you know you procrastinate by browsing social media at work, delete those apps from your phone, or require yourself to manually sign in with a long password each time. If you find yourself wanting to get a snack to avoid work, put your work area as far as possible from the kitchen!
4) Acknowledge what makes you procrastinate, and recognise what you do in response. By recognising your own behaviours and forgiving how you feel, you can take better control of the situation the next time it occurs!