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Procrastination: What is it? Why do you do it? How can you overcome it?

What is procrastination?

Procrastination has always been regarded as a way to hinder our performance and hurt success.  It is a way to defer something even though we expect the result to make us worse off yet we continue to procrastinate daily both within our work and home lives.


Why do we procrastinate?

According to two of the world’s leading experts, Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D. and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D, we procrastinate to protect our ego from failure, judgements, success and the excruciating sense of just being ‘good enough’ (Source).

Dr Ferrari categorises procrastinators into three basic types:

  • Thrill-seekers – they like to wait until the last minute for the euphoric rush
  • Avoiders – they may be avoiding fear of failure or fear of success, they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability
  • Decisional procrastinators – they find it hard to make a decision. By not making a decision absolves them of the responsibility of the outcome.

It is easy to assume that we sometimes procrastinate to avoid disappointment.  We put off things we want to do and that we know will provide us with long term satisfaction because at that moment, it feels too threatening.  We tell ourselves that the easier and more enjoyable task is the better and safer option and will give us the instant satisfaction that we crave.

Many of us suffer from perfectionism, which puts a lot of pressure on ourselves and sets us up for failure which is very frightening.  Those that are perfectionists may procrastinate to put off being judged, if they never complete a task, they can’t be judged on it.

So what kind of procrastinator are you?

How can we overcome the urge to procrastinate?

1. Recognise. The trick here is to be aware of when you are procrastinating.  Once you notice you are procrastinating then you can start to fully understand the reasons why. Feel the resistance in your body and simple notice it, do not force through it or back away from it.  With resistance, often comes fear.  Acknowledge the fear and take the next small step.  Taking lots of small steps is the way to move out of your comfort zone.

2. Reflect. If you are a real perfectionist then take time to reflect on the reasons why you want to be perfect and then start to give yourself permission to just be ‘good enough’. This will release a lot of pressure you have put upon yourself and will lead you towards taking action.

3. Acknowledge Anxiety. If you are a typical ‘avoider’ you may have a tendancy to anticipate and fear the worse in every situation. Acknowledge this anxiety and watch your thoughts.  Think about the absolute worse case scenario and score it on a scale of 1-10 of how likely it is to happen. You will often find that it is very unlikely and this can help you to gain clarity on the situation.  What are you really being asked to do? See the task for exactly what it is, a task to do as best you can.

4. Take a 30-day challenge. Make a list of all the important tasks that you have been putting off and for 30 days, tackle one task each day.  Reflect on your progress at the end of the week and praise yourself for the tasks you completed.  Move any outstanding tasks to the top of your list for the following week.  You will experience a real sense of achievement from this and it will give you a chance to reflect on the tasks you didn’t complete.

To find out more about our range of courses that can help you overcome procrastination and the associated effects click the links below.

Managing your Time with Outlook

Effective Time Management

An Introduction to Mindfulness

Growing your Resilience to Stress

Read more..

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