Procrastination is the enemy of results. The funny thing is, we all know it is deeply frustrating. No one likes to procrastinate. No one enjoys not getting things done. And yet, for so many, procrastination is a repeat pattern in their life.
I had a friend at university who throughout the semester, was the coolest guy in town. Relaxing, going out, toga parties, enjoying himself. All while falling increasingly behind with his studies. Then, about a week or two before exams, he would start to panic. “Why didn’t I begin earlier?” He would chastise himself, feel very anxious, pull all-nighters. Basically, freak out. His story is not unusual.
Research shows that when you procrastinate, you might feel good in the short-term but you will suffer in the long-term.
It doesn’t really matter why you procrastinate. Some love the pressure of deadlines. Some are underwhelmed by boring tasks. Some are afraid to fail so they put it off until the very last moment. One thing that all procrastinators have in common is that procrastination has a price and studies have related it to:
Chronic procrastination is not merely innocent habit or a quirky character trait. It can be a sign of poor self-regulation and it can become a problem that pervades different areas of life with the same results – distractions, other opportunities, fear of failure, negative self-talk all get in the way of getting things done.
Firstly, will power alone does not work in overcoming procrastination. We think we can be mentally strong, “Next time will be different”. But if you’re a habitual procrastinator, you can’t help but delay tasks. The truth is, procrastination has little to do with what you’re trying to do - small or big, it can always wait until later.
Willpower Doesn’t Work. Systems Do.
What helps is a system for doing tasks. A lot of people shy away from routines, systems and frameworks because they want to have “freedom”. The fact is, if you want to get things done, you do need some structure and rules. A few productivity tools that have been demonstrated to be effective, especially when combined include:
- Establishing routines
- Self-imposed deadlines
- Time limiting tasks
- Embracing accountability (commitment with friends or a psychologist)
- Working in intervals with detachment breaks
- Exercising 30 minutes a day
- Maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough sleep
- Eliminating distractions
- And most importantly, tapping into internal motivation
The deadlines create urgency; accountability creates responsibility; working in intervals improves your focus; exercising, diet and sleep gives you more energy; and eliminating distractions limits temptation. Once a task is completed, there is a sense of satisfaction, achievement and pride. But there’s no ‘productivity system’ that can help if you don’t have an inner drive.
People over-complicate this concept, but it’s simple: Why do you do what you do? If you know why you’re doing something, even the most annoying tasks become bearable. If beating procrastination is something you struggle with or you’re not sure of your “Why”, then speaking with a clinical psychologist can help to untangle the obstacles in your way to getting stuff done.
by Lydia Rigano
article can be found in DUOMagazine 2018