Procrastination – Not Always A Bad Thing
By Antonietta Marinelli | March 12, 2021
Procrastination. We all go through it. We all (try) to fight it. We all feel it. As the world re-adjusts to the dramatic changes of remote learning or ‘back-to-the-office’ changes, we remain with continuous uncertainty and nerves as procrastination interferes with our productivity. We live in a distracting world, with things constantly changing and taking pace where at any given moment our focus is drawn to something that should not be. And when the most important or necessary task is not perhaps quite fun or easy, the temptation to do something else can be overwhelming. Hello, procrastination!
Procrastination isn’t the same as being lazy – although it can sometimes look like it. There are many different forms of procrastination. Some are negative and unhelpful while others may be useful and productive in ways we might not always understand (Crossfield, 2020). Procrastination isn’t always a negative thing though. It can still be busy and productive, just not always on the most important of tasks. Our minds run a million miles an hour when we fall into procrastination, but sometimes, giving the brain time to think, to wander, to play, to ponder can better equip you for the work ahead (Crossfield, 2020).
So, What Exactly Is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. It is a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences”.
Am I doing it?
If you’re reading this - then yes, there is a great chance you are procrastinating. However, sometimes we confuse distraction with procrastination. With procrastination, we often assume that the work we have to do won’t take as long in theory, which can then lead to a false sense of security when we believe that we still have plenty of time to complete these tasks. The reality is that if you wait until you're in the right frame of mind to do certain tasks (especially undesirable ones), you will probably find that the right time simply never comes along and the task never gets completed (Cherry, 2020).
So, The Question Is, How Do We Overcome Procrastination?
- Remove Distractions!
- Getting Clear On Your ‘Why’
- Reward Yourself
Procrastination is often triggered by distraction, which is why even quick or trivial interruptions can be far more disruptive than they might appear. Procrastination may be exacerbated by technologies such as social media and smartphones (Rozgonjuk, Kattago and Täht, 2018).
Research found that people who perceive the internet as enjoyable are more likely to report higher levels of online procrastination (Lavoie and Pychyl, 2001). Something as simple as switching off your phone, or even muting your social media notifications is a good steppingstone to drawing focus back to what is important and needs to be prioritized.
No, this is not putting forward the motion that you should go for a marathon run. Health experts recommend that when you are dealing with procrastination in any aspect of your life, if you tell yourself to devote 10-15 minutes to your tasks, you will set a healthy process in motion. If you are feeling overwhelmed for the tasks set for the day, go outside and get some fresh air. It is also why many writers and creative people go for a walk when stuck. While they might not consciously be thinking about the work on the walk, it’s as if the brain continues processing the problem in the background. And on returning to the desk, looking at the work with a refreshed eye, the creative solution can suddenly appear, seemingly from nowhere. A simple 15 minute walk is good to regenerate your thoughts and step away from the situation at play. Also, exercise is good for the mind! (Crossfield, 2020)
Sometimes procrastination can become so overwhelming that we forget what needed to get done in the first place. Create a list of tasks, projects, actions, or goals in which you procrastinate on. This list may include responding to emails, finishing a project or meeting a deadline. Write down all of these things and make a check-list with due dates next to each item so that this can keep you on track and be held accountable.
All those items on your check list have been ticked off? Reward yourself! Just like giving a pet a treat when they listen - no, we are not animals but the mentality can be used in the same way. When you finish an item on your to-do list, congratulate yourself and indulge in something that you find fun.
Drawing focus on a single task for too long can make our brains exhausted. That is why taking a step back and resting the mind is a good thing. A rested mind is more likely to do good work than an exhausted one. It is much easier said than done, and most of us fall into the circular trap of distracting ourselves and avoiding our tasks but it is all about the baby steps. You should not feel guilty about scrolling through your social media feeds or making that 5th coffee for the day when there’s ‘work’ to be done. In moderation, and within certain measures, a little procrastination now and then may be a good thing.
● Cherry, K. (2020). What is Procrastination?. Very Well Mind Psychology. [Accessed 10 March 2021] https://www.verywellmind.com/the-psychology-of-procrastination-2795944
● Crossfield, J. (2021). How to Save Yourself from Procrastination Damnation. Business2Community. [Accessed 11 March 2021] (https://www.business2community.com/strategy/how-to-save-yourself-from-procrastination-damnation-02390902
● Lavoie JAA, Pychyl TA (2001) Cyberslacking and the procrastination superhighway: a web-based survey of online procrastination, attitudes, and emotion. Soc Sci Comput Rev 19(4):431–444. [Accessed 11 March 2021] https://doi.org/10.1177/089443930101900403