According to Wikipedia, “Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the “last minute” before a Deadline. Procrastination can take hold on any aspect of life-putting off cleaning the stove, repairing a leaky roof, seeing a doctor or dentist, submitting a job report or academic assignment or broaching a stressful issue with a partner. Procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt”.
I wanted to write about Time Management but a friend of mine updated her post as “Procrastination” on Facebook and in comments i wrote” IS A CURSE”. Since then i am gathering data to write about Procrastination.
According to me, Procrastination is a curse who makes us tedious, lousy and we keep things off for later time. Procrastination seems to become a skill that we use very often as students, Employees and instead of embracing this laziness; we should be trying to find solutions to get rid of this negative habit. As each day goes by, we have various tasks at hand that we decide to push back until the last minute. But why not just get it done and over with? Thousands of people especially students all over the world suffer from procrastination habits daily. If you allow it to, procrastination WILL control your life. Even though I am faced with so many activities to participate in daily, I know I should focus strictly on my Work and important tasks that I need to complete. Being a Consultant, I am faced with many assignments and Challenges to work on, and from experience, lazy and rushed work is never good. Developing the habit of being a procrastinator only seems to make things worse for me as time passes on. Therefore, I must push myself to work hard even when I don’t feel like it.
As human beings, we somehow develop an urge to get lazy or get distracted very often. I am guilty of this, and I couldn’t help but notice how much waiting until the last minute hinders things, rather than helps it. In my life, I find so many other things to do rather than what I am SUPPOSED to do. I would rather go shopping than write a five-page essay, but then again, who wouldn’t?
No matter how hard you try, overcoming procrastination isn’t an easy task. It also seems almost impossible to control. Think of it as a huge cycle that holds you back from the important things in life. Within this cycle, you continuously put important tasks behind until the day they need to be completed, you rush to do it, and you stress yourself out to extreme measures during the process of getting it done. Then, from that point you receive another task, wait until the last minute and the cycle begins all over again. But, you can break this cycle. You can change it by getting a planner, setting reminders, and being more aware of your time management. After many failed attempts, you will become tired of waiting until the last few hours to write essays and study for exams. You’ll also be dissatisfied with the grades produced from cramming. If you can control how much you procrastinate, it can be a huge benefit. You’ll see improvement within yourself and your academics. This can be mastered easily if you start by not telling yourself “I’ll do it later.”
Alright, Let’s first understand why do we procrastinate
Definitions are great and all, but why do we procrastinate? What is going on in the mind that causes us to avoid the things we know we should be doing on time?
Behavioral psychology/Life Skills research has revealed a phenomenon called “Time inconsistency,” which helps explain why procrastination seems to pull us in despite our good intentions. Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. The best way to understand this is by imagining that you have two selves: your Present Self and your Future Self. When you set goals for yourself– like losing weight or writing a book or learning a language, you are actually making plans for your Future Self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future. Researchers have found that when you think about your Future self, it is quite easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits. The Future Self values long-term rewards. However, while the Future Self can set goals, only the Present Self can take action. When the time comes to make a decision, you are no longer making a choice for your Future Self. Now you are in the present moment, and your brain is thinking about the Present Self. Researchers have discovered that the Present Self really likes instant satisfaction, not long-term payoff. So future self wants to be fit and slim while present self want a milk shake. This is exactly what happens during the moment when we finally move beyond procrastination and take action. For example, let’s say you have a report to write. You’ve known about it for weeks and continued to put it off day after day. You experience a little bit of nagging pain and anxiety thinking about this paper you have to write, but not enough to do anything about it. Then, suddenly, the day before the deadline, the future consequences turn into present consequences, and you write that report hours before it is due. The pain of procrastinating finally escalated and you crossed the “Deadline.”
I work with a World’s leading consulting firm where in we have to send reports on daily, Weekly, Fortnightly and monthly. For Weekly, Fortnightly and MONTHLY,I sit down every evening to fill my excel sheet, Even though, i feel tired, boring and not at all energetic while coming back from office but to evade procrastination i do it on my daily basis. It not only saves my time but also give me a sign of relief that i don’t have to hurry up like others at the 11th hour. Many of my friends who procrastinate things get into trouble and to finish the work at the 11th hour, they often end up making it more badly.
People also procrastinate because
1: They have very low self control.
2: They fail at estimating the commitments.
3: You are Plain LAZY
4: You see some tasks as Humongous and Complicated.
5: You are scared to fail.
Different scholars, Writers, Authors and Motivational Speakers have shared their experience as “How to avoid Procrastination” I have written down few points which can be very helpful for all of us.
Option1: Temptation bundling
Is a concept that came out of behavioural economics research performed by Katy Milkman at The University of Pennsylvania. Simply put, the strategy suggests that you bundle a behaviour that is good for you in the long-run with a behaviour that feels good in the short-run.
Here are a few common examples of temptation bundling:
- Only listen to audiobooks or podcasts you love while exercising.
- Only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails.
- Only watch your favourite show while ironing or doing household chores.
- Only eat at your favourite restaurant when conducting your monthly meeting with a difficult colleague.
Option2: Make the Consequences of Procrastination More Immediate
There are many ways to force you to pay the costs of procrastination sooner rather than later. For example, if you are exercising alone, skipping your workout next week won’t impact your life much at all. Your health won’t deteriorate immediately because you missed that one workout. The cost of procrastinating on exercise only becomes painful after weeks and months of lazy behaviour. However, One day i committed to work out with a friend of mine at 7 am from Monday, I skipped this workout, the cost of skipping this workout become more immediate. I missed this one workout and i looked like a jerk.
Option 3: Keep Reminders
If you are too into social media these days then you need to cut off a bit as social media is the biggest reason of procrastination as per the recent research done by Harvard. To help you out here i personally keep sticky notes on my Laptop screen. While doing some important work, i sometimes pick up my phone to check messages and get into long conversation and i only come back when i see a sticky note on my laptop which reads as (Stop wasting your time on FB) A small reminder but a huge impact. In the same way my friend has kept a poster on a wall in her Room which reads as (Stop thinking and start working).
Get a support team, tell your friends, Roommates and Parents to remind you about your work / deadlines or to check up on you. Tell them to remind you about your GOALS.
Option4: Break down your work into easy tasks.
The great way to make tasks more achievable is to break them down. For example, consider the remarkable productivity of the famous writer Anthony Trollope. He published 47 novels, 18 works of non-fiction, 12 short stories, 2 plays, and an assortment of articles and letters. How did he do it? Instead of measuring his progress based on the completion of chapters or books, Trollope measured his progress in 15-minute increments. He set a goal of 250 words every 15 minutes and he continued this pattern for three hours each day. This approach allowed him to enjoy feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment every 15 minutes while continuing to work on the large task of writing a book.
Option5: Recognize You have a Problem in procrastinating.
We fill out To do List” with unimportant tasks.
We decide to do something else that consider fun instead of working on the task.(ex. Facebook, X-BOX,What’sApp and messenger)
We keep putting important tasks for the next day and next and next.
We easily say yes to anything that takes us away from work.
Option6: Get organized and get started.
As i was going through a Life-Skills module on Time management with my Trainees, I showed them practically the importance of Goals setting. If we set up our short term and long terms Goals, Personal and Career Goals then we won’t have time to even think about procrastination. Goals help us to move further successfully and on time.
There is an old saying that goes as, if you have to eat a frog every day, eat that in morning.
(Brian Tracy says “Frog should be a difficult task on your To “Do “List and the one we most likely procrastinate on.
If we eat this frog in the morning, it will give us energy to do other thing in our entire day. It takes 15 minutes for brain to get started to become engaged. Once you have reached this level of engagement, you will see that it will be hard to stop.
Option 7: Eliminate Distractions
One the biggest distractions these days are your Phone. Keep it away. I keep telling this to my trainees to keep Facebook, cell phones, iPods away when you are doing some important task. Nothing else is important then your career. Distractions can be someone you talk over the phone. YOUR GIRLFRIEND OR YOUR BOYFRIEND OR NEGATIVE COLLEGUE WHO ALWAYS BRAG NEGATIVE THINGS ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ORGANIZATION. Stay away from these distractions for Good.
Option8: Reward Yourself
After reaching mini Goals or your deadlines, Reward yourself with a break, a movie, or a treat to motivate you to continue for your ultimate Nirvana. Whenever we finish our work, we become happy and naturally HIGH as our brain releases a substance called “Endorphin” Lets us make this as our positive addiction. For e.g. after finishing this write-up i will treat myself with a hot bowl of chicken soup. Gosh! I can’t wait. I need to hurry up.
Option9: 6P Formula
Proper Prior Planning prevents poor performance. Before starting any work, do a bit of planning. This will save you many hours. It will also make your work easy because if we don’t have any proper prior planning, it creates a huge confusion which leads to procrastination.
Option10: Why do you need to Avoid Procrastination and work on it. Start working now.
1: You will lose your precious time.
2: You will lose your great opportunities. Ask me i have lost one recently.
3: The biggest interruption in your personal and career Goals.
4: Procrastination could ruin your career.
5: You will end up losing your self-esteem. You will feel not worthy anymore.
6: You will make late, ill and poor decisions. Even after making this decision you will have confusion hanging above your head.
7: You will damage your reputation. In your school/college or at your workplace.
8: You will risk your health. More depression which will lead to other stomach problems.
9: You will become less social and responsible person.
10: You will always have a negative though attack, which will give you sleepless nights.
(Muzamil Maqbool is a Life-Skills Consultant and author of a Book “i AM NOT A STEREOTYPE”. He has worked with many international organizations globally. Views are Personal and not from the organization he works for)