What is procrastination and how to overcome it

Many people know what it is to write a thesis in one month or even in one week. The topic was known for a long time, the time for preparation was a carriage, but the student still missed the chance to complete the task on time. This is a common example of procrastination..

There are many reasons for this behavior, but all of them can be fought. The main goal: to make the tasks interesting, seem feasible, and mistakes do not have too high a price.

What is procrastination?

adult man launches paper airplane

This is a tendency to constantly put off things until later, because of which problems arise in work, study, personal life. Its periodic manifestations are considered the norm. But when procrastination becomes a system, this needs to be fixed..

How is procrastination different from laziness?

man lying on the bed and looking at a smartphone

Both procrastinating and lazy give in to mechanisms of instant gratification – they watch movies, leaf through the tape in social networks, go for a walk with friends. But the first one is worried and ashamed, and with the approach of the deadline the anxiety develops into a panic. He simultaneously feels stress because he does not want to work and because he does not fulfill his duties. Energy is not restored, as with a planned vacation.

Procrastination Studies

man tells a lecture

American psychologist Hal Hershfield believes that a person does not worry about the future “I”, because he perceives it as a different person. The “do it now, in the future to have more money / rest / freedom” principle works rarely and poorly. We empathize with the present and want to escape from discomfort in order to enjoy.
In support of the theory says the study of Hershfield. He did an fMRI of the brain of people when they thought of three personalities: their present, themselves in 10 years, and celebrities. The pictures showed that when thinking about yourself, the future or the celebrity, the same parts of the brain are active. And while thinking about the present, other areas work. That is, the future “I” is a different person. His problems are less important than “my” current.

Causes of Procrastination

woman sits on the phone at work

There are several theories about why people procrastinate, but not one is universally accepted. Most likely, there are many reasons and each of them affects to a different degree.


• Defensive reaction


Professor Timothy Pickle of Carleton University believes that procrastination is a manifestation of a natural reaction to stress and discomfort. We shy away from doing things to feel good. But this does not happen, because it crushes responsibility: the video with seals on YouTube warms the soul, but the time for the quarterly report is getting less.


• Perfectionism


Here, a person is not distracted from the main task, but devotes too much attention to small details. Some parts of the project are perfect, and the rest are either hastily done or not completed at all.


• Self limitation


This version says that a person intentionally does not allow himself to do everything on time. He is afraid to stand out from the masses, achieve success, show that he is better than others.


• Uncertainty


A condition in which a person does not try to make changes in life, because he fears negative consequences. He is not fixated on trifles, like a perfectionist, but is sure that nothing will work. And so it puts it off until the last.


• Boredom


One of the most common reasons: a person does not want to do work that is boring or hateful to him.


• Excess liability


When tasks seem too complicated, one cannot believe that they can be dealt with at all. It’s not clear where to start, so you don’t have to redo it later. Due to anxiety, a person finds a way to escape. And the project is at a dead end.


• The pleasure of “fever”


There are people who like action and crazy activity. They work more effectively under stressful conditions and deliberately procrastinate in order to push themselves into a tight framework. You can’t talk about real procrastination here, because such a person does not feel anxiety and shame for putting things off.

Theory of Time Motivation

computer engineer thought

This is one of the most justified scientific ideas about the mechanism of procrastination. The theory says that a person’s desire to act depends on how useful and real he considers the task. Four factors influence this:

  • Estimated Remuneration.
  • Term.
  • Confidence in success.
  • Delay Sensitivity.

That is, a person will not want to postpone the matter if he believes that he can handle it, meet the deadline and receive a good reward. The term should not be long – otherwise the task will be perceived as less useful, or too small – the time limit will cause stress and encourage people to do nothing.

How to deal with procrastination

man look out the window at work

The main skills for effectively combating procrastination are task planning and prioritization. If the goals follow each other, and each is perceived as valuable – it is difficult to procrastinate.


1. Break tasks


It’s easier to take a few small steps than one big jump. If you do not reach the goal, part of the task will still be completed, and continuing is easier than starting from scratch..


2. Start with a small task


Work on a large project requires effort. But it happens that there is not a single good idea in the head. It can be resisted.

Start small. For example, you are engaged in texts. Make one sentence and edit it. You may want to supplement it with others, and then complete the thought in the paragraph. After it logically appears the following.


3. State your goal


Responsibility to the environment is a strong incentive. Write about what you want to do on your page on the social network. Forgetting a public promise is hard.


4. Create multiple deadlines


When you need to submit a report in two weeks, set a goal for yourself – to have a draft in a week. Halfway through, you will have a complete plan and structure. It will only be necessary to “comb” the text. In the event that such a plan does not like, there will be time to finalize it.


5. Make tasks interesting


Do not turn your profession into a routine. Try to diversify the work that seems boring to you. If possible, go to the authorities and frankly say that you want to perform more interesting tasks. Ask if there is a way to move to another department. For example, instead of “cold calls”, start engaging in contextual advertising. Find out under what conditions it will be real.


6. Distribute effort


Successful athletes are able to correctly distribute the load so as not to run out of breath and show the best result. Do not try to do a huge part of the work in a short time – it is so easy to burn out. When you have 10 days to complete, make a plan of 10 equally time-consuming steps. Do not take on a new stage before this is indicated in the plan. Better to experience the pleasure of relaxation than to break out of rhythm.


7. Limit the pleasures


If your procrastination is surfing on social networks, then block access to them..

Use on computers:

  • Gold turkey (Windows)
  • Selfcontrol (Macos)

In browsers:

  • LeechBlock (Firefox)
  • Stay focusd (Chrome)

For smartphones there are applications:

  • Offtime
  • SPACE

8. Do not blame yourself


When you are unable to stay on the working wave – do not scold yourself. Self-flagellation will worsen your mood and repulse your last desire to do something. Tell yourself: “Yes, I took the time to rest. This is also important. Now it will be easier for me to advance in my work. ”.

Procrastination Bookswoman reads in public transport


“Win the procrastination!” (Peter Ludwig)


An authoritative psychologist from Europe talks about his experience. The book describes simple methods on how to stop mourning over burning deadlines and start doing everything on time.


“Do not put off until tomorrow. A Brief Guide to Combating Procrastination ”(Timothy Pickle)


This book is based on research by psychologists on the topic of postponement and shifting responsibility. Scientific facts, practical advice and a moderate amount of humor help to easily absorb material, “try on” it and make life full.


The Art of Procrastination (John Perry)


Not every procrastinator can get rid of the problem using a standard strategy. Sometimes this is the result of more complex organizational, psychological or family problems. Therefore, John Perry does not talk about the war with procrastination, but about how to understand it and wrap yourself up.

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