Procrastination is the practice of putting off something you must do until the last minute. Some people are very good at procrastinating and pulling off their accomplishment with seemingly little effort or consequence; individuals in this category may refer to the "art" of procrastination. But for others, procrastinating can be stressful and may cause problems for those family members, friends or coworkers who depend on the individual to accomplish a specific task. Overcome procrastination by learning why you do it and how to set yourself on the path to success.
Each person is unique; what makes one person procrastinate may not be the same reason for someone else. However, the American Management Association (AMA) reports a number of common trends when it comes to the reasons for procrastination:
- Fear - being scared of an expected response, or of failing (or succeeding!) in your endeavor
- Boredom - complete lack of interest or enthusiasm in the task at hand
- Anger - feeling angry or resentful may make you procrastinate to spite a friend or family member
- Feelings of Overwhelm - there's so much to do, you don't know where to start
No matter what your reason is for procrastination, working through your emotions can help you get the job done in a timely manner.
Creating small goals for yourself is one way to conquer procrastination without becoming overwhelmed about the entire task at hand. Manageable goals that allow you to see the "big picture", whether your task is tackling a home improvement project or losing weight, may help banish the boredom and fear of other negative feelings that often accompany stalling tactics. For example, if becoming physically fit is your end goal, break down the process into weekly steps that can give you a jump-start without resulting in feelings of discouragement or overwhelm:
- Week 1: Exercise for 20 minutes each day
- Week 2: Boost your water intake
- Week 3: Try new, heart-healthy recipes
- Week 4: Weigh yourself -- the AMA explains that measurable goals help you track your progress
If you have previously been thinking about changing your entire diet and lifestyle routine all at once, the relatively huge demands of your end goal probably seem overwhelming and fear-provoking. The incremental approach to any job you've been putting off makes each step more manageable, relevant and achievable.
Focus on Facts
Procrastination is largely charged by emotions: you don't want to do it, you are afraid of it, you are angry so you won't do it, whatever "it" is. Changing the way you think about your endeavor is a factor in overcoming your fear, disdain, insecurity and so on. Instead of letting your feelings drive your inertia, focus on facts. Think logically about your project, including the tools you'll need, the timeframe each step should take, and what the outcome will look like. Change your phrasing to "I will" instead of "I can't" and see how the positive language affects your enthusiasm for the task. You might even find you are not only up for the challenge, but excited about the prospect of tackling something you didn't think you could do.
Sometimes when you procrastinate, you are putting off the inevitable because you don't want to fail. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and accepting that you are not perfect can help you curb your procrastinating ways. Everyone wants perfection, but it's not a very practical view of real life. If you aim for "excellence" instead of "perfection," suggests psychologist Linda Sapadin, you aren't subjecting yourself to arbitrary standards that drain you of energy and spirit.