It took me a month to write this blog post on Procrastination. Why did it take me so long to write this post? It’s because I procrastinated.

And why did I procrastinate? It’s because I didn’t think I could write on this topic and also, I didn’t know where to start. But I persevered and here it is.

Read on and find out what is procrastination and how it can hinder your success. It’s quite an eye-opener!

What is procrastination?

Everyone knows this: Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task that needs to be done.

It is a common issue that affects people from all walks of life, especially in today’s society where everyone is constantly bombarded with distractions and options.

But what most people don’t know or realize is that procrastination can have a negative impact on your productivity, performance, and well-being.

What goes on in your brain when you procrastinate

This section deals with the science of procrastination. So, skip to the next section if neuroscience is not “your cup of tea”.

According to many research studies, when a person procrastinates, there is a conflict between two parts of the brain: the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.

The limbic system is the more dominant part of the brain. It is responsible for emotions, instincts, and pleasure-seeking. It is also the source of your impulses and urges to avoid unpleasant or difficult tasks. The limbic system acts automatically and unconsciously, without much regard for the consequences.

The prefrontal cortex is the weaker part of the brain (compared to the limbic system). It is responsible for your planning, decision-making, and self-control. It is also the part that helps you overcome your impulses and urges, and focus on your goals and responsibilities. The prefrontal cortex acts deliberately and consciously but it requires more effort and attention from you.

When you are given a task that you need to do but don’t want to do, your brain’s limbic system and prefrontal cortex enter into a tug-of-war. Your limbic system tries to persuade you to do something more enjoyable or less stressful than the task, while your prefrontal cortex tries to remind you of the benefits or the importance of doing the task.

Who wins in this tug-of-war depends on several factors, such as your personality, habits, motivation, mood, and environment. Sometimes, your prefrontal cortex wins and you do the task. Other times, your limbic system wins and you procrastinate.

Procrastination is often seen as a form of failure, where you fail to align your action with your intention. This can lead to negative emotions like guilt, regret, anxiety, and stress. Procrastination can also negatively impact on your productivity, performance, and well-being.

Why you procrastinate

There are many reasons why you procrastinate. These reasons can be broadly categorized into two types: emotional and rational.

Emotional procrastination is when you avoid a task because of the negative feelings it evokes in you. These feelings include fear, anxiety, boredom, or resentment. For example, you may procrastinate on writing a report because you are afraid of criticism, or on doing your taxes because you hate dealing with numbers.

Rational procrastination is when you delay a task because of the perceived costs and benefits of doing it now versus later. For example, you may procrastinate on cleaning your house because you think you have more important things to do, or on booking a flight because you hope to find a better deal later.

Both types of procrastination are influenced by your personality traits, habits, beliefs, and environment. Some people are more prone to procrastinate than others because of their temperament, self-control, motivation, or values.

Some tasks are more likely to cause procrastination than others because of their difficulty, complexity, ambiguity, or urgency. Similarly, some situations are more conducive to procrastination because they have more options, distractions, temptations, or alternatives.

How procrastination affects your productivity

Procrastination can reduce your productivity in several ways:

Quality and quantity of your work. When you procrastinate, you often rush to finish the task at the last minute. This is usually done by compromising the quality and accuracy of your work. You will also miss out on the opportunity to do more work or improve your skills by spending more time and effort on the task.

Stress and anxiety levels. When you procrastinate, you create a gap between your goals and actions. This tends to lead to guilt and regret over what you are not doing. You also have to deal with the stress of not meeting deadlines and expectations, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and nervous.

Self-esteem and confidence. When you procrastinate, you undermine your own abilities and potential. This can damage your self-image and self-worth. You also lose the trust and respect of others who depend on you or work with you. This can affect your work relationships and reputation.

Personal and professional growth. When you procrastinate, you limit your learning and development opportunities by avoiding challenges and feedback. You also miss out on the rewards and satisfaction that come from achieving your goals and fulfilling your responsibilities.

How to overcome procrastination

Procrastination is not an incurable disease. It is a behavior that you can change using some strategies and techniques. Here are some suggestions that can help you overcome procrastination and boost your productivity:

Set SMART goals. [SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.] When you set SMART goals, you clarify what it is you want to achieve, how you measure your progress, whether you have the resources and skills to do it, why it matters to you, and when you will do it.

Break the task into smaller chunks. When you break down a big task into smaller chunks or subtasks, you can reduce the complexity and ambiguity of the task. This makes the work more manageable and less daunting. You can also increase your motivation and momentum by completing each subtask and seeing your progress.

Use the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that involves working on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. When you use this technique, you can improve your focus and concentration by eliminating distractions and interruptions. You can also enhance your efficiency and effectiveness by working in short bursts of high intensity.

Reward yourself when you complete a task. When you reward yourself for completing a task, you reinforce your positive behavior and increase your motivation and satisfaction. You can reward yourself with anything that makes you happy or relaxed, such as eating a snack, playing a game, listening to music, or watching a movie.

Seek support from others. Seeking help, guidance, comments, or accountability from others who share your goals or encounter similar obstacles, can help you stay on track and motivated. You can also learn from their experiences and insights, or work with them to achieve your goals faster and more effectively.

Change to a growth mindset. When you change your mindset to a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, you can overcome the emotional barriers that cause you to procrastinate. When you have a growth mindset, you can embrace challenges and feedback as opportunities to grow and learn.

Use positive affirmations. Replace any negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Negative self-talk is that inner voice that criticizes, doubts, or discourages you from doing the task. Using positive affirmations like “I can do it” can boost your confidence and motivation, and reduce your fear and anxiety.

Reframing the task. When you reframe the task, you change the way you perceive the task. For example, by framing the task as a choice instead of a chore, you can increase your sense of control over the task and align it with your goals and values.

Conclusion

Procrastination is a common problem that affects many people’s productivity, performance, and well-being. It is caused by various emotional and rational factors that influence your decision-making process.

Procrastination, on the other hand, can be overcome with some strategies and techniques that can help you manage your time, energy, and emotions better. By following these strategies, you can stop procrastinating and start producing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is procrastination?
A: Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or decision that needs to be done.

Q: Why do you procrastinate?
A: You procrastinate because of various emotional and rational factors that influence your decision-making process. Some common reasons are fear, anxiety, boredom, resentment, lack of motivation, poor discipline, or flawed thinking patterns.

Q: How does procrastination affect your productivity?
A: Procrastination can have a negative impact on your productivity in several ways. It can reduce the quality and quantity of your work, increase your stress and anxiety levels, lower your self-esteem and confidence, and hinder your personal and professional growth.

Q: How can you overcome procrastination?
A: You can overcome procrastination with some strategies and techniques that can help you manage your time, energy, and emotions better. Some tips are setting SMART goals, breaking down large tasks into smaller subtasks, using the Pomodoro technique, rewarding yourself for completing tasks, seeking support from others, and changing your mindset and attitude.

Q: Where can you find more information on procrastination and productivity?
A: You can find more information on procrastination and productivity by checking out the references listed at the end of the post.


References

  • Balkıs, M., & Duru, E. “The Direct and Indirect Role of Self Esteem and Procrastination in the Relation to Fear of Failure and Self Worth.” Journal of Human Sciences, vol. 9, no. 2, 2012, pp.1075–1093.
  • Jaffe, E. “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association for Psychological Science, April 2013.
  • Steel, P. “The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure.” Psychological Bulletin, vol.133, no. 1, 2007, pp. 65–94.
  • Wypych, M., Michalowski, J. M. Drozdziel, D., et al. “Attenuated Brain Activity During Error Processing and Punishment Anticipation in Procrastination.” Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article no. 11492, 2019.
  • Zhang, W., Wang, X., Feng, T. “Identifying the Neural Substrates of Procrastination: a Resting-State fMRI Study.” Scientific Reports, vol. 6, article no. 33203, 2016.