Procrastination-How to overcome it?

This note is prepared based on my understanding of the article, which appeared in The Washington Post on July 9th 2021. The article is written by Angela Haupt. She is a freelance writer and editor.

Angela has drawn the primary content from two books. The first book is Still Procrastinating? — The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done. Joseph Ferrari, the author, says that 20 percent of adults are chronic procrastinators and procrastinating is not a trivial matter. The author doesn’t procrastinate, and his 107-page resume is a testimony to this fact. He has built a career around studying and understanding those who procrastinate. His research has led him to believe that ‘everybody procrastinates’.

According to Fuschia Sirois, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sheffield in England, ‘procrastination is the voluntary, unnecessary delay of an important task’. Sirois opines that Procrastination stems from ‘an inability to manage negative moods around a certain task’. People don’t procrastinate if the task is a fun based like playing video games, watching a movie etc. The functions are ‘difficult, unpleasant aversive or just plain boring or stressful’. Siro is has identified one more reason why people procrastinate — low self-esteem. Many believe that they can’t accomplish the task perfectly. Procrastination leads to many health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. Procrastinators may suffer from headaches, insomnia, and digestive problems. They also delay preventive treatment like regular health check-ups. The article also discussed the concept known as ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ — the act of pushing off sleep to make time for personal activities. Procrastinators may also suffer from hypertension and heart diseases because they don’t any proactive steps to change their diet or exercise.

There are some helpful tips given to stop or overcome procrastination shared in the article.

  1. Practice Self-Compassion — ‘Treat yourself with kindness and understanding’. Self-compassion doesn’t make people lazy. Research has shown that it practising self-compassion increases the motivation level, which will lead to self-improvement.
  2. Attach Meaning to task — One way to end the habit of Procrastination is to find meaning in the task. ‘Write down why it is important to you’, says Sirois.
  3. Start Small — Always break the big tasks into smaller, doable chunks.
  4. Choose which task to do first — based on your personal preference, always select the functions you think are doable first. There are more insights about this in the book by Gretchen Rubin titled ‘Better than before.’
  5. Find a work zone free of distractions — This is good for tasks that demand attention and more focus.
  6. Procrasticlearning — The urge to clean up your workspace before you start leading to mental fatigue and further Procrastination. One way to avoid this being mindful.
  7. Reward yourself — Based on the Premack Principle — something somebody wants to do becomes the reward for something they don’t want to do”. Ferrari points out that our society doesn’t reward the early bird. We always penalize those who pay their taxes and fees late, but there is no system to reward the early birds. Ferrari believes that ‘if we consistently reward earliness, we can curb procrastination.’
  8. External Help — Using social. Media to your advantage by posting your goals. This will create a sense of accountability since your network of friends will hold you accountable for not completing the tasks.

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