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PROCRASTINATION – The thief of time.

Good things don’t always come to those who wait, such is the case of procrastination. “ I am not procrastinating, I am just taking a break.” we all have used this line at some point or the other in our lives.

Even if we openly deny, we all procrastinate to some degree. Research shows that over 84-87 percent of people procrastinate, so don’t worry you are not alone. No one likes piled up work or last minute hassles.

Then why do we engage in this habit of putting off work and then regret it only to repeat it the next time? Why is there such a negative connotation to the word procrastination? It is something we all struggle with but often deny to even notice.

From making to-do lists to eliminating distractions, there are gazillion steps and tricks on the internet that help you combat procrastination. It has been a subject of extensive research for psychologists and experts. They have employed a multi-perspective approach to understand this tendency to procrastinate and the consequences it entails.

There are various external factors that cause delay in work however what distinguishes procrastination is the active choice that an individual makes to favor one activity over the other. Out of all possible areas of procrastination,  procrastination in the academic domain has been observed to be the highest.

Owing to the fact that procrastination is not considered a psychiatric disorder, the occurrence and the diagnosis is highly subjective. The commonly observed impacts of procrastination include decline in performance, heightened stress levels, guilt, worry, anxiety etc.

It greatly affects the physical as well as the mental health of the individual. In addition, procrastination also causes delay in ongoing treatment, lack of compliance and immense distress. Have you ever wondered why we indulge in such self-defeating behavior that is so detrimental to our well-being?

So let’s look at some reasons underlying procrastination that will help us understand why we do it!

Reasons for why do we procrastinate

Am I good enough? 

You start doubting yourself even before engaging in the task and hence try to delay the task altogether. You may have a predetermined conception about your capabilities that lead you to feel more stressed during tasks.

In addition to this, people who rate high on fear of failure tend to avoid tasks that might pose a threat to their self concept. They engage in active procrastination much more than others. They have limited tolerance for the discomfort that failure would produce.  Fear of failure is often concealed with excuses like – I am not feeling well, I have other things to do or the task isn’t even that important. Procrastination induced by fear of failure is also one of the main causes for academic underachievement. 

 

You accept nothing less than perfect.

Your excessive drive for perfectionism keeps you from even starting the task. Even if you do start the task, you’re unable to finish it because you think it isn’t perfect.

Perfectionists don’t actively delay the work but because of their extreme attention to detail, they tend to tire themselves out entirely before completing the task at hand. This type of procrastinators overthink about how others will evaluate their work and judge them. They often believe that people might consider them incompetent if their work is not absolutely perfect.

 

Procrastination prone personality.

This kind of procrastinators seek immediate gratification instead of accomplishing long term goals. They tend to prefer quick results with minimal efforts. They would rather watch an extra episode of their favorite TV show than submit their assignment on time.

Furthermore, people who are easily distracted also end up procrastinating a lot. The distractors could be social media, peers, television etc. They would rather complete a small task that grabs their attention than do the actual task which they find difficult or aversive.

 

Task characteristics. 

Dysfunctional beliefs like negative thoughts and irrational assumptions lead to delay in commitments. However, at times, the task itself is a contributing factor for procrastination. If the commitment is considered as aversive or boring, you are likely to avoid it.

The task’s perceived unpleasantness coupled with the individual’s lack of interest is one of the most prominent reasons for procrastination. The more stressful or time consuming the task is, the more likely you will procrastinate doing it. Research shows that people who indulge in habitual procrastination feel aversive towards most of their commitments.

 

Planning fallacy.

Planning fallacy refers to our tendency to make predictions about and underestimate the time   taken to complete a given task. We engage in this cognitive bias despite our prior knowledge and experience with tasks. We overlook the external factors like costs and risks and focus only on our abilities.

This leads us to make poor decisions about the future based on unrealistic estimates.  From multinational companies to small businesses, Planning fallacy affects everybody.

 

Medical conditions.  

Although procrastination isn’t a psychological disorder in itself, it can be one of the indicators for various clinical conditions. Low motivation, concentration and perseverance that lead us to procrastinate are often associated with a range of psychological disorders.

Research in this field by Flett and colleagues have found positive correlation between procrastination and depression. Procrastination has also been linked to anxiety and personality disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder. It also is one of the many symptoms such as inattentiveness, difficulty in getting work done, and organizational problems in ADHD.

 

How do you combat procrastination? 

There is no full-proof treatment method for procrastination and the supposed ‘cure’ for it is unique to every individual.

The first step is to understand and accept your own abilities and be kind to yourself. Torturing yourself by obsessing over the time lost will only discourage you to complete the task.

It is also necessary to reduce self doubt and give it a try rather than limiting yourself.

Procrastination strives on our desire for momentary pleasures, so the way to overcome this tendency is to remind yourself of the greater goals.

For perfectionists, focusing on completing the task instead of overemphasizing on the details could go a long way.

It is necessary to take proper treatment in order to combat disorder illness induced procrastination. Personal development is only possible through time management, inculcating discipline and efficient planning.

‘Due tomorrow isn’t always do tomorrow’ is the mantra that can help to reduce procrastination.

 

References :

9 Reasons You Procrastinate (and 9 Ways to Stop). (2021). Retrieved 12 February 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fearless-you/201506/9-reasons-you-procrastinate-and-9-ways-stop

Klingsieck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination. European Psychologist.

Rozental, A., & Carlbring, P. (2014). Understanding and treating procrastination: A review of a common self-regulatory failure. Psychology, 5(13), 1488.

Procrastination: Three main types of procrastinators. (2021). Retrieved 12 February 2021, from https://thedaleypost.com/2016/04/28/procrastination-1-three-main-types-of-procrastinators-and-the-evils-that-befall-them/

Schouwenburg, H. C. (1992). Procrastinators and fear of failure: An exploration of reasons for procrastination. European Journal of personality, 6(3), 225-236.

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