Procrastination is an all-too-common struggle that many of us face. Procrastination not only stops us from being productive, but it also makes us feel guilty, anxious and is extremely challenging to overcome.
There is a great deal of pressure in today’s modern, fast-paced world to be productive all the time and to always be available to work or study. This can not only lead to anxiety about performance but can also lead to stress and eventual burnout.
The term procrastination is sometimes confused with laziness, which could not be further from the truth. Procrastination has to do with a complex interplay of emotions rather than laziness. Once we are able to learn how to stop procrastination, we can begin to feel less guilty and more content with ourselves and our outputs.
Causes of Procrastination
One of the major causes of procrastination is our pursuit of perfectionism. Specifically, the pursuit of perfectionism is both a consequence of and results from anxiety. In other words, you feel anxious and therefore pursue perfection, but the unattainable nature of perfectionism also causes anxiety.
This causes a vicious cycle of anxiety and avoidant behaviors to evade the feeling of being anxious (such as avoiding a task) – resulting in procrastination.
The negative feelings we have attached to a task, such as anxiety in completing a college essay, tend to overtake our ability to complete the task, resulting in procrastination due to anxiety.
Essentially, because we are unable to manage the anxiety around a task, we put it off in an effort to avoid the feeling of anxiety – which is the crux of procrastination. Procrastination due to anxiety can be debilitating and contribute further to anxiety.
Fear of failure and criticism
Fear of failure is something most of us can relate to, and it is easy to see why we might procrastinate due to a fear of failure. Interestingly (and maybe infuriatingly), the more fear we have of failure to achieve our goals, the less action we take in attaining them.
Avoidance of tasks is a symptom that is shared by both depression and procrastination. Depression is characterized by self-doubt, as is procrastination. In fact, feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt can not only cause procrastination but actively contribute to it.
Additionally, feelings of low self-esteem and guilt, which are common in depression, are also side effects of procrastination.
Trouble focusing and ADHD
Procrastination is a familiar behavior in individuals with ADHD. Those with trouble focusing or ADHD may struggle with procrastination, which is then exacerbated by anxiety related to their awareness of procrastinating.
Absence of structure
Procrastination can flourish in an environment where it is not kept in check. When there is little structure or time management, procrastination can quickly get out of control, peaking at a point at which deadlines come crashing down all at once and making us feel overwhelmed.
Unpleasant or ambiguous tasks
It is usually easier to procrastinate on tasks that we don’t want to do rather than those we enjoy. It is a lot easier to procrastinate on your deadlines in college or at work rather than procrastinating on a Netflix marathon. This is not to say that one can’t procrastinate on tasks that are enjoyable.
If a task is ambiguous or unclear, it is also easier and more likely that you will procrastinate on it purely because you don’t know how to approach it.
How to Stop Procrastination?
Although overcoming procrastination may seem like an uphill battle, it is not impossible. Once you know how to overcome procrastination, you will be equipped to deal with it when it comes knocking.
Manage your anxiety
This method is fighting the root cause of procrastination, which is anxiety. Managing your anxiety will minimize feelings of being overwhelmed by the task and will, in turn, reduce procrastination. Reducing procrastination will then reduce your anxiety, as you will experience fewer feelings of guilt.
Anxiety is a multi-faceted dilemma, and there are many ways to tackle it. Read more here and here about managing anxiety. Alternatively, therapy or online therapy will help manage anxiety.
Manage your energy
There is power in just taking the first step and simply getting started. Once the ball is rolling, it will become easier to stop procrastinating. A helpful tool is recognizing when you have energy peaks and energy dips throughout the day and work during the times you have energy peaks.
For example, if you are a night owl, where your energy peaks in the evenings, it might be a good idea to churn out your college essay at night while you eat your dinner. Just be careful about venturing into the territory of procrastination eating!
An important part of managing your energy is taking sufficient breaks so that your logical flow has enough time to rest and pick up again. At work, it might be helpful to take a short walk to the water cooler when you need a break or breathe in some fresh air outside.
Manage your time
A key part of how to stop procrastination is by managing your time. Make use of a planner or a planning app so that you are aware of all your deadlines. You can also allocate a certain amount of time to each task so that your time is balanced and all your commitments can be accomplished. It may also be helpful to break up large tasks into smaller components that are easier to tackle.
Remember to plan time to rest, as working too hard can lead to burnout.
Accept that you won’t be “always on”
We need to accept that there will be good days and bad days. We cannot always be productive, and that is okay. On days where it is hard to focus, work on tasks that are more low-level and don’t require as much energy. That way, you won’t be overcome with guilt or feelings of laziness because you still use your time wisely.
Overcome your fear of failure
Failure is an inevitable part of life. Fear of failure can become so debilitating that it doesn’t allow you to achieve your goals. Instead, it would be beneficial to reframe failure not as something negative but rather as a learning curve and opportunity to try again and do better.
Overcoming the fear of failure will not only be freeing and beneficial to overcoming anxiety, but it will also lessen feelings of guilt, laziness, and ultimately, procrastination.
Let go of perfectionism
Perfectionism is unrealistic, unattainable, and contributes to procrastination by making us believe that we shouldn’t do the task unless it is guaranteed to have a perfect outcome. You might also fall into the trap of waiting for the “perfect time” to start on your task, which will never come. Always remember that getting the job done is always better than it being perfect.
Therapy can be helpful in planning and managing time, as well as finding the reasons and causes behind your procrastination.
Moreover, online therapy is a new way to attend therapy that is comfortable, affordable, and accommodating of your schedule, which is especially important if you are trying to improve your time management.
Online counseling services also have exercises implemented in therapy apps that therapists can recommend.
Overcome Procrastination and Feel Content With Yourself Again
Procrastination is extremely common and can feel debilitating as well as overwhelming. However, it is possible to overcome procrastination by understanding its causes and using various strategies to cope.
Procrastination can be caused by anxiety, depression, fear of failure and criticism, issues with focussing, a pursuit of perfectionism, and the nature of the task itself. Nevertheless, it is still possible to overcome procrastination through the use of various approaches.
Managing one’s emotions such as anxiety, focussing your time and energy, letting go of perfectionism, accepting bad days as a natural course, and overcoming your fear of failure are all tactics on how to overcome procrastination.
Over and above these tactics, therapy is also a means to aid us in prevailing over procrastination. Online therapy has the added benefits of being comfortable, affordable, and widely accessible to many individuals. In addition, tools and exercises utilized in online therapy are widely beneficial and have been found to help significantly. In this way, online therapy can be used to find the root causes of procrastination and to develop strategies for individuals to work through and prevail over procrastination.