Laziness is a crime all of us are guilty of often. But what happens when you get so into the habit that it starts taking a toll on important matters, like finishing off that crucial term assignments, or beginning that tough prep for the final exams. Well, you have become a professional procrastinator. Mahrukh Nadeem writes why procrastination is really bad and how you can kick the habit.
eople often find themselves guilty of delaying things they want to get done by indulging in irrelevant activities. Cases in point: a student who wanted to finish an assignment but binge-watched a favorite web series; an employee who wanted to work on an important presentation that could make or break his promotion, but instead got caught in an inconclusive discussion on politics; a college girl who wanted to finish off an important research paper, but spent hours liking and commenting on photographs on her social media feed.Let’s admit it, we have all fallen victim to the seemingly unavoidable mental state of “I will do it tomorrow” and paid heavily for it, because that tomorrow, frankly, never dawns. This act of delaying and wasting time before a deadline or assigned task is known as procrastination.Or as Oxford Leaner’s Dictionary explains it: the act of delaying something that you should do, usually because you do not want to do it.In other words, procrastination entails ignoring an important, but likely boring or unpleasant task, in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
Impact of Procrastination
We all procrastinate. It is a fact. We often keep tasks pending on our to-do lists for days, weeks or even months. But procrastination is not a healthy habit, for it can take a toll on our lives and affect our mental health. Procrastination is an ideal way of losing precious time, forgoing many a life-changing opportunities, failing to reach our maximum potential and above all, failing to achieve the tall order of goals that we set for ourselves.
Procrastination is an ideal way of losing precious time, forgoing many life-changing opportunities, failing to reach our maximum potential and above all, failing to achieve the tall order of goals that we set for ourselves.
Frequent delays in meeting assignment deadlines and projects submissions may be detrimental to our academic as well as professional reputation and may reflect badly on us as individuals. Moreover, procrastination can force someone with the habit to eventually fall into the mental trap of self-doubt. When we consistently fail to achieve targets that we set only due to the unchecked habit of procrastinating, introspection may lead us to believe that one is simply not up to the mark when it comes to keeping promises and rising to the occasion, leading to low self-esteem.
We have all fallen victim to the seemingly unavoidable mental state of “I will do it tomorrow” and paid heavily for it, because that tomorrow, frankly, never dawns.
When things go out of control and procrastination becomes a habit that you cannot shake off regardless of how important the task at hand is, you run a serious risk of causing damage to your physical and mental health. If you feel that your laziness and habit of delaying important things is getting way out of kilter, you must seek help and give serious thought to your problem to be in control over things that you can control. Let us discuss a few ways how you can fight this habit that is casting a negative shadow on your performance, whether you are a student, a teacher, a professional or a team leader.
For starters, you need to prioritize your tasks. Sit down and write your tasks in order of priority and mark your deadlines. This will help you think clearly about which task is more important, and how much of an impact it will have on your future, be it your academic credentials or career growth. We usually procrastinate because there are often too many things on the table to take care of. Resultantly, we lose track of our priorities and focus on not so necessary tasks because they seem easy.
Weigh The Cost
When we procrastinate, we often give in to short-term gains (pleasure, relief from distress) and ignore our long-term gains (consequences of the tasks and opportunities around it). If you are delaying your tasks over and over again, you must weigh the cost of those delays. The pros and cons formula might help you there. Grab a paper, draw a line to make two halves and begin a quick analysis of a task at hand. On one side, list all the consequences that you may face if you keep on procrastinating and on the other, list down all the benefits you will gain if you complete that task. This exercise will help you analyze the cost of procrastination.
Following 5-minute Rule
Starting a task is the hardest part; we keep shelving our tasks because they are either too boring or difficult or ambiguous or frustrating. But beginning a task may be all the motivation you need, at least according to the Zierganick Effect, which states that once we start something, our brain remains alert until we finish it. So all you really need to do is persuade yourself for doing the task for 5-minutes and the Zierganick Effect will do the rest for you. Hopefully.
Divide And Conquer Approach
A job that is the size of a giant sea serpent maybe the reason you are procrastinating over and over again. So it could be a great idea to slay the monster into bits and pieces. The Divide and conquer algorithm is a computer science term that works by breaking down a larger problem into smaller sub-problems and beginning solving them to reach the greater solution. Think of the hardest of tasks and take a minute to ‘divide’ it into smaller, achievable sub-tasks. Now start working on those sub-tasks and eventually combine the pieces to ‘conquer’ the larger problem. Dividing your tasks into chunks makes it easier for our brain to take the information in and start looking for solutions.
How many times has this happened that your focus on an assignment you needed to get done got evaporated by a simple beep on your cellphone? Or hasn’t a text message often led to you abandoning a job underway and entering an altogether different state of mind? In a world of 24/7 internet connectivity, distraction comes in all shapes and sizes. It has become extremely easy to get lost in the digital world available on your smart phone for hours unnoticed and knowing how to fight distractions could go a long way towards dealing with procrastination. The advice is to disable all digital distractions and put your phone down while you tend to an important job. As an example, turn your phone off or place it in another room before you hit the books for exam prep.
You survived for an hour without your phone and were able to complete the task you had been delaying all morning? The completion calls for a treat. Reward yourself with your favorite ice cream, a movie or even extra screen-time. Celebrate and reward yourself for this little success of yours, as it will surely help you find the motivation to keep working towards bigger goals.Hopefully these tips will help you to keep yourself on track and kick the habit of procrastination for good. Your feedback on whether the tips worked for you would be a great resource for measuring the efficacy of these steps to tackle procrastination.
Mahrukh Nadeem is a clinical psychologist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org