Why You Procrastinate and 6 Easy Ways to Overcome It
It’s the end of your school day and you open up your to-do list. You see that one task you have been putting off day after day, and somehow can’t seem to bring yourself to complete it. Every day you don’t complete it, you become more frustrated. Have you experienced this? You are not alone. Many students, both high school and university level struggle with procrastination when it comes to schoolwork.
Whether it’s a big and important final project or a small homework assignment, procrastination can creep in and affect your academic performance, grades, and mental health. But, what is procrastination anyways? And how can we overcome it?
What Is Procrastination and Why Do We Do It?
Procrastination is essentially the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. Some researchers define procrastination as a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.
No matter how smart, organized and punctual you are, chances are you have struggled with procrastinating tasks usually related to school or work. In fact, studies suggest that 80-95% of college-level students procrastinate to some degree, with 50% of them considering it a problem. But why does this happen? There are a few main reasons why some people are more prone to procrastination, and usually, it has nothing to do with time management, laziness, or not being smart enough. In many cases, procrastination is a result of deeper challenges students deal with.
Causes of Procrastination
People sometimes procrastinate because they perceive their tasks as unpleasant, so they delay the negative emotions and feelings that come with them.
Perfectionism / Fear of failure
People might procrastinate because they fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, so they put it off for as long as possible. Similarly, they may be so scared of failing, that they can’t bring themself to start the task.
Lack of motivation
Motivation helps drive you to achieve what needs to be done. A lack of motivation can result in procrastinating a task out of not caring enough about completing it.
Low confidence and self-esteem
Low confidence and low self-esteem may lead someone to doubt themselves and their abilities, making it hard to start and complete a task. When we feel inadequate at something, we may put off doing it to avoid negative emotions of not being good enough.
Poor organizational skills
Poor organization and poor time management skills may also lead to procrastination. Someone may procrastinate a task if they fail to prioritize all of their tasks properly.
Some people may have underlying conditions, like ADHD, that make it harder to concentrate on work, and consequently more likely to be distracted from it.
Depression and other mental health challenges may cause low energy levels, both physically and mentally, making it harder to prioritize a task and get it done.
Effects of Procrastination
Procrastination becomes serious when it starts to affect your daily life and hinders your ability to meet your academic or personal goals. Negative consequences of procrastination may include:
Poor academic performance
Increased interpersonal relationship issues
Increased levels of stress and anxiety
Poor mental health
Increased chance of future procrastination
How to Overcome Procrastination
Luckily, there are several tools and techniques you can use to overcome procrastination and avoid harmful consequences. Check out the five tips listed below to kick-start your journey to overcoming procrastination.
1. Break Up Projects Into Smaller, More Realistic Tasks
Going into a project with the goal of completing the whole thing at once can feel daunting. Breaking up a project into smaller, more realistic tasks is a great way to combat procrastination. For example, if your task is writing an essay, you can break it down into several manageable steps like picking a topic, finding relevant sources, writing an outline, writing each paragraph, and editing. Smaller tasks are much easier to complete and a small boost of accomplishment can help motivate you to continue the rest of them.
2. Create a Dedicated Study Space
Creating a dedicated study space that minimizes distractions is a great way to beat procrastination and get your tasks done. First, make sure to remove all tempting distractions such as your phone. Clean up your space by getting rid of clutter or other unnecessary items that may also serve as a distraction. Make sure all of your necessary study tools, such as pencils, erasers, chargers, and paper, are nearby. Also, a great tip is to put your desk near natural light, like a window, to keep you alert and awake.
3. Assess Why You Procrastinate
The first and the best thing you can do to begin addressing your procrastination problems is to take a step back and assess why you procrastinate. Do you fear failure? Do you need to improve your time management skills? Do you have ADHD? Figuring out the main reason you procrastinate will lead you to your solution. This is especially important if you are dealing with any underlying conditions such as ADHD or depression, as you can take the appropriate steps to treat them.
4. Use Time Management Techniques
Time management and productivity techniques are great ways to maximize the amount of work you can get done with the time you have. For example, the Pomodoro study method is a popular technique that promotes focus and productivity. In this method, you focus on a task for 25 minutes straight and then take a 5-minute break. This is a great way to beat procrastination since you stay focused on one task at a time, rather than getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole project.
5. Reward Yourself After Completing Difficult Tasks
Rewarding your non-procrastinating behaviour is one of the best ways to celebrate your successes, and set yourself up for better habits in the future. Find tangible and personal rewards that will motivate you to complete a task. For example, you may watch an episode of your favourite TV show after completing a project or buy yourself a coffee from your favourite coffee shop after finishing writing an essay. This is a great example of positive reinforcement which will motivate you to complete tasks in the future.
6. Find an Accountability Partner
Sometimes holding yourself accountable isn't enough to motivate you to complete that nagging task on your to-do list. Finding someone to hold you accountable, whether that be a friend, classmate, parent, or tutor, is a great way to stay on track and complete your goals. Having a weekly one-on-one session with a tutor is a great way to check in with someone who has the skills and knowledge to help you with the technical aspects of your tasks, while also motivating and inspiring you to stay on top of your work.