This time of year, a lot of people make New Year’s resolutions, but most of them fade away within a few days or weeks. One of the reasons for this could be that you’re procrastinating – and so maybe stopping procrastination is a resolution in and of itself! Elsa González Lueje from In-Mentis Integrative Psychology gives you some advice to help you overcome procrastination in 2024.
Procrastination is when you delay an important or boring task unnecessarily, focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable or easier activities instead. This phenomenon has been well-reported throughout history, so it’s not something new. Nevertheless, the rate of frequent procrastination has increased in the last few years, especially with the appearance of technology.
Procrastination happens to all of usWe all procrastinate from time to time and it is normal as long as it doesn’t have a big impact on our lives, emotions or stress. Some procrastination is okay, depending on how many tasks you are procrastinating ,and whether putting it off brings negative consequences.
However, if you’re procrastinating a lot, it may also be a sign that there is something happening within you from a psychological perspective. For example, procrastination can be considered a self-defeating behaviour pattern.
Procrastination versus lazinessProcrastination is not being lazy – it actually has nothing to do with that. Laziness is an unwillingness to act; there is an intention, a decision to not do the task. With procrastination, on the other hand, there is a will but there is something pushing us back. If we link it to laziness, we will feel guilty, and it will thus increase the amount of irrational thoughts we may have.
Why do we procrastinate?Procrastination can be a symptom of depression, anxiety, Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or trauma.
But we can also procrastinate without the presence of a disorder. Anyone experiencing the following issues in their daily lives may also procrastinate:
Perfectionism and low self-esteem: A lack of faith in your abilities to achieve the task, believing you are not good enough or having impostor syndrome. Emotion regulation: Difficulties in regulating your mood and emotions, a lack of self-control and problems expressing your needs and concerns. Instant gratification: Difficulties delaying gratification and preferring short-term or immediate benefits and rewards (or just wanting to feel better immediately). Fear about the future: Fear of a task’s outcome or what events may come after it (e.g. after an exam, promotion, diagnosis, etc). Social anxiety: Fear of being judged or embarrassed or of being the centre of attention. Tiredness: When we are suffering from emotional challenges, our body gets tired because of all the stress and the cortisol that we release. This exhaustion takes longer to recover from than from physical tiredness. Sometimes this fatigue is making us procrastinate because we don’t have the sufficient energy or motivation to start the task. If you are suffering from any of the issues on this list, read on to find out the different ways that you can deal with procrastination and get your tasks done on time.
ConsequencesThings can become more complicated when you procrastinate. Leaving everything until the last minute, or not doing the things on time / not finishing them can create an obstacle. The flow of what has to be done becomes blocked, affecting yourself and others.
This can bring more stress and reinforces the cognitive distortions and irrational cognitions related to the critical thoughts about yourself. As a result, this creates a cycle because these emotions loop you back into procrastination once again to deal with the negative thoughts.
Procrastination can also bring negative consequences related to the task itself and this is important if it is related to work or health issues.
Procrastination in children and teenagersWhen procrastination affects children and teenagers, there is another factor involved that adults don’t experience: their brains are not fully developed. Their prefrontal cortexes aren’t yet working at 100% capacity as they are in an adult brain. This area of the brain is involved in executive functioning, which includes planning, thinking about consequences, accepting long-term gratification and self-control. All of these functions are necessary for completing the tasks that we need to take care of – and a younger brain is more likely to procrastinate by nature.
However, we have to be careful here with the labels given to kids. If we tell them that they are constantly procrastinating because that’s just the way they are, they might embrace the label too much and continue with the behaviour of procrastinating when they become adults.
6 tips to overcome procrastinationHere are some tips to help you deal with procrastination:
Get rid of labels: Tell yourself that you are not lazy, you don’t have to be perfect and you are good enough. Organising: List your tasks and prioritise them due to the amount of time they take and their deadlines. Break tasks down into smaller chunks: Make your tasks as small as you need to so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and are able to fulfil them. Just start: Focus on just the first movement. Get up, start your computer or put on your trainers. Just think about that single step – don’t think about the rest of the task, what comes after or anything else. Reward yourself: Treat yourself for doing those small tasks. Get yourself a coffee, read a nice book or watch your favourite TV series or movie! Do whatever makes you feel calm and relaxed. Keep going: Continue onto the next step of your task, repeat the items on the list and start the cycle all over again. Whether you are procrastinating many, small tasks or avoiding just one big responsibility, you can always change your ways to help you cope better with daily life.
You’re not aloneProcrastination can affect anyone at any stage of life and of any occupation. Whether you’re a student, a blue-collar worker or an office employee, procrastination can negatively affect your work and your mental wellbeing. However, change is always possible with the right mindset and motivation.
If stopping procrastination is one of your New Year’s resolutions and you feel you cannot manage to achieve it on your own, you can contact In-Mentis Integrative Psychology. Their team of psychologists can help you work on the root of this behaviour.