|Are you a Procrastinator?|
Procrastination is a common issue among people today. Countless people struggle with deadlines everyday – feeling impending doom as the exam or project date gets closer and closer. It’s one of the largest problems seen in college counseling centers, and it’s something nearly everyone has to deal with at some point in their lives.
There are many underlying root causes for procrastination, and the specific cause varies according to the person. The causes are often related to one another, however, and many of them must be adequately addressed before you can overcome your procrastinating tendencies.
Research has shown people who procrastinate typically make five cognitive distortions which promote procrastination. (What’s a cognitive distortion? It’s generally known as irrational thinking, or thinking in an illogical fashion.) For instance…
- A person overestimates the amount of time left to perform a task and underestimates the amount of time required to complete it
- A person overestimates the amount of motivation they’ll have in the future (often believing they will be more motivated to do the task in the future, like maybe tomorrow)
- A person believes they need to be in the right mood to be successful in completing the task and that, if they’re not in the right mood, they won’t be very successful at the task
Not sure if you’re a procrastinator? Take this test by Psychology Today.
ROOTS OF PROCRASTINATION
Most people procrastinate because they pursue perfectionism, are fearful of doing the task badly, or are simply too disorganized with their time and resources. Procrastination can also be an indicator of something else going on with the person, such as a sign of Attention Deficit Disorder. Which of the following best describes you?
Perfectionists engage in a great deal of irrational thinking but, like most such thoughts, they don’t realize they’re doing it. Perfectionism is defined by:
- A fear of failure or of making mistakes
- A fear of disapproval or letting someone else down
- Black and white thinking (it’s either all or nothing, there are no shades of gray)
- An emphasis on “shoulds” (“I should be able to do this!”)
- And a belief that other people’s success comes easily to them
Perfectionistic attitudes set in motion a vicious cycle. First, perfectionists set unreachable goals. Second, they fail to meet these goals because the goals were impossible to begin with. Failure to reach them can be inevitable. Third, the constant pressure to achieve perfection and the inevitable chronic failure reduce productivity and effectiveness. Fourth, this cycle leads perfectionists to be self-critical and self-blaming, which results in lower self-esteem. It may also lead to anxiety and depression. At this point perfectionists may give up completely on their goals and set different goals, as they (wrongly) think, “This time if only I try harder I will succeed.” Such thinking sets the entire cycle in motion again and again and again. It’s vicious!
Fear is a big motivator, but it can also be a big reinforcement to actually NOT get much accomplished. Procrastinators who are driven by fear usually use avoidance and have an intense desire to delay performing a task, or simply wait for its expiration, so that it no longer has to be dealt with. As the number of tasks mount, the procrastinator can become depressed and resigned to failure. The fear is very self-reinforcing in that each time they fail a task because of procrastination, it reinforces their own belief of their abilities and self-worth, “I knew I was going to fail, so what’s the use of even starting work on the next assignment?” This cycle will repeat itself endlessly over the course of a year, with the person simply paralyzed by the fear of failure or doing badly on the task.
Fear of failure or doing badly on a task is difficult to overcome, because the fear is usually based on an emotion rather than logic. Most tasks are logic-based, while most procrastination tends to be emotion-based (or disorganization, a form of illogic). Overcoming fear-based procrastination can be accomplished by using the same tools and focus as you use when overcoming disorganization. The good news is that once a person accepts they can be successful, success always follows!
Disorganization is probably the largest cause of procrastination. Nobody is ever taught organizational skills in school. The largest disorganization issue is properly prioritizing tasks. Most people who procrastinate tend to tackle the easiest tasks first, regardless of whether they are urgent or not. More urgent or difficult tasks, however, begin to pile up as they are continually put off. Eventually, these urgent tasks must be attended to, and the current task gets pushed aside to focus on the immediate urgent task. You can see how this quickly leads to a disorganized schedule and a misunderstanding of which tasks should be tackled in which order.
Disorganization is reinforced by a couple of irrational beliefs that have little basis in fact. One such belief is that tasks are all large chunks that can’t be subdivided. If the task cannot be tackled all at once, as a whole, then the task isn't even worth working on. Another irrational belief is that every new task or opportunity that arises must be first dealt with before going back to work on the most urgent task. This means that the procrastinator is often unable to stay “on task” because something else has come up. The “something else” can be anything… The point is not what the something else is, but that it keeps the person from continuing work on their main task. Lastly, many procrastinators suffer from the belief that they have a better memory than they do. We all like to think we can remember everything told to us, all important deadlines, exam dates, etc. However, the fact is, though, in this fast-paced, multi-tasking society, it’s easy to forget stuff (even important things!). Unfortunately, many procrastinators won’t admit to forgetting anything, compounding their procrastination and disorganization problems.
So, how can we overcome our procrastinating ways? Well, the first step is to get your days organized, and then work from there. You can download my FREE Time Management Tool, which has been proven to help many clients move past procrastinating and actually get things done on a timely manner!
LET’s STAMP OUT YOUR PROCRASTINATION once and for all!
After years as a top producer in Sales and Marketing, Karen went back to school and graduated with a degree in health, found a job that allowed her to continue her learning while developing her coaching skills and those of other health professionals, and now she is doing what she loves by helping other people create the life they desire and deserve. As a UNFCE Instructor, Karen teaches classes that help others to realize the life they have always wanted. Find out more about her upcoming Manage Your Time and STOP Procrastinating class and view all of the Health and Wellness classes at UNF Division of Continuing Education at our website.
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