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Theodore Roosevelt once spoke about the importance of doing something, anything in life: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
If he saw the state of many people today, however, he might change his words. He might even say that the worst thing to do is to wait for something to happen. That state of waiting for change or action, while not doing anything to make it happen, is known as “procrastination”. It’s what happens when you take your time to do something, delaying or postponing it for later.
Experts and psychologists nowadays identify procrastination as a self-sabotage pattern. It’s a thought process wherein you continue to delay or postpone doing things, even if it’s against your better judgment. While anyone can do this action, the real problem starts when it becomes a habit. If you keep procrastinating, you risk losing a lot of motivation and momentum in doing something important.
For example, imagine that you have a week left until you have to pay your electricity bill. You tell yourself that you will leave in an hour to go and cover the bill. You know that doing so, especially this early, will help you beat traffic and give you the rest of the day to relax.
However, you decide against it and you tell yourself to do it tomorrow. By the time it comes up again, you choose to postpone another day. Soon enough, you keep repeating the process until you finally get to the day of the bill’s deadline. Now, you’re upset with yourself and wondering why you kept procrastinating.
So, why exactly do you procrastinate? As with any bad behavior, there are many why it occurs. In some cases, it’s a lack of understanding or a lack of motivation. However, it can also be a problem with your approach and mindset to finishing a task. Here are five principal reasons why you might choose to postpone, instead of trying to overcome procrastination.
Imagine that someone asks you to mop the street outside your house in the middle of a rainy day. You’d probably laugh and say that the request is senseless. There’s no point in doing that task, even if you think of humoring the thought. In other words, you think that there’s no purpose to it, so you don’t do what is asked.
Now, while mopping in the rain is a silly gesture, you might come to that same conclusion for all your other tasks. Paying bills, doing homework, or sending an e-mail might sound like a tiring chore if you don’t know why. Even if you do, you might not think that it’s important enough for the day. The result is that you decide to delay doing it and before you know it, you’re pressed for time to finish the task.
Have you ever struggled to start making a report or filling out a to-do list? At first, you might think it’s because there are so many options to start with. You might also be wondering about how to do it or what ways can you plan it all out. What people often forget is that they sometimes don’t have the momentum to finish a task. Sometimes, they don’t do the proper planning or research ahead of any work. So, once they try to get started, they find themselves confused. That’s when they shrug and decide to postpone it.
It could also be a lack of momentum in your daily life. If you’ve spent a weekend sleeping in or staying in bed all day, then imagine how tough it’ll be to get back to work. You didn’t stay active enough during your weekend, which leaves you with little energy or focus to start the work week fresh. You might not even feel the urge to go to work on Monday simply because you lack the energy to motivate yourself. How can you expect to overcome procrastination when you struggle to feel energized?
When people delay doing something, it’s not only because they don’t feel ready or they don’t see the point. It could also happen because they don’t notice any possible consequences, at least at the time. Looking back at the electric bill example, you’ll notice that the person might not feel bad for missing a day. In their mind, there’s always tomorrow, so there’s no need to rush.
However, building up the habit of procrastinating can lead to serious problems in your life. For example, postponing exercise might not sound bad for a day, but it can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and health problems. Postponing your reports at work may seem relaxing until you’re pressured to finish them or get fired. If you don’t start learning to overcome procrastination, you risk suffering heavy punishments or missing out on big rewards.
Procrastinating may not always be a conscious choice. Sometimes, people lose sight of their goals because they genuinely forgot about them. For example, you promise to go buy your groceries in the afternoon. However, you see that a new TV show has come out on Netflix. You decide to watch it, and soon, by the time you finish binge-watching, you realize that it’s already evening. In other words, you were so distracted by something else that you forget and neglect your tasks.
Ironically, one of the biggest reasons why procrastination happens is due to a perfectionist’s mind. In their eyes, they might not feel ready to sign up for a new gym class or start writing in a journal. They don’t feel like they have enough preparation or motivation yet to get it done perfectly. In other words, they decide to postpone doing something because they don’t feel like they can do it right.
Now that you can see the many reasons why you procrastinate, you may want to rethink your approach to handling each task. It might be a tough trial to overcome procrastination, but it is possible.
Whether you don’t see the consequences or the purpose of a task, you must add some kind of meaning to it. By giving a reason for doing something, such as earning money or improving your skills, you make it a priority. This way, you can make it more important and fulfilling to do a task, even if you aren’t feeling ready for it.
For example, you might not see the purpose of exercising at 5 PM. You know it keeps you healthy, but it feels so tiring and sweat-inducing. To make it more meaningful, try to take a photo of yourself every morning. Are you satisfied with the body you have? If not, look at how it changes after you stick to one week of exercise. Once you notice the change, you can find that there is a meaning and goal behind the task itself. It can make you more determined than ever to get the job done.
Sometimes, the tasks that you set out to do are so vague or complicated that you just give up. It takes a while for your mind to understand what has to happen. If trying to decipher the task becomes a chore, you’ll feel less motivated to do it. After all, what are the chances that it will be any easier than understanding it?
So, if you want to make your tasks doable and achievable, start by making them simple and realistic. Don’t go for lofty ambitions or award-winning masterpieces. Start with the basics and work your way up. The simpler a task sounds, the easier it feels to get started. Soon enough, you’ll build enough momentum to overcome procrastination and reach your self-appointed goals.
For example, an ambitious writer sets out to draft a full novel. Now, that might sound easy, but if you dissect it piece by piece, it’s very complex. You have to consider what the theme is, the genre, the plot, the narrative style, and so on. Instead of this, he could start by dividing all of these tasks into a series of steps. For one week, the writer could spend it brainstorming possible ideas about the story’s plot and outline. The next week, they could focus on making a set and fine-tuning the characters that are involved. It might sound like a long process, but at least it’s simple to consider and follow. Soon enough, that book might become a reality!
Another way to avoid procrastinating is to remove all the possible distractions or concerns from your mind. There are many ways that your mind can wander or get off-track from the goals at hand. For example, you might be working on a 500-page essay, only to get annoyed because of the neighbor’s dog that keeps making noise. You might also get lost because you keep your phone and social media apps on; this way, you might lose focus because you receive a message or see a new series of posts and pictures.
Do yourself a favor by identifying the distractions in your life and cutting them out, at least for a short time. You don’t need to throw away your phone to be productive at work. However, if you have a task at hand, you could always shut it off for an hour or so to finish the task at hand. If you got noisy neighbors or construction in the background, you could always transfer to a quieter cafe or hub for studies. Alternatively, you could always listen to relaxing music online to help you drown out the noise.
Lastly, one of the best ways to overcome procrastination is by forcing yourself to work. Though it sounds odd, sometimes you simply need to get started before you can feel productive. You might not enjoy writing a report or making a collage at first. However, if you set your mind to do it, you’ll soon feel that state of productive focus that you’ve been looking for. Like how some people push a car to help it get started, you sometimes need to push yourself into doing something to make it happen.
Procrastination is what happens when you put off doing your tasks or your chores, even if you know it’s bad. The problem is that it can make your life a lot tougher. You could end up feeling anxious, ashamed, or inadequate because of the times you postpone your work.
There are many reasons why you might procrastinate. Perhaps you don’t see the value or the outcomes of each task. Maybe you don’t feel ready to start or you’re afraid to screw it up. You might even get distracted a lot, which keeps you from getting things back on track.
To help yourself off the slump, you can start by setting goals for everything you plan to do. By making them mean something, you can feel more confident and determined to get them done. You could also simplify the tasks you set out and find a place to stay away from your distractions. Once you push yourself to get things done, you’ll find it easier to do what you promised. This way, you’ll realize how good it feels to accomplish your plans after you overcome procrastination.
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