Many people put off until tomorrow what they could do today, or put it off until next week or even later.
Procrastination is the habit of delaying our commitments in an irrational and unproductive way. It generates a lot of stress and not a few frustrations.
Maybe you have tried, without success, to be faithful to your purposes, but you always end up procrastinating, if this happens to you, please keep reading because this article can help you. In particular, we will see what the different types of procrastination are , and how to deal with them.
Why are we putting things off until tomorrow?
We procrastinate because we are divided, our brain is rational and this is reflected in the division of the limbic system and the cerebral cortex .
We have an instinctive, fast, energetic and visceral brain that only thinks about now, that wants things now and that does not care about tomorrow, and we have another brain, the rational one, the reflective one, the one that thinks and analyses and finds it difficult to act, that is slower and more prudent, that knows where it wants to go and thinks about the future.
Procrastination is the result of the struggle between the emotional brain and the rational brain and when the will of our reason yields to the whims of instinct is when we recreate ourselves in procrastination.
Related article: “What’s Behind the Habit of Constant Postponement?”
Different types of procrastination
This phenomenon depends on several factors, so there are different types of procrastinators depending on the factor that has more weight in each person.
- Expectation : Low self-confidence
- Value : Dependence on reward and propensity to boredom.
- Impulsivity : Can’t wait.
1. Expectation (confidence level)
The excess of optimism leads us to inaction , waiting for a miracle to happen.
This optimism, understood as the difficulty attributed to the task, is especially evident when estimating the time it will take to achieve our objective (planning fallacy), which in the end is usually greater than our estimates.
We usually try to calibrate the performance needed to achieve success with the least possible involvement : we want the greatest reward with the least effort.
There are procrastinators by excess and by default of optimism, some believe themselves more capable than they really are, this leads them to failure. Others, and they are the majority, more pessimistic, are not aware of their capabilities and do not even try.
In the balance is the key, the tasks that are a feasible challenge are the ones that motivate us most for action.
Generates spirals of success
If we set a progressive set of difficult but ultimately achievable goals we will maximize our motivation and give the achievement a meaning , a reflection of our capacity. Each hard-won victory gives a new sense of ourselves and a desire to fight for more.
In the early stages of a complex project, it is often better to have process or learning goals rather than product or outcome goals; that is, the goals are to acquire or refine new skills or steps (the process) rather than to reach the highest score (the product).
The essence of the spiral of success is that achievement creates confidence , which in turn becomes commitment that generates more achievement.
Cheer up with vicarious victories:
Surround yourself with upbeat and optimistic people, attitudes are contagious. What others believe can influence your intention to act , don’t share your plans with spoilers, do it with people who trust you and encourage you to fight for what you want.
Biographies of people who have inspiring lives and with whom one can identify are powerful resources that can help us. Watch motivational films, attend talks by successful people, be part of a collective that is trying to improve itself or society, such as a volunteer or create your own support group.
The detailed mental recreation of a performance involves mirror neurons, which record it in the brain almost as deeply as if it were actually being performed. But don’t settle for this, go beyond it, after vividly imagining yourself crossing the finish line of a 10 kilometer race do a reflection exercise and situate yourself in reality, in your current situation.
Look at that contrast, where you want to go and where you are, and then think about the first thing you have to do to reach your goal, what is the first step? Take that step!
Expect the worst and hope for the best
Avoid the false hope syndrome, think carefully about what could go wrong, not to fall into catastrophism, but to prepare for possible setbacks.
Asking for an outside opinion can help. Make a list of the ways you usually procrastinate and have it in your field of vision when you are working.
Avoid risky situations: turn off your mobile phone and avoid other distractions before you get to work. At work you have to take breaks so as not to overheat the engine, but stopping every so often makes the engine cool down and have to be warmed up again.
Making an emergency plan can also help: have someone to call if you feel you might be tempted to stay true to your commitment.
Accept that you are addicted to procrastination
Assuming that a single failure leads to a collapse of will can be helpful to some people, as in the case of Alcoholics Anonymous. Follow these guidelines:
- Record it : Reflect on the times you have moved away from the target and write it down.
- Recognizes that the will betrays us with self-deceptions of the type: “it will only be this time”.
- Keep in mind that the first delay will allow you to justify all the others .
2. Assessment (propensity for boredom)
In the face of this type of procrastination, tasks must be made motivating.
Turn your homework into a game, set goals
Tasks we hate are among the ones we are most likely to postpone, especially those that are repetitive, monotonous and very simple .
Turn it into a game: make the boring difficult, you must strike a balance between your own ability to perform the task and the difficulty of the task at hand and thus generate a state of flow: a state of maximum concentration and involvement in what you are doing.
If it is too difficult you can get frustrated and give up , if it is too easy you will get bored and want to give up.
Create a chain of small goals that serve a long-term end, this end should be something motivating so that you can easily move from link to link in the chain. It is easier to sweep the dining room if this is part of a more ambitious plan: to have a party at home.
Set objectives in positive, reformulate avoidance goals into approach goals:
- Don’t focus on what you don’t want to happen, but on what you do want. This is more motivating.
- Getting a promotion (approach) is better than getting kicked out (avoidance).
Distribute your energy well
Fatigue makes us procrastinate, it is difficult for us to start if we do not have energy, self-control and self-motivation will generate wear and tear . Recognizing that our energies are limited will help us to distribute them better.
Don’t go hungry, try to eat your five meals a day, eat a healthy and balanced diet. If you eat junk food you will not perform, you will have little energy and you will be an easy target for procrastination. Nuts and long-chain carbohydrates are your best allies, but don’t forget the rest of your food and water.
Do cardiovascular exercise, it is essential to stay healthy, energetic and vital. It will increase the effectiveness of your immune system, you won’t get sick as often, you will feel invigorated and although you may think you don’t have time for it, half an hour three times a week is enough and your productivity (and health) will benefit greatly.
What it takes is to get started, once you make it a routine the hard part is to stop. Also, schedule the heaviest tasks when you have the most energy peak (usually morning and midday).
Sleeps the necessary hours , normally we adults sleep between 7 and 8 but that depends on each one’s case. Take good sleep hygiene, respect schedules for going to bed and waking up.
Respect your limits. If after all of the above you still feel tired, reduce your demands or seek help in complying with everything, but do not overdo it.
If you are going to procrastinate, do it right
Many people start cleaning the house, tidying up the storage room or doing all sorts of useful things but that distracts them from what they should really be doing . When I was a teenager I had a classmate whose room was especially tidy during exam time because instead of studying, which is what he was supposed to be doing, he was tidying everything up.
Look at that task you should be doing but are avoiding (e.g., studying).
Set up other tasks that, although not as important, are also necessary and you feel more like doing them (e.g., tidying up your desk while listening to music).
Find the balance between distracting yourself with these less important and more enjoyable tasks and that main task you’re slipping away from. Eventually you’ll end up doing it, but give yourself a break by doing other tasks that are more enjoyable.
Combines unpleasant tasks with small rewards
Procrastinators do not reward themselves after finishing their work. Giving yourself messages of praise and words of encouragement is a technique called “learned diligence” .
Make a list of small prizes you can give yourself: go shopping, give yourself a breakfast worthy of a king, go out for a walk… whatever motivates you.
Promise yourself one of these prizes when you finish the task you are sneaking out of . Think of ways to make boring homework more bearable: analyzing the current political situation by drinking your favorite coffee, doing your laundry by listening to music, or studying algebra with a friend.
Make your passion your vocation
Not everyone has the privilege of dedicating themselves to what they are really passionate about, which is a shame, because we spend so many hours of our lives working.
There are those who cannot choose, due to multiple factors, but if you have the opportunity to combine your passion with your vocation, don’t hesitate, go for it .
If you can dedicate yourself to doing what makes you get out of bed every day and go to work, you will surely succeed in that field.
Also, follow these tips:
- Draw up a list of those professions in which you do activities that you are enthusiastic about.
- Be honest with yourself : discard those that are beyond your means or require skills you don’t have and/or are not willing to acquire.
- Classify those you have not yet discarded according to the demand of the labour market.
If you have difficulties in all of the above contact a career guidance service that can effectively assess your skills, that can direct you towards what you are good at and have the best chance of succeeding.
3. Impulsivity (the central element of procrastination)
All of the above is useful but what really sabotages us is our impulsiveness, it is the power of that instinctive brain, which is faster and more indomitable than our rational brain. That’s why when we think “I shouldn’t have eaten that cake” it’s too late, because the emotional brain is like a rearing horse that has a lot of strength.
Here we will learn to use that other, more well-trained horse, our reason, so that the cart goes where we want and not where our impulses take us.
Pre-commitment: commit now to prevent temptations.
Find out what your temptations are (what throws you off target and wastes your time). Make a list. Put these temptations out of reach: put your phone in airplane mode when you’re studying, install software that blocks Internet access at certain times of the day…
Don’t let your needs reach a certain limit, if you need to play a game before you start studying, do it the point is that your work is not interrupted because suddenly you can’t stand it anymore and you have to play.
Add disincentives to your temptations to make them repellent, if for example you prefer to stay home and sleep rather than go to the gym then commit to sending a friend a picture of your soaking wet T-shirt after the training session or else pay him an agreed sum.
Use your attention to your benefit
Learn to manage distractions , neutralizing their effects on your will. You can use your attention to do this:
Imagine catastrophic consequences if you give free rein to your temptations, the more vividly you imagine the disaster the more repellent it will become and the easier it will be to avoid it. This is called covert awareness, if for example you are thinking of quitting smoking you can imagine your family crying heartbroken around your coffin in the morgue. Yes, it’s very extreme, but the point is that it helps you get what you want.
When a temptation appears, focus on the more abstract aspects . You are more likely to fall for a hamburger with juicy meat, melted cheese and crunchy bread than if you look at its more abstract attributes such as shape, weight you think it might have, etc.
Eliminate, especially at your workplace, any incitement that is an alternative to distraction and replace those incitements with messages that are loaded with meaning for you , that link you to your values or to the reason why you work. A photograph of your family or the next holiday destination you want to go to can be a good example.
Separate as much as possible the place where you work from the place where you do your leisure activities. If, for example, you don’t have two computers, at least create two profiles with different wallpapers, that will give your brain the signal “time to work” or “time to play”.
Set concrete objectives
This is the ultimate weapon against procrastination. Define your objectives in a concrete way, knowing precisely what you must do, and by when?
Fragments long-term goals into short-term goals. If you have to study a manual on human anatomy, start with the chapter that most motivates you, first one, then another… don’t see the goal as a whole, break it down into small objectives .
When you find it hard to get started with a particular goal, suggest something that will “break the ice”. For example, if you intend to go to the gym but are terribly lazy, suggest that you just put on your tracksuit, put on your sneakers and carry your bag to the door of the gym, nothing else. Once there you can turn around, but when you have taken the step to leave the house everything will be downhill.
Organize your goals into routines that are performed regularly, always at the same time and place, so that habit and familiarity with the space will play in your favor.
Procrastination is a complex phenomenon because there are many factors involved, we are constantly immersed in an internal struggle between desire and duty and sometimes we sabotage ourselves. “Know your enemy”, know how procrastination works and the ways to defeat it and this will help you to achieve your goals.
Don’t put it off until tomorrow, put these tips into practice today.