In psychology there are many paradoxes, and one of them is the following: while the same type of emotional distress can be caused by many different types of behavior that we have learned and internalized almost without realizing it, a single pattern of behavior that is part of our habitual repertoire of behaviors can give rise to many different problems.
The latter is what happens, for example, with the case of procrastination, which is the word with which we psychologists refer to the propensity to leave things for later, or for “tomorrow” (with emphasis on quotes). It is something we can adopt with surprising ease, put into practice almost without realizing it, and give rise to a wide variety of disastrous situations and frustrating failures as a result.
In this article we will see how, through small changes in our habits, we can fight against procrastination , in order to better carry out our responsibilities and have easier to enjoy quality free time.
Why does procrastination arise?
As we have seen, procrastination means postponing, without having a truly valid excuse, the fulfillment of our responsibilities or the tasks necessary to reach the goals we have set. We will agree that, defined in this way, this behaviour does not bring any significant benefit, and in any case creates problems. However, it is something that the vast majority of people fall into at one time or another. Why?
There are several factors that explain the existence of procrastination. One of them has to do with a personality trait: low responsibility . Those who score significantly below average on the Responsibility trait in personality tests based on the Big Five model tend to fall into the “I’ll do it tomorrow” category much more often. This indicates that procrastination is linked to a broader aspect of behavior: a lack of interest in meticulousness in what one does, or in how one adheres to a set of rules.
On the other hand, even those who are perfectionists are not free from procrastination in all cases . It has been observed that there is a type of perfectionism that is linked to procrastination: that in which the focus of a person’s attention is not on the concrete steps to be taken to complete a task well, but on the fear of making a mistake, the fear of not doing something to be proud of. When this type of perfectionism is predominant, procrastination comes into play.
Another important aspect is the lack of practice . If we have to start a task that we have not yet mastered, the idea of starting to work on it may be difficult, because first we have to invest an effort in deciding what to do, how to organize our time, etc.
And since none of this has to be materially expressed (as it happens in our head) and we have no way of knowing if we are doing well due to lack of experience, we don’t feel like we are making progress, which makes the experience very frustrating, something worth starting “for real” when we are in a better mood.
5 habits to fight “I’ll do it tomorrow”
Here are some simple habits you can apply to combat procrastination.
1. Beware of emotional hunger
Many people “disguise” their procrastination sessions under the guise of visits to the refrigerator which in theory are intended to calm hunger. A hunger that is curiously timely and that appears intermittently every few dozen minutes.
This is, in fact, emotional hunger: a false sense of hunger that arises from problems in interpreting the discomfort we feel and that is psychological in origin , not physical. In this way, we learn to calm this anguish or restlessness by snacking between meals, and giving us an excuse to neglect what is really important in order to concentrate on the pleasant sensations that food gives us.
So, to keep procrastination under control, set a meal schedule and keep food away from the work area.
2. Create your workspace
Often, the key is to get the job started; everything else is easier once our ideas about what we should do are already on track. So it’s good to associate your work area with just that, work: don’t use it for rest or entertainment. In this way, it will be easier to make a commitment to work , because sitting in that chair in your studio will mean for you that in that very second your day begins.
At the same time, it is very important that this place is away from the most tempting distractions for you . If you use a computer, it may even be good for you to create digital barriers on that computer that make it difficult for you to enter your social networking profile, certain entertainment sites, etc.
3. Rest well
Related to this is the need to be physically well in order to attend to our responsibilities. Even if we have the energy and capacity to concentrate on a task, feeling fatigued exposes us more to procrastination .
4. Make leisure plans
Another aspect that favors procrastination is the fact of having an unstructured and diffuse free time, without clear limits. If you create activity plans that you like for your free time, you will subtract influence from that diffuse free time and give it to another type of leisure that besides making it easier for you to commit to what you should do, is usually more stimulating and enjoyable than staying on the couch watching anything on the television or on the mobile phone.
- Barrick, M.R. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta-analysis.
- Sirois, F.M.; Molnar, D.S.; Hirsch, J.K. (2017). A Meta-analytic and Conceptual Update on the Associations Between Procrastination and Multidimensional Perfectionism. European Journal of Personality. 31(2): pp. 137 – 159.
- van Eerde, W. (2003). A meta-analytically derived nomological network of procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences . 35(6): pp. 1401 – 1418.