What exactly is procrastination?

Procrastination is the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so.  It could be further stated as a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences. It is a common human experience involving delay in everyday chores or even putting off salient tasks such as attending an appointment, submitting a job report or academic assignment, or broaching a stressful issue with a partner. Although typically perceived as a negative trait due to its hindering effect on one’s productivity often associated with depression, low self-esteem, guilt and inadequacy, it can also be considered a wise response to certain demands that could present risky or negative outcomes or require waiting for new information to arrive.

According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done,” around 20% of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators. No matter how well-organized and committed you are, chances are that you have found yourself frittering away hours on trivial pursuits (watching TV, updating your Facebook status, shopping online) when you should have been spending that time on work or school-related projects. Whether you’re putting off finishing a project for work, avoiding homework assignments, or ignoring household chores, procrastination can have a major impact on your job, your grades, and your life.

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How to overcome procrastination?

  • Make Written To-Do Lists

To-Do Lists are a tried-and-true way of getting your bearings and keeping yourself from getting overwhelmed. They also help you organize your thoughts and can prevent confusion. It’s ideal to make a new list at the end of each day to prepare for the next day. Keep in mind, however, this tip won’t help much if you over-plan or set actionable tasks that cannot be completed in less than half an hour. If a task takes longer than thirty minutes, break it up into smaller tasks.

  • Deal with Your Fear

Fear is one factor that contributes to procrastination. This can involve a fear of failure, a fear of making mistakes, or even a fear of success. If you are afraid of success because you secretly believe that you don’t deserve it, it is important to realize that your self-handicapping might be keeping you from achieving your goals. By addressing the fear that is keeping you from getting started, you can begin to overcome your procrastination habit.

  • Create an Ideal Environment

Distractions arise when your environment is imperfect for your work. If distractions are a real issue for you and organizing your tasks does not relieve the impulse to procrastinate, it is vital that you take a look around and find out what is blocking your productivity. Distractions can range from background noise to a stiff chair, from a cluttered desk to Facebook. Do what you need to do in order to remove or avoid these elements. Many of us are distracted by the Internet. (“I’ll watch just one more cat video.” Yeah, right.) Develop the discipline to work in a space without Internet connectivity or build idle Internet browsing into your schedule (see tip three).

  • Final Thoughts

Breaking the procrastination habit isn’t easy. After all, if it was simple there wouldn’t be an estimated 80% to 95% of students engaging in procrastination on a regular basis. The urge to put things off can be strong, especially when there are so many things around us to provide fun and entertaining distractions.

While procrastination might not be something you can avoid entirely, becoming cognizant of the reasons why you procrastinate and how to overcome those tendencies can help. By implementing these strategies, you might find that it is easier to put your nose to the grindstone and get started on those important tasks.

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