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At one point or another, we’ve all said that one phrase: “I’ll do it later.” Really? Because after this, a few hours pass, maybe a day or two and even weeks pass before you get to do that one little thing “later.” Does that sound familiar? Well, it's this thing all of us have come to know which is commonly called procrastination. Procrastination is a term to describe the action of delaying or postponing something. Sound familiar, right? While this very simple concept can be seen as a solvable cause, it can literally break or make anything happen. To doing simple house chores to doing your homework last minute, to even writing this article after days of sleeping on it, procrastination can have major effects on your life. In my own life procrastination has hurt many aspects of it including my social life and academic performance in school but that's a topic for another article. Anywho, let's dive into the world of “doing everything at the last minute because we feel like it” from the origins of the probable signs of procrastination, how to manage it, overcome it and to prevent it from happening again. So let's start… later. I’m kidding… a little.
Why do we do it?
According to Elliot Berkman, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology, director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience lab, and co-director of the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon, procrastination starts with three options: to start doing the simple choice of accomplishing the goal, do something fun, or do nothing at all. The decision to work on something is driven by how much we value accomplishing the project in that moment—what psychologists call its subjective value. And procrastination, in psychological terms, is what happens when the value of doing something else outweighs the value of working now. This way of thinking suggests a simple trick to defeat procrastination: find a way to boost the subjective value of working now, relative to the value of other things. You could increase the value of the project, decrease the value of the distraction, or some combination of the two. Berkman gives an example on instead of cleaning his house, he might try to focus on why grading is personally important to him. Or he could think about how unpleasant cleaning can actually be—especially when sharing a house with a toddler. It’s simple advice, but adhering to this strategy can be quite difficult, mainly because there are so many forces that diminish the value of working in the present. What's interesting about that is everyone can relate to that in some shape or form. He merely confirms the fact that anyone can come to terms with these scenarios and decisions of making this Sophie's Choice.
Symptoms of Procrastination
Next let's look at some signs that might indicate if you fall into this trap of procrastination. According to LifeHack, there are 7 main symptoms that one may fall under in showing if they themselves have led themselves to this point, the first being Lack of Vision which is the idea that if someone cannot see into the future of doing something and gaining its benefits, then why do it in the first place? A good example is high school students. There are a few types of high school students but three categories emerge into this comparison; those who live in the moment, those who work for the future, and those who do not know what to do. And this translates in their performance in class, school work, extracurricular activities, and even their social life. The next symptom is lack of time. “Lack of time is the most popular excuse bandied about for not getting things done. But fortunately, there are very few people in this world that don’t have the scope for becoming at least 10 percent more efficient. Being busy doesn’t equate to being efficient. Regularly when someone lacks time in their lives, it is due to poor organization skills, poor prioritization, or the inability to say no.”
The next symptom is lack of organization, which is just common sense; if you do not have organization or you don't keep a schedule, then you're most likely going to forget dates, deadlines and so on. The next two are very similar to each other; tiredness and fear. Tiredness being self explanatory as it explains someone's lost of energy can contribute to them to fall under procrastination. Fear “of the outcome can be another delaying factor. Some people fear failure; they won’t be able to do the task to a good enough standard so they delay in getting started. Others—believe it or not—fear success. They may know that by completing a certain task, the outcome may lead them places they are unsure they want to go.” The next one is being easily distracted. In a day in age of social media, video games, and anything to do with the technological world, it is very easy to be trapped under its spell of its endless possibilities. The last symptom is feeling overwhelmed. Many students in particular feel this way as we dont know where to start. In my own life balancing AP classes, going to rehearsals every day, staying later to 5 or 8 in the night, while trying to study for the next ACT and SAT exams can be a lot for some people which may ultimately make them procrastinate.
How to Stop Procrastination
Now if you're feeling worse about yourself after hearing some of those topics, don't worry because there are ways to beat it without feeling discouraged. According to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D. a Licensed Practicing Psychologist with an MS in physical therapy, “Procrastination can lead to increased stress, health problems, and poorer performance. Procrastinators tend to have more sleep issues and experience greater stressful regret than non-procrastinators.” She describes 11 ways to overcome procrastination.
- Get rid of catastrophizing, in which she merely explains to not make a big deal out of it and just do it.
- Focus on your “why,” which means to put into perspective as to why you need to do that certain activity. Will it help you in the future? Questions like this should be asked.
- Get out your calendar and start being organized to make time for your work.
- Be realistic. Do not set yourself up for failure for not being able to do a big project.
- Chunk it and relieve the workload into small bits.
- Excuses be gone. Do any of these sound familiar? “I need to be in the mood.” “I will wait until I have time.” “I work better under pressure.” “I need X to happen before I can start.” Stop it!
- Get a partner. Like they always say, two heads are better than one.
- Optimize your environment to make it comfortable for your success.
- Reward good behavior. Now and then get a snack or go see a movie to remind you all of your hard work. Just treat yo’self.
- Forgive yourself. Do not beat yourself up if you did not complete the task. Why? Because there is always next time.
- Drop the perfectionism. Start to realize that things may not go as planned and to just accept that.
Now hopefully you feel either relieved or maybe in a state of contemplation that maybe even you may be a procrastinator. And remember, change that phrase from “later” to “now.”