Procrastination is the avoidance of a task or duty that we perceive to be stressful and uncomfortable. It is a way of coping with the anxiety and discomfort that come along with performing the relevant task. This “solution,” unfortunately is a short term and ultimately ineffective and even damaging. When we procrastinate, we are not fully relaxed and calm because on some level we are aware that eventually we have to do the task and if not we will pay its consequence.
Procrastination can be hard on us and creates more stress in our lives, and never yields our best results. The key to controlling this destructive habit is to understand why it happens, recognize when you start procrastinating and take active steps to overcome the block manage your time and outcomes better.
spiral2grow, a leading provider in self esteem and self confidence therapy in New York City, has professionals that include procrastination therapists and counselors, who are expert in overcoming procrastination and improving time management and effectiveness. spiral2grow, located in midtown Manhattan at 260 Madison Avenue #8023, New York, NY 10016, offers techniques to overcome procrastination, improve time management and build effectiveness in a variety of formats: individual procrastination training, self esteem procrastination group and workshop.
Procrastination is a mechanism for dealing with the anxiety related to starting or completing any project or decision process. Procrastination comes in many forms, some more insidious than others. Regardless, procrastination is dysfunctional behavior that equated with self-handicap.
Procrastinators are those who have difficulty in starting or finishing a task, accepting criticism, having high expectations and experiencing failure. It is closely related to the issue of self esteem and confidence as well as perfectionism. With time, procrastination can become a maladaptive habitual way of coping with low self esteem in regards to doing a particular assignment. Yes, it does bring some temporary short term relief, but eventually it comes with long term negative consequences associated with not doing what it suppose to be done.
In his book “The Now Habit,” Neil Fiore provides us with this powerful equation: Perfectionistic demands lead to —> fear of failure —> PROCRASTINATION —> self-criticism —> anxiety and depression —> loss of confidence —> greater fear of failure which leads to —> stronger need to use PROCRASTINATION as a temporary escape. Fiore suggests that procrastination follows perfectionistic or overwhelming demands and a fear that even minor mistakes will lead to devastating criticism and failure. A complete treatment of procrastination must address the underlying blocked needs that cause a person to resort to procrastination.
Dealing with Procrastination
Procrastinators have great intentions they never quite act upon; procrastinators are masters at rationalization and are usually aware that they are sabotaging their own happiness; procrastinators castigate themselves for their inability to act, thereby further lowering their self esteem and perpetuating the self-defeating behavior.
The psychological underpinnings of procrastination are rooted in fear. The fears can be anything – fear of failure, fear of change, fear of completion, fear of losing the fantasy, fear of not measuring up, fear of reprisals, fear of humiliation….and any other fear that fits the bill.
Procrastination is a habit, a learned response to anxiety-producing situations or tasks. It is an avoidant behavior we adopt when we are to do a task which reflects our abilities and we feel afraid/anxious that we will not measure up. Fear of failure or of success, cultural limitations or imagined disabilities all contribute to a person holding them self back for fear of finding out that they will fall short and thus it will prove without a shadow of a doubt that they are worthless individuals.
Next time you get into your procrastination mode, pay attention to how do you talk yourself out of doing something that feels interesting but daunting? Do you start off with great intentions and plans, and then slowly talk yourself out of it? Do you start resenting the task? Do you start getting irritated with yourself? How does your cycle of procrastination unfold itself?
Once you are able to examine your own cycle of procrastination and learn the attached faulty belief system, then you can work on changing it. Ask yourself if you want to continue living with that belief and the problems it creates in your life. You do have a choice about the beliefs you want to live with. Are you willing to take the steps to change? Finally, start making changes despite the fears and doubts. Expect ups and downs and continue. You will notice the changes in yourself.
Personal competence is the antidote to procrastination and comprises of five elements: emotional strength, well-directed thought, time-management skills, control over habits, and task completion abilities. Therefore, most strategies for overcoming procrastination are based on improving these five skill areas, and involve: improving emotional control and adjusting one’s underlying attitude, focusing attention and thinking rationally, learning executive (self-management) procedures like planning and scheduling, learning habit-changing methods, and acquiring better task completion and problem solving skills.
How to Overcome Procrastination
The following are steps to overcome and prevent procrastination:
- Reflect on your actions and understand when you procrastinate.
- Identify self-defeating behaviors and uncomfortable feelings associated with procrastination; anxiety and stress, fear of failure, challenges in focusing, weak time management, lack of boundaries, problem with prioritization and perfectionism.
- Clarify your personal vision, goals and define what person you want to be.
- Know yourself as well as your strengths and weaknesses, values and priorities.
- Set realistic goals and break them down to small steps/actions that are easier to do.
- Evaluate your future actions with the values you want to have. Are your actions consistent with your values?
- Always to your best and detach yourself from the outcome.
- Use the outcome as a feedback to stay at the same path or correct yourself.
- Discipline yourself to manage difficult feelings and to be guided by your wisdom.
- Set priorities right and utilize time properly, while thinking long term.
- If tasks are difficult, break them down to small blocks instead of long time periods. Reward yourself after you complete a task.
- Motivate yourself by envision your satisfaction after completing the assignment.
- Promote thinking about success, not on failure. Keep a reminder schedule and checklist.
- Create an environment that is conducive to your success. For example, minimize distraction, eat healthy, sleep well, exercise.