Are you trying to learn how to eliminate procrastination and laziness. Have you reached your wits end with your procrastination. I was in the same place, so I decided to procrastinate and do a deep dive into procrastination. I know this isn’t a funny subject because it is likely causing a deep emptiness inside of you. Know that you are not alone and that procrastination is not who you are and you can defeat it.
What is procrastination?
First off, What is procrastination?
Procrastination definition – the action of delaying or postponing something.
Procrastination is really an intention and action gap. We have the intention of doing something but don’t take the action. It’s as simple as that. Because it is that simple, there is a simple solution to stop your procrastination and laziness. Keep reading to learn more.
Procrastination is a form of self-gratification behavior. It’s similar to over-drinking, over-eating, gambling and other bad habits. We voluntarily give in to feel good now versus feeling good in the future. If you can conquer procrastination, you can likely conquer a lot of other bad habits in your life. You can accomplish your wildest dreams as well.
We all run into procrastination in our early lives because of school, but we can experience it many other areas of our lives such as:
- Trying to reach our goals
- Trying to go to the gym
- Starting a plan to eat right
- Starting a business
- Having a difficult conversation
- Changing jobs
Why do people procrastinate?
Humans are wired to focus on the present so it’s not unnatural. There is a ted talk that I review further below that shows how our brains are wired to focus on the short-term gratification and short-term fear. We aren’t wired to look at the long term and consider long term implications. If you only focus on short term benefits and fears you are more likely to keep procrastinating. You need to take a longer term view. This might mean developing long term goals or just stopping current bad habits. The more short term bad habits you have, the harder it will be for you to stop procrastinating.
People also procrastinate to feel better about themselves. If you don’t give something 100%, then it doesn’t reflect on your self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem, procrastination is a great way to protect yourself.
Blind spots – we have blind spots in our ability to forecast our futures. We think we will be more likely to accomplish the task tomorrow. However this doesn’t happen, and we never feel like accomplishing the goal until their is a forced deadline. If there isn’t a forced deadline, then we just feel like crap for longer periods of time. Procrastination without a forced deadline is like self torture.
Psychological effects of procrastination
Procrastinating has several bad effects on your psychology. It can cause a lot of stress, and it can cause negative emotions. It also can lower your overall health. Stress comes from your inability to achieve your goals and your inability to feel comfort of completing projects. Stress has physical implications as well since it can compromise your immune system.
You can have other negative emotions like anxiety and depression as well if you are constantly putting off your future. You might think that you are doing yourself a favor by putting stressful and hard things off until tomorrow, but you are actually causing yourself unnecessary mental and physical pain.
Does everyone procrastinate?
Everyone procrastinates, but the degree of procrastination differs. There is task aversion and chronic procrastination. Task aversion procrastination is where you are avoiding tasks that you don’t like to do. We all do this with tasks we don’t like.
Chronic procrastination is where procrastination is impacting your everyday life and long term goals. You consistently put off the biggest things in your life in favor of short term pleasure.
Although everyone might procrastinate to some extent, the degree to which it impacts their lives differs.
Factors in procrastination
Personality type – personality is a huge factor in determining whether you are going to be distracted. We detail this further in the personality section below.
Distraction – another factor in determing your tendency towards laziness and procrastination is the number of distractions you have around. Do you have your phone out or computer out when you are
Task Difficulty – Whether or not you believe the task is difficult also determines whether you will procrastinate or not. Is the task you are facing difficult? If so, break it down into small pieces. Plan ahead. Tackle the smallest portion first.
Whether or not you like the task
Emotions – Your emotions determine whether you will procrastinate as well. If you try to avoid boredom and fear all the time, then you will never be able to sit down and complete any of your tasks. Get used to feeling afraid and bored and you can conquer procrastination and laziness.
Forecasting bias – humans have a tendency to forecast that they will feel good tomorrow. That they will feel more like completing a task. This just isn’t true. We also tend to forecast that something will be easier than it is and aren’t ready for stumbling blocks. IF you keep on forecasting like this, you will never complete anything. Don’t trust your forecasting ablities.
Willpower – Ability to fight procrastination has to do with self regulation. Our ability to self regulate depends on our willpower a lot of the time. If you try to get your hardest task done at the end of the day, you are less likely to accomplish it because of lower levels of energy and lower willpower.
Personality type in procrastination
Personality type is a big determining factor when you look at whether or not you are going to tend towards chronic procrastination.
There are five personality characteristics that are commonly accepted by mental health experts. They are extroversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. Not all of them are relevant to procrastination though. Neuroticism and conscientiousness are both related to procrastination. If you are high neurotic and low conscientiousness, you are likely a procrastinator.
People low in conscientiousness (which is a personality type that tends towards organization) are more likely to be procrastinators. This makes sense because you can’t plan out your assignment. If it’s too daunting, then your inability to plan will make it seem that much worse. Try breaking your assignment or goal down into smaller tasks and get used to planning and organizing to defeat your procrastination.
If you’re personality type tends towards being a perfectionist, then you are more likely to push things off.
Emotions Are A Key Part Of Procrastination – Master Them
Much of procrastination has to do with dealing with emotions and feelings. You don’t want to feel bad, bored or fearful, so you delay your task.
You can feel fearful if you feel that you have to be perfect on something. If you don’t do it just right, then it is better to put it off until later. If you do it last minute, then it won’t be a reflection on your true talents because you didn’t give 100%.
You don’t have to be at 100% energy and 100% happiness to do a task. This is a common misconception. You can complete a task without being 100%.
- Learn about your emotions
- Journal about your emotions
- Read books about your emotions
- Meditate more often to calm your mind and connect with your emotions. Being able to live with boredom will help you tremendously
- Break your goal down into smaller tasks
- GET STARTED!!! The biggest antidote to procrastination in case you couldn’t tell is getting started
- Your emotions don’t have to match your intentions – complete tasks even when you aren’t feeling great
- Don’t rely on your willpower – willpower is limited. Waiting until the end of the day to do something is a bad idea.
- Use if, then statements to plan for situations that might come up
- Plan, plan, plan
- Don’t tie yourself to an outcome. Being obsessed with expectations will drain you and make you disappointed.
TedTalks about procrastination
There are multiple ted talks on the topic of procrastination. The majority of them have to do with school work, but the most popular one is about general procrastination in life. The most popular ted talk is one given by Tim Urban
Ted Talk- Tim Urban Procrastination 2016 – 18 million views
The most popular TedTalk involving procrastination is the ted talk by Tim Urban. Tim Urban is the creator of the website waitbutwhy.com where author Tim Urban deep dives into common issues and ideas in society.
This ted talk is extremely funny and makes a joke at procrastination.
He talks about a paper that he had to write in college. He had to write his thesis in 72 hours. He spoke about a non-procastrinator and a procrastinator. He spoke about the problem with instant gratification monkey also known as the procrastination monkey. The instant gratification monkey is the need to satisfy yourself instantly.
He boiled things down into things that are easy and fun that the gratification monkey will look for and things that are hard and that we need to do. The rational decision maker in our brain wants us to do the hard and necessary stuff, but it is hard to with the procrastination monkey at the helm. He says we all have the rational decision maker in our minds.
He receives many emails about how bad people feel about their procrastination. Tim Urban boils down procrastination into Two kinds of procrastination.
- One with deadlines.
- Situations where there is no deadline.
When procrastination involves a deadline, it is easy to get things done because we all have a panic monster. This panic monster makes you panic if something needs to get done right now. However, if your only mechanism is the panic monster to get to work, then the bad feelings around procrastination will last longer and be worse if you don’t have a deadline. Could be a source of long term unhappiness and regrets. He sums it up by saying that life is short and that you should start on your dreams today.
An end to procrastination – Archana Murthy – April 2017
She talks about writing a paper on Sunday night before school and talks about how easily she was distracted. Situational procrastinator – things like laundry cleaning or unpleasant conversation. Chronic procrastination – trouble finishing any kind of task at all. Unpleasant task with lack of discipline and instant gratification. Does this mean that you are lazy or that you lack the basic skills to manage yourself.
People don’t complete things until the very last second. Will she always be this unsatisfied in life. She wanted to fix procrastination. SHe talks about a hindu ancient text that her mother read to her – one must do action without any expectation of the reward. It should be done simply for the work itself. She thought everyone did something because there were rewards or consequences.
1. One must first set a goal
2. Only feelings of positivity should surround the activity
3. One has to acknowledge a feeling of positivity if you had accomplished something and to feel guilty if you did not accomplish anything
4. No matter if you accomplished anything or not you must feel grateful. She felt grateful for taking the mental mindset to take the S.A.T.
5. Keep a reflection journal – recorded her general emotional state as she went through this journey
Is focusing on work and not the results the best approach? It is often the results that keep us from acting. It’s actually a product of negative emotions that will create more negative emotions. It’s similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. 20% of the U.S. population is believed to be chronic procrastinators.
By not focusing on the results, you may be able to reduce your procrastination. Give it a try. I found this Tedtalk pretty helpful when it comes to ideas of how to overcome procrastination. The biggest takeaway that I got from this talk was to not be tied to a specific outcome.
Why We Procrastinate – Vik Nithy – March 2012 – 1.6 million views
This is one of the oldest Tedtalks on procrastination. It is also provided in the context of academia. Vik Nithy is a college student who studies psychology, so his take on procrastination is a bit different than others.
He states that procrastination is a problem that develops due to an argument in the brain.
There is an argument between the limbic and prefontal cortex. Limbic is more primitive so why does it win most of the time. The amygdala is the part of your brain that controls the fight or flight system. If something scary happens, your prefontal cortex system shuts down. When we procrastinate, we get scared and this part of our brian shuts down. What is it that we are afraid of. You might find the task overwhelming. A fear of failure. Perfectionists use procrastination as a self handicapping tool. Your prefontal cortex knows this but your amygdala is about subconscious reactions so how can you overomce this. The answer is something called metacognition. A few things we have to plan. You have to plan out goals and plan time. Plan resources. Plan the process. If you close your eyes and think of something that you need to do your brain will think it has done before. Plan for distractions. Plan for failure. Don’t wait for conditions to be just right to accomplish tasks.
The Vaccination For Procrastination – Bronwyn Clee – 23k views
This TedTalk is by Bronwyn Clee. She states that more often that not we end up procrastinator. She states that decisions are made in our conscious and unconscious mind.
In order to master procrastination you need to be able to master your unconscious mind.
How could you be more assertive and dominate your unconscious mind. Don’t go onto the battle field with the unconscious mind. Conscious mind takes action and takes control. Use the power of permission and the magic of maybe. I’m allowed to make a good decision. Maybe it will be a good decision and maybe it won’t.
- Give yourself permission to change
- Get really specific about what you want to change
- Identify something you can do to create the change you are seeking
- Take action
- Rinse and repeat
Think about one thing you’d like to change in your life and apply these tools to them.
Victoria Gonzalez – I’m not lazy I’m procrastinating – 43k views on youtube
This is a tedtalk by another student. She speaks about procrastination as it relates to the art world. This is an extremely short ted talk on the topic of how to stop procrastination.
Procrastination is the fear of failure and lack of confidence. She is trying to justify procrastination by differentiating it from laziness. She is saying that it is hard to get started in the art world because you might be judged on your work. It will be completed but it will just take longer than expected. She states that a lazy person will say I’m not even going to try. This talk is not particularly helpful at combating procrastination or laziness but it does show how people view procrastination differently
Best Books On Procrastination
Solving The Procrastination Puzzle – Tim Pychyl
The premier book about procrastination is solving the procrastination puzzle by Tim Pychyl. I listened to this book on audiotape and it was tremendous. He provides an understanding of why people procrastinate and how to get out of it. He does so very quickly as well because he doesn’t want you using his book to procrastinate. The other good that I learned about this book is that he has a website at procrastination.ca and he also has a podcast in case you need more resources. I recommend reading this book so that you can develop tools for battling procrastination.
Deep Work – Cal Newport
Another popular book about procrastination is Deep Work. This book is less about procrastination and more about focus and reducing distraction. If you think that you are focused, make sure to check this book out because it will show you just how distracted you are.
Podcasts about Procrastination
Tim Pychyl (the author mentioned above) also hosts a podcast about procrastination. He hasn’t kept up with it consistently over the years, but there is still great historical information on there so make sure to check it out. The name of the podcast is IProcrastinate.
Summary – How To Avoid Procrastination And Laziness
The most important thing to do to combat laziness and procrastination is to just get started. This is consistent between both the ted talks, books and articles about procrastination. You might be saying that you’ve already tried that and it hasn’t worked. This is likely because you’ve been looking at the task as one huge task. Break it down into smaller pieces and get started. If you have to write something, open a blank document. If you have to workout, just show up to the gym. Once you start, you are more likely to keep going.