What does it mean to procrastinate?
Procrastination is the thief of time as writer Edward Young described it. Procrastination is avoiding completing a task, no matter how important, until the very last minute. We’re all guilty of procrastinating on certain tasks from time to time, but procrastinators do so constantly about everything, even against their better judgment.
When procrastination becomes a habit, people find it difficult to fight it off and deliberately look for distractions so as not to feel bad about procrastinating.
The common procrastinator will brush off any argument against them by saying that “they perform better under pressure” which, to an extent, is true for some people. Perfectionists tend to procrastinate on difficult tasks because the urgency unlocks their creativity. Nevertheless, this is just them justifying putting things off, which can turn into an infinite loop of deterring one to take action in the future due to negative emotions towards the task.
The point here is that most things need to get done on time, and the negative side of procrastination is missing deadlines or failing to deliver the best results. This is very important when taking it in a professional context.
As a freelancer or small business owner, you need to gain the self-control required to do your job right.
You can find all sorts of tips and advice on how to stop procrastinating at work. Yet, let’s first dive into the root of the problem for a bit. So, why do procrastinators procrastinate?
5 reasons why we people procrastinate so much
Understanding the causes of procrastination will help you identify your triggers and possible weaknesses, so you can eventually overcome them!
The costs of procrastination involve poor performance levels, and even poor health since procrastinators (as with everything else) postpone medical checkups and treatments.
A reasonable question that arises here is: If procrastination has such considerable consequences on someone’s productivity and well-being, then why do people do it?
#1 Unpleasant tasks
The number one reason people become procrastinators is the nature of the task at hand. Tedious, time-consuming tasks usually end up at the bottom of the procrastinator’s to-do list, if they even make one (most likely they don’t). They keep avoiding it because they find it difficult, uninteresting, and boring.
#2 Psychological issues
Anxiety and procrastination are closely linked together. Putting things off is a coping mechanism for the above issues. The fear of failure to deliver on something can result in procrastination due to elevated stress levels. People who procrastinate prefer to focus on immediate rewards (distractions) rather than face challenging tasks.
#3 Lack of clear goals
The majority of procrastinators don’t set a timeframe in which to accomplish goals for themselves in the workplace. Therefore, they constantly choose impulse instead of conscious decision-making. After all, it is a far easier thing to do! A perfect example is checking Facebook instead of doing actual work. It shows how instant gratification (of our impulses) messes up our determination had the distraction not been there.
So, poor time management and procrastination go hand in hand!
#4 Delayed consequence
Another important reason why we procrastinate is the timing of the reward we get from carrying things out. Conversely, the timing of the consequences of procrastination is separated in time, as well.
Procrastination often occurs when present efforts are more rewarding in comparison with future ones.
Also, if someone who performs poorly experiences the consequences of that performance, later on, those consequences haven’t really sunk in just yet! They don’t quite realize the imminent problem and thus choose to put it off.
#5 Low self-esteem
In difficult times, people with low self-confidence tend to shy away from a challenge instead of taking it on and seeing where it leads them. Procrastination and low self-esteem are associated; the one feeds the other in a vicious circle that is hard to break away from. The result is missing out on opportunities that help the person evolve, and acquire new skills and knowledge.
4 types of procrastinators
Based on the reasons why we procrastinate, as stated above, there are 4 types of procrastinators. But first, ask yourself, “Are you a procrastinator?” and if the answer leans towards “Yes”, then maybe you’ll find truth in these types. Once you get a hold of what’s triggering you, you’ll be able to follow our tips to combat procrastination. Here we go:
Their greatest fear is making mistakes and being judged for them. So, when an important project comes up, they get caught up in the details, mismanage their time, or avoid the work altogether until the last minute. Which of course, leads to, well, mistakes, and this is why procrastination is so counter-productive.
When there’s too much to do, it’s hard to get started and instead decide to do nothing at all. Especially when work is of no interest to someone or has a demanding boss, the mere thought of getting it done makes us avoid it altogether.
This kind of procrastinator is afraid of being perceived as unqualified by people that are difficult to please anyway (relatives, friends, colleagues, partners, etc.). So, they learn to procrastinate to avoid displeasing themselves, hence looking like a disappointment most of the time. This is called “learned helplessness” by behaviorists, and it can be a sign of depression. Therefore, to those who may be asking, “Is procrastination a mental illness?” the answer is that it may be an indicator of one sadly.
These are the people who think work best under pressure and enjoy the rush of it. When a task is boring or repetitive, they will wait for the deadline to dangerously approaching their calendar before they start working on it.
In order to decide which procrastination type you fall into, you need to pay attention to your triggers or symptoms. Do you find yourself avoiding work because you feel you can’t do it or because you want to feel the pressure in order to get moving?
Simple tips to beat procrastination
There are plenty of tips if someone’s willing to fight their procrastination. Actually, we have some for you in our “10 tips to overcome procrastination” article.
However, we are going to give you some more specifics here, according to the “procrastination symptoms” we listed above.
Perfectionists should focus on realistic expectations and ask for help whenever they feel too much pressure. A to-do list is essential, with each task broken down into sub-tasks to complete each day. Also, a reward system for achieving realistic goals will help get things done on time. Whenever you complete something before the deadline, treat yourself! At last, admit to yourself that nobody is perfect anyway!
If you feel stressed out, even thinking about a project, try to lose the anxiety by dividing it into smaller manageable tasks. At the same time, think about all the aspects of it that make you feel excited instead of all the what-ifs that spoil it.
You are responsible for your own sense of accomplishment. No matter how much you try, you can never please everyone. Once again, being realistic about your goal can work like “procrastination therapy”. That’s why procrastinating has nothing to offer you except the constant sense of failure.
Overcome procrastination at work by motivating yourself!
The key concept you need to keep in mind is that you’ll never become the best version of yourself as a person and as a professional unless you organize your time. All these tedious tasks will seem much less, so if you keep your expectations realistic and distractions harder to give in to.
Procrastination affects our psychology and self-confidence, but it happens to everybody, and it is rather normal up to scale. Check out what statistics by Brandon Gaille about procrastination show and see that you are not the only one fighting this invisible enemy.
If you find yourself chronically putting things off for no logical reason, consider consulting a specialist in order to spot any underlying psychological issues.