LaterIf you struggle with procrastination, there should be no shame involved—you’re not alone. It’s OK.
I stare at a blank computer screen, then at my keyboard. I look around frantically to see if my room needs cleaning. My to-do list sits on the side, just waiting for the most daunting of tasks to be crossed off—it’s already been put off a week. Then, I look back up at my screen. Wait, I need coffee. But not my coffee … I think I need Starbucks. Yep, I need Starbucks. Or do I need Dunkin?
It’s the same thought process over and over again as I try to complete a task. Every time I sit down and attempt to knock something off my to-do list, I look for something else to do. A new task comes up and the task I really need to complete gets pushed down the list, again.
You know the feeling. I assumed I was the only one who struggled with not having the time or energy to complete something until the very last minute—but apparently not. In an article with the Association for Psychological Science, “…as many as 20 percent of people may be chronic procrastinators,” says Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University. K, all aboard the struggle bus—I am the captain now. But Joseph goes on to say, “As I tell people, to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
Procrastinators aren’t lazy. We just find other things to do instead of the task that we actually need to pour ourselves into. (Pauses, checks Twitter.)
Now don’t get me wrong—every morning, I have my calendar out with my to-do list included. I look at my list and mentally check the easy tasks off first. As the list goes on, and as I cross things off, I grow more hesitant. Obstacles enter the scene. Either I find other things to do, emails pop up or I take the “Gen Z” way out and head straight to my phone to check Instagram for the thousandth time. (I paused on writing this article to send a meme to a friend.)
Why Am I Procrastinating?
Procrastination can be rooted in anxiety and stress. Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that your procrastination is a result of a failure to regulate your emotions, not a failure to manage your time well.
In a Psych Central article about procrastination, it’s stated that perfectionism, fear and disorganization are all root causes of stress. Some procrastinators stress about having everything perfect all the time—yes, let’s call these people “procrastinating perfectionists.” They set unreachable goals and get frustrated when they can’t attain them, or worse, think they can’t attain them, sometimes leading to anxiety and depression.
Some will put off a task due to the fact that they are afraid of failure. They’re afraid to fail, or that the end product won’t turn out good enough. “If I don’t tackle the task, I won’t fail!” Anyone relate?
“Either I find other things to do, emails pop up or I take the ‘Gen Z’ way out and head straight to my phone to check Instagram for the thousandth time.”
For students, disorganization is probably the largest cause of procrastination. If they’re like me, they’ll prioritize the easy tasks first and then tackle the harder ones later. These hard obstacles will often then get pushed to the side, resulting in forgetting they even existed. But let’s admit it—schools may not regularly teach organizational skills, and if they do, the skills aren’t always easy to put into practice.
Don’t Stress, You Can Beat This!
1. Breathe and rest. Take a second. Take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. For others, get up, take a walk, grab a coffee, learn the art of cooking—just get up and do something else. Then come back to the task. Pray about it. Ask God to help you tackle the task you keep dreading—most of the time, it’s fear that holds you back from completing the task.
2. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Tell yourself, “You will get this done.” Write Scriptures and positive affirmations on your mirror, post-it notes or on your hand. There is absolutely no reason for you to be unkind to yourself. For the perfectionists: tell yourself, “Your work is good.” No need to crumple up the paper and dunk it in your trash can. It may be a work in progress, but don’t minimize what you created.
3. Write things down. Research (Psych Central) shows that procrastinators think they have a good memory. Unless you have a photographic memory, invest in a planner or notebook. Write out your to-do list. If you’re not a fan of writing things down on paper, there’s apps that organize your tasks by days, weeks and months—find one on the App Store or Google. If you have an iPhone, there’s the “Notes” app—use it. (Editor’s note: There’s just something about putting pen to paper!)
If you struggle with procrastination, there should be no shame involved—you’re not alone. It’s OK. It’s perfectly treatable—just don’t search on Google how to beat procrastination. You, a chronic procrastinator, will dig yourself into a Google search hole that you’ll rest comfortably in for the next two hours. Use this article as motivation: click out of this article, throw your phone across the room and start working on that task you keep putting off!
For Further Study
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Psychcentral.com/lib/learn-about-procrastination/ by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Psychologicalscience.org/observer/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination by Eric Jaffe
Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by Tim Urban
More Tips to Not Procrastinate:
- “Just do it.”
- Do “fun tasks,” or hobbies, before you start the hard ones.
- Remember the feeling you get when you can check something off your to-do list.
- Take a pause and come back to it with a fresh mind!
- Don’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
- The five-minute rule: If something can be done in five minutes, then do it right away.
Olivia Scherzer is the Editorial Assistant for Peer. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in public relations from Virginia Tech and seeks to inspire the younger generation with her written words, including on her very own blog! When she’s not in the office, she loves scouting out local coffee shops and museums, petting any dog she sees and hanging out with her friends and family.