Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. It is sometimes said to be a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.”
When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing until it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier. According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago around 20% of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators.
The word has originated from the Latin word procrastinatus, which itself evolved from the prefix pro-, meaning “forward,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow.”
Whether you’re putting off finishing a project for work, avoiding homework assignments, or ignoring household chores, procrastination can have a major impact on your job, your grades, and your life. It’s a common tendency that most people give in to at some point or another. One of the biggest factors contributing to procrastination is the notion that we have to feel inspired or motivated to work on a task at a particular moment.
Major cognitive distortions that lead to academic procrastination.
Students tend to:
- Overestimate how much time they have left to perform tasks
- Overestimate how motivated they will be in the future
- Underestimate how long certain activities will take to complete
- Mistakenly assume that they need to be in the right frame of mind to work on a project
Procrastination can also be a result of depression. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and a lack of energy can make it difficult to start (and finish) the simplest task. Depression can also lead to self-doubt. When you can’t figure out how to tackle a project or feel insecure about your abilities, you might find it easier to put it off and work on other tasks.
Reasons Why We Procrastinate
- Not knowing what needs to be done
- Not knowing how to do something
- Not wanting to do something
- Not caring if it gets done or not
- Not caring when something gets done
- Not feeling in the mood to do it
- Being in the habit of waiting until the last minute
- Believing that you work better under pressure
- Thinking that you can finish it at the last minute
- Lacking the initiative to get started
- Blaming sickness or poor health
- Waiting for the right moment
- Needing time to think about the task
- Delaying one task in favor of working on another
Types of Procrastination
- Passive procrastinators: Delay the task because they have trouble making decisions and acting on them
- Active procrastinators: Delay the task purposefully because working under pressure allows them to “feel challenged and motivated”
- Perfectionist: Puts off tasks out of the fear of not being able to complete a task perfectly
- Dreamer: Puts off tasks because they are not good at paying attention to detail
- Defier: Doesn’t believe someone should dictate their time schedule
- Worrier: Puts off tasks out of fear of change or leaving the comfort of “the known”
- Crisis-maker: Puts off tasks because they like working under pressure
- Overdoer: Takes on too much and struggles with finding time to start and complete tasks
- Avoidance: Avoiding the location or situation where the task takes place.
- Denial and trivialization: Pretending that procrastinatory behavior is not actually procrastinating, but rather a task which is more important than the avoided one, or that the essential task that should be done is not of immediate importance.
- Distraction: Engaging or immersing oneself in other behaviors or actions to prevent awareness of the task.
- Descending counterfactuality: Comparing consequences of one’s procrastinatory behavior with others’ worse situations.
- Valorization: Pointing in satisfaction to what one achieved in the meantime while one should have been doing something else.
- Blaming: Delusional attributions to external factors, such as rationalizing that procrastination is due to external forces beyond one’s control.
- Mocking: Using humor to validate one’s procrastination.
How to get over procrastinating? Break the task down into little parts, and maybe even make a to-do list that can be checked off. Every time you check something off the list it feels good. The list reduces the possibility that you’ll forget something.
Change your environment by removing things of distraction. Kind of like the to-do list, go a step further and make a list with specific deadlines for each task. Make it harder for yourself to procrastinate by removing your phone from the area or simply not checking emails and social networks for a while.
The best decision you can make towards avoiding procrastination is to plan your days in advance. Stop over-complicating your life. We often put pressure on ourselves to do certain tasks more often than we really need to, such as cleaning, tidying, laundry, etc. So give yourself a break and set a schedule for these things that is not overwhelming.