We’re all familiar with the wise old saying, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” According to the American Psychological Association, 80 to 95% of young adults, especially college students struggle with procrastination.
There are many reasons why we may put off our list of “To Do’s,” such as perfectionism, fear of not being “good enough” to complete the task at hand, and feeling stuck about how to begin our work projects.
When it comes to daily tasks, such as laundry, dishes, and housecleaning, we may forgo these things because they won’t bring us any joy. And we have plenty of tantalizing distractions, such as liking our friends’ photos on Facebook, texting and scrolling through our favorite pictures on Instagram that can suck the hours right out of the day.
But there is a downside to putting things off. According to Psychology Today, procrastinators drink more alcohol than non-procrastinators because they have difficulty regulating their impulses. They are also more likely to avoid facing their personal problems.
Procrastination is a learned habit
Despite what we may believe, procrastinators are not “born,” they are “created.” Procrastination is a learned behavior that’s often picked up in our family-of-origin.
We’ve all heard of “helicopter parents,” right? Well, one of the downsides of parental hovering is that it prevents children from learning how to make their own decisions and manage their own impulses. Controlling parents may also create procrastinators because kids who grow up in overly harsh environments may snap back against any form of authority as a way to garner a sense of control.
So, how can we break this bad habit for good? Below are a few tips and tricks that may help you to break your bad habit for good.
Tell Yourself the Truth
People who procrastinate are experts at lying to themselves. “I’ll feel like writing my school paper after I watch a few episodes of Silicon Valley,” or “I work better under pressure.”
If these thoughts pop into your head when you’re about to embark on a serious task, ask yourself what purpose these ideas serve? Has this way of thinking helped you avoid procrastinating in the past? The answer is probably “no.”
Instead, try to break your task into doable pieces and offer yourself rewards along the way. For example, if you need to write a paper, set a timer for an hour and after you’ve written for that time frame, take a half-hour break.
We’re more likely to distract ourselves when the distractions are easily accessible. This is why checking email, surfing the web, or going onto social media are ways that we push our “To Do’s” to the back burner.
If these online outlets will cause you to procrastinate, try to turn off your phone and the internet while you’re working. There are even apps that shut down these devices for you.
Often we distract ourselves when we want to avoid a particular feeling that the task at hand triggers for us. This feeling may be confusion (we don’t know how to begin the project), fear (we worry that we won’t do a good enough job), or even fear of our own success. One way to break through the web of distraction is to pay attention to your feelings and if you notice these emotions arise, talk to someone, such as a life coach or therapist so that they can help you get back on track.
Self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are all vital components of productivity. If your body isn’t well rested, it’s easier to put off things that you don’t want to do.
Procrastination also interferes with self-care. If we’re rushed to finish a project on time, we may pull an all-nighter, consumer copious amounts of caffeine, and turn to sugary snacks as a way to give our brains a boost. While these tools may work at the moment, they cause our bodies and immune systems to crash. If you get a handle on your self-care at the start, you’re less likely to rely on these unhealthy habits.
Ask for Help
While we all procrastinate from time to time, if procrastination is getting in the way of your career or relationship happiness, it might be helpful to talk with someone.
There are many forms of psychotherapy, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that can teach you how to cope with your tendency to procrastinate.
Some people also turn to life coaches to help them. Just as someone has a sports coach to help them reach the finish line, life coaches offer similar guidance. They hold you accountable and provide motivation and encouragement so that you can meet your life goals.