Overcoming Procrastination

“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.”

– Norman Vincent Peale

 

What is procrastination, why do we do it, and why is it bad?

 

This blog post we are going to look at overcoming procrastination. Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing things. It is normal. We all procrastinate from time to time. However, procrastination can become a real issue when it gets in the way of us completing the tasks we need to or it leads to distressing feelings such as, inadequacy, frustration or helplessness.

It is important to remember procrastinating often stems from being overwhelmed (either a task seems too big, we think we will fail so might as well not even try or we have too much on our plates… to read about tips for managing burnout see here). So, a lot of the ideas around helping procrastination are about breaking larger tasks down and focusing on the immediate steps rather than the whole project. To read more about why we procrastination see here.

The quote at the top of this page is a great reminder that action is always better than no action. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We can simply start putting small steps in place. The more we achieve, the more direction and clarity we have about a task and the more confident we feel in our abilities.

So, whilst procrastination may relieve pressure and unpleasant feelings in the moment, the long term costs and especially over time are far more detrimental. Procrastination has been linked to increased stress which can lead to cardiovascular disease. And procrastination is often a common symptom of depression.

 

Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Procrastination

 

Often procrastination steps from the unhelpful and irrational thoughts we have about completing a project. This is why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) can be a helpful strategy. And psychologists use this to help with overcoming procrastination. CBT looks at how our thoughts influence our emotions which influence our behaviours. For example, if I have irrational thoughts around getting a task done then this may make me feel scared to complete the task which will lead to me not doing the task.

Examples of Irrational Thoughts Which Lead to Unproductive Feelings Which Lead to Procrastination

 

Thought: “I must get everything right”

Emotion: “I feel overwhelmed, pressured and ashamed”

Behaviour: Procrastination

 

Thought: “If it’s not done perfect, there’s no point trying”

Emotion: “I feel helpless, useless, and not good enough”

Behaviour: Procrastination

 

Thought: “What’s the point”

Emotion: “I feel entitled and like these tasks don’t matter”

Behaviour: Procrastination

 

Thought: “I should be able to do everything easily and effortlessly. This is taking too much time”

Emotion: “I feel anxious, embarrassed, and stressed”

Behaviour: Procrastination

 

Understanding our Thoughts to Overcome Procrastination

 

However, these are just a few examples. To overcome our own procrastination habits, we need to be aware of our own patterns. Think about the irrational thoughts you have around procrastination. To understand our thoughts, it can be helpful to journal about them. Explore the fears or thoughts that accompany your procrastination and think about how you can replace these with healthier and more productive ones. Think about the tasks that you avoid and the thoughts and feelings which arise when you do other things than your work. And then think about the strengths and skills you can use to help you cope.

 

When we start to be aware of our thoughts around procrastination and work to reframe them, we can put behavioural strategies in place that help us with our procrastination habits. It is important to find a strategy that works for you. Set yourself the challenged of trying two of the strategies below each week and see which ones’ work for you. And then look at making these a part of your regular routine.

 

Other Helpful Behavioural Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

 

  • Make a list and prioritise tasks from low, medium to high importance
  • Break larger tasks down into more manageable tasks
  • Do up a schedule and practise good time management
  • Eliminate distractions (humans aren’t very good at resisting so when it comes to distractions it is best to remove them…turn your phone off, close your email tab and move away from friends or family that rope you into fun conversations)
  • Work for set periods of time and take regular breaks
  • Get clear about your goals and keep coming back to them
  • Reward yourself for your achievements
  • Practise gratitude and self-compassion for the efforts you are making (to read about why self-compassion is important see here)

 

When it all seems too much, the importance of taking a step back

 

It is really easy to constantly get caught up in our “to do” lists. But remember, we are not machines. We make mistakes, need days off and can celebrate our achievements. So, when it comes to getting things done, keep your thinking in check and work through at your own pace. This series has been about your journey to overcoming procrastination.

To finish up, if you are struggling with procrastination, seeing a psychologist can help us to firstly, understand the reasons why we procrastinate and secondly, regularly explore techniques like CBT which can help us to manage our procrastination

To consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, please download our referral form here and take it with you to your GP appointment. We hope to be of assistance soon! Remember to reach out if you need further assistance.

 

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.

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