How to manage procrastination
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Laura Mellins BA(Hons) Counselling & Psychotherapy, Dip. Couns. MBACP
1st August, 20160 Comments
Procrastination is something many people experience at different times in their lives. We fail to find the motivation to take on a task or project often for a range of different reasons which include excuses, habits, thoughts and fears.
The habit of procrastinating can have devastating effects on the life of the regular procrastinator. This can include leaving things until the very last minute and then struggling to get the task fully completed. Sometimes not all of the task does get completed and the procrastinator will often justify that to themselves in some way. In some cases where procrastinating has become a firm pattern of behaviour, sometimes tasks never get attempted let alone completed late.
If a procrastinator does rush to complete a task very often they don’t experience feelings of satisfaction or achievement. They can have very mixed feelings, often glad they did get the task done but are left with the challenge of having to accept they perhaps could have done better. These feelings can be the motivation for a procrastinator to decide they will not do that again, but they do. They are stuck in a pattern of thinking and behaving that can be difficult to break and change.
Stress can be a big part of life for procrastinators and levels of stress can be become very high at times when they are desperately working towards a task. Life can feel a bit like being a hamster on a wheel, going round and round but not actually going anywhere.
We are biological mechanisms and are often programmed with conditions and limitations and overworking can lead to procrastinating behaviour in respect of specific tasks. With that in mind, have a think about your workload and perhaps give it a review and restructure.
It is often thought that procrastinators are bad planners, however, this is not always the case. Many procrastinators are expert planners with long, but crucially vague, lists of tasks. The vagueness allows the person to plan but achieve nothing and is a way to sabotage the self. The conscious mind may have every intention of completing the tasks but the unconscious mind has no intention of getting stuck in.
If you find you are someone that is prone to procrastinating behaviours, then perhaps the following will give you something to think about.
What are you avoiding?
It really helps if you are able to think about this question and identify what task or tasks this applies to. Very often a procrastinator will already know the answer to this question and sometimes be feeling stress about known avoidance behaviour.
What do you fear about various tasks?
Fear can often be a driving force with procrastination. Fears can be very varied but often involve fear of success, fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of judgement and that well-known fear that we all experience at times, fear of the unknown. Trying to understand your fears can help to identify how you can address it and what you can do to help eliminate it.
Get disciplined at prioritising tasks. Look at each item on a list and decide what order to do things based on importance. This will help to avoid using unimportant, but urgent, items as an excuse to put off important things. A regular review of your priorities will help towards clearly identifying your important tasks.
All your tasks and goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited. I especially encourage you to break down a task or goal into smaller chunks that are easier to imagine completing and easier to achieve. Once you have achieved specific things this helps provide much needed positive motivation.
About the author
Laura Mellins is an experienced counsellor working with anxiety, depression, stress, bereavement and loss, abuse, self-esteem and confidence issues. Using an integrative approach Laura also helps clients work towards achieving stated goals.
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