The idiom “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” has been credited to many people, including Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. Regardless of who first uttered the phrase, it still rings true. Many people are guilty of procrastinating, which can affect their productivity and various other areas of their lives.
Procrastination can sometimes be a good thing, giving a person time to think through decisions more thoroughly instead of acting impulsively. Waiting to do something until a deadline looms also may motivate a person to work harder to complete the task at hand. Yet chronic procrastination can be a problem that affects one’s job performance, academic success and the general state of mind.
Psychology Today says that procrastinating is often done to temporarily reduce a person’s anxiety about a task or alleviate boredom or negative feelings toward the work at hand. Procrastination is more a symptom of emotions rather than a problem of poor time management. Experts in the field of psychology say that even though procrastinating may temporarily relieve anxiety or unpleasant feelings, procrastinating ultimately can increase negative feelings.
Resolving to stop pushing tasks into the future can be a worthwhile goal, but it’s difficult.
“To tell a chronic procrastinator to ‘just do it’ would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, ‘cheer up’,” said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University.
Individuals can instead employ these strategies to get focused.
• Set deadlines. Open-ended timeframes for getting things done may be a procrastinator’s worst enemy. Setting deadlines can provide the inspiration needed to get things done. Set reminders to help stay on task.
• Seek cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT is a common type of talk therapy that is used as a tool in treating various mental health conditions and other situations. CBT helps a person become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking to change a view on challenging situations, says the Mayo Clinic. This way one can respond to them in a more effective way.
• Identify feelings. Identifying why a person is procrastinating can help him or she gets past the block. Fear, change, sadness, or lack of experience may be behind a person’s tendency to procrastinate. Identifying the cause can help men and women overcome this hurdle.
• Break down the task. Dividing a challenging task into a handful of smaller tasks can make it easier to complete the project. Reward little successes, which will eventually add up to a big success.
• Keep distractions at bay. Remove distractions from the environment, so they can’t be used as a procrastination crutch.
Over time, people can break the habit of procrastination and become more efficient and successful.