4 Ideas to Help Reduce Procrastination Habits: The Emotional Side of Procrastination
“Procrastination is the opposite of productivity.” -Adam Grant
We are all guilty of procrastinating. Whether you procrastinate responding to emails, put off completing school assignments, wait until the last minute to go grocery shopping or finish the laundry...or even pressing the snooze button when waking up in the morning ;) We are all procrastinators in some way.
It is a common misconception that procrastinators are lazy. Turns out laziness is actually not the issue behind procrastinating. I was curious about procrastinating and decided to search the topic on one of my favorite podcast series called WorkLife with Adam Grant.
While listening, I had a lightbulb moment. Procrastinators do not avoid their work itself, but instead, avoid the negative feelings connected with the task. If a task incites a certain feeling (like fear of failure, or lack of confidence), the procrastinator may avoid the task. It doesn’t necessarily mean the individual dislikes the task. I also learned that changing our emotions can change our perspective toward the task at hand. Positive emotions can motivate us to get the task done rather than delay it.
Math has never been my strong suit. In high school, I began to connect math to feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and failure. None of those feelings are fun. I would experience those feelings from anticipating that subject, even before starting on my math homework. Math was my favorite thing to put off. I didn’t do the work until I couldn’t put it off anymore. I often stayed up late each night in order to finish, which only made my feelings of intense frustration and impatience towards myself increase.
Then I met a friend who helped me notice the connections in math. I finally understood the processes involved, instead of merely trying to learn how to solve the problem. Having a deeper understanding of math gave me the confidence and motivation to actually want to learn more. Instead of dreading math, I was able to reframe my attitude surrounding math and began to associate math with positive feelings including pride in myself. It wasn’t until I changed the way I thought about math that I began to stop procrastinating the work involved. While I still don’t love math, I no longer harbor negative feelings or resent it like I used to.
The following are ways to limit procrastinating, as shared by Adam Grant:
Remember to forgive yourself and remove guilt in order to move on. When I catch myself procrastinating, I remind myself that I’m not alone. When I acknowledge this, it helps me to ease up on myself. I am then able to push forward with the knowledge that I am in control of myself and that I can do hard things.
Outsmart yourself so you don’t fall into any traps. If you know that every chime of your phone will have you reaching for your phone in curiosity, then put your phone on “Do not disturb” and put it in another room. I love to read. Once I start a book, I have a hard time focusing on anything else until I finish it. Knowing this, I read non-textbooks only on my day off from homework each week. If I allow myself to start a new fun book at the beginning of a busy school week, it is too tempting to put off homework. I have learned that it is easier to set these boundaries than to constantly battle with temptations while studying. If the temptations aren’t there, you won't be tempted to begin with.
Use Good Time Management
To ensure deadlines are being met, have a plan for each segment of your task and schedule out specific time frames to work on it without distractions. If it is time to study, focus solely on studying. If it is time to relax, allow yourself to do so. It may also help to ask yourself when you typically procrastinate. You can then use this to adjust your scheduling, if possible.
In my current phase of life, I concentrate better in the evenings. While this time of day doesn’t work for everyone, I’ve learned that it is the most productive time for me. As I am completing tasks, I set realistic expectations as to what I’d like to accomplish each night during the week. I prioritize each “to-do” item on my list and plan out how long to spend on each task. If I need additional time, I work on the task another night but always have a plan and stick to it. This helps me stay motivated (and ahead in my studies) while also keeping my spirits high.
Try a “To Don’t” List of Activities to Avoid.
When it’s time to focus on schoolwork (or whatever the case may be), this “to-don't” list keeps you focused on the task at hand. A huge item on my “to-don't” list while studying is “Don’t turn the TV on, or even be in the same room as the TV.” Another “to-don't” rule of mine is to avoid browsing social media while I’m eating. If it’s time to eat, I focus on eating. Similarly, if I am in class, I focus on the lecture and discussions and avoid checking my email.
Next time you are tempted to procrastinate, try reframing the activity to be something positive rather than negative. You are in control of your emotions and your behaviors. Perhaps that task that you are constantly putting off is incredibly valuable to your growth and success. By facing the challenge, you allow yourself to improve. Take back control of your life by selecting one or more techniques to try.
If you’d like to learn more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a session with us.
*Reminder for Alexis’ post on digital protection- “Curious to understand how you can protect yourself in the digital world? Come back next week as Alexis walks us through precautions to take to stay safe in this digital age/technological world.
Grant, A. (Host). (2020, March). The real reason you procrastinate [Audio Podcast]. In WorkLife with Adam Grant. TED.
About The Author
Rachel is a senior pursuing her degree in communication here at Weber State University.
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