If you don’t know what procrastination problem refers to, let me tell you the story of my life. And nod your head if you feel that freaking sympathy.
I have a job, everyone does, and I love working. However, when it comes to a big task with a due date, it seems to be a different story. Let’s say the deadline is a week from today. And this is how I should manage my task, I would call it the Perfect Distribution Method.
To be honest, 6 days, 5 days, 4 days before the deadline, I usually lie on the couch, eating popcorn while watching Netflix. Have you nodded your head?
If you manage the schedule as above, then excuse me, you must be James Clear or any of other productivity professors who spend their life experimenting thousands of productivity methods.
Sadly, we’re not them. We’re normal people with normal behavior. You might have reminded yourself of getting things done right on the first day. However, this world is filled with endless distractions and interruptions. “Oh well, I can do it tomorrow”, start watching Netflix.
Then, the Perfect Distribution Method turns imperfect:
Well, do I have to mention the end of the story?
Right, we start to work our a*s off the day before the due date.
Let me pose another question:
What is the biggest problem that teens face daily?
Fatty food? Dirty clothes? Justine Bieber? Somehow close. But you know what I’m going to mention here
Unfortunately, we all are the members of an incredibly terrible country, Procrasti-nation
I have a friend, I call him Alan (because that is his name), a psychologist, working on a procrastination project, identifying himself as a chronic procrastinator. We had an intriguing chat about what he was researching for his project. And he showed me this
It sounds like he made up a funny story. However, after searching myself, it turns out to be the most realistic fact that the number of procrastinators is going up dramatically.
In a study in the Psychological Bulletin by Piers Steel, a University of Calgary professor, concluded that about 5% of people were chronic procrastinators in 1978 as opposed to about 26% in 2007.
According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, the amount of people who are chronic procrastinators today is still around 20%.
On the top of that, roughly 75% of university students have considered themselves to suffer from serious procrastination problem.
Not only is procrastination affecting students when they should be focused on learning and starting their careers, but it is costing businesses a lot of money.
In fact, according to reports in 2012, it costs businesses roughly $10,396 per year per employee that is a chronic procrastinator.
Businesses are losing money and people are losing valuable time that could have been spent being productive. But, not only are the businesses losing money, you may be as well if you procrastinate.
But, why is procrastination becoming more and more of a problem? Why does it seem so hard to overcome procrastination? And what can we do to be rid of it once and for all?
Why we procrastinate?
These “Productivity Killers” (as I have mentioned in the post The value of time) happen to be everywhere. And they would unresistingly take place when it comes to hard tasks and you feel “you need more time to think”. That’s the root of the procrastination problem.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any platforms that can scroll down to infinity will take you to a matrix and keep you stuck for 3, 4 hours.
Another study was done by Webtrate, reported by The Telegraph, that showed 60% of survey respondents who checked social media profiles or email during work, forgot what they were originally thinking about.
With just social media and email, 36% of respondents lost about an hour of productivity and 16% lost more than that.
Let’s not take it too complicated. There are two main parts of our brain that control our decision-making: The pre-frontal cortex and the limbic region.
The pre-frontal cortex of your brain actually deals with your long-term thinking and your willpower.
The limbic system overrides the pre-frontal cortex and we end up just going for the quick fix (or what we feel more comfortable doing – procrastinate) when it comes to a difficult task.
But why the limbic system always win over the pre-frontal cortex? The answer is the amygdala, which controls the reactions to fear and threat.
Imagine you are in the jungle and your pre-frontal cortex keeps reminding you of the homework. Then you see a lion coming at you.
Well, I have never seen a wild lion before. But I saw my teacher approaching me when I didn’t do my homework. The reaction of the amygdala would be the same.
The first thing we will do is to freeze. Then the pre-frontal cortex shut down and homework goes dumped! Man, I have to save my life first so I can touch the homework. We have to focus on what’s going on in the world around us.
When we procrastinate, it’s also the time that we have to cope with fears and threats. What’s exactly we’re afraid of when doing the homework?
- The hardness of the homework
- The displeasure of doing the homework
- Missing the latest Game of Thrones episode
That’s how we procrastinate. And we have to wisely use mindfulness to beat procrastination.
Develop a comprehensive system
Willpower is useless unless you build a system and keep yourself rolling.
What are some things that research proved to be effective?
- Set a deadline
- Seek for accountability (friends, family members)
- Eliminate distractions
- Enhance internal motivation
- Sleep well
- Eat well
The deadlines create urgency, accountability will create responsibility, distractions elimination takes away temptations, well- sleeping & eating will give you more energy to get the willpower engine going.
However, no system will help you if you don’t have an inner drive. Remember to motivate yourself every day.
Understand active procrastination
There’s been a debate around the question: Is procrastination good or bad?.
It can be good for some and bad for others.
In a 2005 study in The Journal of Social Psychology (Vol. 145, No. 3), Jin Nam Choi, Ph.D., a business professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, differentiated between two types of procrastinators:
- Passive procrastinators, who postpone tasks until the last minute because of an inability to act in a timely manner.
- Active procrastinators, who prefer the time pressure and purposely decide to delay a task but are still able to complete tasks before deadlines and achieve satisfactory outcomes.
Some people love working under pressure, which pushes up their creativity and pulls them out of their comfort zone. That’s the way they take advantage of procrastination.
Instead of striking into the task at the very beginning, relax, prepare all necessary research and materials. Then you’re ready to work. The results could be better than ever.
If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you will feel the power of goal setting. I am all for goals when it comes to short-term projects and areas we’re vulnerable to procrastinating.
The most effective process I’ve found for goal-setting is to break your task down into manageable steps, write them down, and make sure they’re “SMART.” When the big project is split into parts, it’s less overwhelming. This gives us the motivation to take the first step.
If you want to solve your procrastination problem by setting goals? Nirow can be a good choice. It is a powerful Habit & Goal Tracker that can track up to 40+ automatic habits (