Prerna is a thinker, observer, reader & writer. She is always curious to learn. She is a strong believer in human potential.
It’s Sunday afternoon and I planned to write an important article but I ended up organizing my wardrobe.
It wouldn’t be fair to describe myself as lazy. After all, organizing a wardrobe requires effort and focus. Decluttering clothes by category, cleaning closet, organizing it as per the requirement. And it’s not like I was hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. I was doing work.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone!
This isn’t laziness or bad time management. Then what is it?
This is Procrastination.
What is Procrastination?
It is the act of delaying the task and doing something else despite knowing what you should be doing. When you procrastinate instead of doing an important task you end up doing trivial activities. It is the force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.
So, this is clear what procrastination means and we all do it every now and then.
But now the question arises, why you procrastinate? Let’s find out the answer.
“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Why Do We Procrastinate?
According to behavioral psychology research, Time Inconsistency is the main reason for procrastination. What is time inconsistency? It is a situation in which a decision maker’s preferences change over time so that a preference can become inconsistent at another point in time. In short, the human brain tends to value immediate rewards more than future rewards.
For better understanding let me connect it with my example. I knew writing an article was important for me but I preferred organizing my wardrobe. The reward for article writing I will get in the future when it will be published. But organizing the wardrobe will give me an immediate reward. I will be happy and relaxed to see my organized wardrobe. I will get my organized stuff immediately.
So, to satisfy the present self you delay the future rewards tasks and get into the immediate rewarding tasks.
But, when you delay the task you experience anxiety of knowing what you should be doing but can’t do anything about it. You feel guilt and shame while procrastinating and this is the worse feeling than the effort and hard work you have to put in while working.
There can be many reasons for your procrastination. For example, you may find the task boring or unpleasant to do, poor organization skills, poor decision making, etc. Surprisingly, perfectionists are often procrastinators. They tend to wait until the thing is perfect – which holds them back from starting or completing a task.
Well, we all procrastinate most of the time. That means, we have to overcome this habit but how?
How to Stop Procrastination?
1. Temptation Bundling
One of the most proven strategies to arrange some immediate rewards into the present moment is known as temptation bundling. A term coined by the behavior researcher ‘Katherine Milkman’. Basically, it means you bundle a source of instant reward (like watching a favorite show or checking social media) with a less fun but beneficial activity (Like running or working on a spreadsheet). For Eg, I listen to my favorite podcasts while walking or running. This way it keeps me motivated to do the exercise.
But ensure the pleasure of ‘want’ should only be gained by engaging in ‘should’ activity. Thus, you will more likely enjoy the ‘should’ (unwanted action) with other ‘want’ (Pleasurable) activities.
You can even reverse it by connecting a ‘should not’ activity with the ‘do not want.’ This will be like a punishment for doing ‘should not’ things. Remember, the core of temptation bundling is ‘should want’ coupling.
- Listen to an audiobook while cooking.
- Get your pedicure done while sorting emails.
- You can have extra sugar in coffee only while cleaning the house.
‘Should-want’ coupling is different for each one of us. Make a list of should-want activities and couple it as per your need. You are more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time.
Do ‘things you love’ while doing ‘things you procrastinate on.’
2. Commitment Device
A tool psychologists use to overcome procrastination. It can help you to design your future actions ahead of time. You have to align your present self with your future self to bridge the ‘intention action’ gap. It means you have to make voluntary choices in the present that will impact your future goal.
For example, you can delete games and shopping apps from your phone so you don’t waste time on that. You can add more healthy food in replacement of junk food in your grocery list. This way you curb your future unhealthy eating habits.
Similarly, you can set up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. Delete entertainment apps like Netflix and add audiobooks, kindle, etc.
We generally underestimate how making a slight change in our decisions today can help commit our future selves to desired goals.
3. Start with a high-priority task
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
Organize your time accordingly and get those tasks done early which you find unpleasant but are important. This will give you the rest of the day to concentrate on things which you enjoy the most.
You must develop the routine of ‘eating your frog’ before you do anything else and without too much time to think about it.
4. Break large tasks into small, actionable pieces
The ‘Two-Minute Rule’ from James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’ is a great strategy to stop procrastinating and making it easier for you to stick to your good habits or plans. It states “when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get started.
For example, running a marathon is very hard. Running 5km is hard. Walking 10000 steps is difficult. Walking for 10 minutes is easy. And putting on your shoes is very easy. So, once you start doing the right thing, it’s easier to continue doing it. Then it will not feel like a challenge. Your goal is to run a marathon but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes.
Here, the point is to master the habit of showing up rather than procrastinating.
A habit must indeed be established before it can be improved. Instead of sitting for writing a book (which you are procrastinating for months) set a goal of writing 250 words every 15 minutes. Once you continue the pattern each day, the momentum will carry you further into the task. This approach will help you to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment after 15 minutes of writing while continuing to work on the larger goal of writing a book.
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to recognize that you’re doing it. Then, you need to understand the reasons why you are procrastinating before you can begin to tackle it.
Figure out when, how, and why you procrastinate. Examine the situations where you tend to postpone things. Fill in the intention-action gap which was preventing you from achieving your goals.
Make that ‘some day’ today.
Tell me your way of overcoming procrastination?
“While we waste our time hesitating and postponing, life is slipping away.”
© 2021 Prerna Dhulekar