Decoding & Overcoming Procrastination
The word procrastination is derived from the Latin 'procrastinare' – meaning 'to put off until tomorrow' and from the ancient Greek word 'akrasia', which means 'acting against one's better judgement'.
Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favour of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
Often confused with laziness (which suggests apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act), procrastination is an active process – you choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing.
This element of self-awareness is what makes us feel icky about procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate?
Psychologists say that it is an emotion-regulation problem and not a time management problem. It is a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.
To get into the nitty-gritties of it, when we are under distress, the rational part of the brain (i.e., the prefrontal cortex) shuts down and the amygdala (the part of the brain that moderates our fear response) perceives the task as a genuine threat to our self-esteem or our mental health.
Procrastination operates on “present bias”: we favour actions that are followed by immediate rewards, and tend to perform them faster in order to get the reward. So essentially, it’s “today you” putting itself before “tomorrow you” by giving into instant gratification.
So how do I procrastinate less?
The next time you feel the urge to procrastinate come along, consider answering these questions:
What task will make me feel better if I do it right now, no matter how uncomfortable I’ll feel for a moment?
What if I do just 5 minutes of it, sit through the discomfort for just five minutes and see how I feel after getting through it?
Do I want to deal with the discomfort head on or do I want to let it bother me in the back of my mind throughout the day?
How can I make this task more enjoyable while I’m doing it - can I listen to my favourite playlist, can I sit in a cafe and do it with a nice cup of coffee?
In its simplest form, we need to first think in terms of what sounds good to us in the next moment and not the next day. When you bring your awareness into it, you will instantly feel more joy when you finish said task. That’s a Brightside guarantee!
If you’re curious and would like to know more about the science behind procrastination, here are a few links for you to explore:
Cognitive Neuroscientist Nawal Mustafa demystifies procrastination in conversation with Vogue India.
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change
What are some tasks, big or small, that you have been putting off? Reply to this post and let us know if it helped you get it done faster!