Putting Off Procrastination

Are you a procrastinator? Chances are, there’s been some time in your life when you’ve put something off longer than you should have. While about 20% of the population would consider themselves chronic procrastinators, in school settings that number can jump up to 75%.

What is Procrastination?

Contrary to popular belief procrastination isn’t just “laziness.” Procrastination is making a decision, for no valid reason, to delay or not complete a task or goal that you’ve committed to, and instead doing something of lesser importance despite there being negative consequences of not following through on the original task or goal.

So although procrastination can feel like an impulsive, automatic habit; it’s actually an intentional one.

What do People Procrastinate About?

Just because you procrastinate on sometime, doesn’t mean you procrastinate on everything in life. Most of the time, people tend to procrastinate in one specific area. If you want to find out what areas you tend to procrastinate in, try keeping a list for a week of all the things you want to put off. Some common tasks include…

Work: meeting deadlines, making phone calls, starting or finishing projects, paperwork, job applications.

Study: attending classes, completing homework, studying for exams, asking questions or asking for help.

Financial: Opening mail, paying the bills, budgeting, paying back debts, filing tax returns.

Self-Development: Starting  a course you’ve always wanted to do, starting a hobby, getting involved in something spiritual.

Household: Daily chores, household projects, grocery shopping, running errands.

Health: Making medical appointments, changing diet, quitting smoking/alcohol/drugs

Social, Family & Relationships: Making phone calls, replying to invitations, spending time with others, discussing problems.

Decision Making: Making plans, committing to something new, choosing between options.

Now think about which of the things you’ve written down has caused you the most distress or is having the most negative impact on your life and choose one of those tasks/goals to work on. Procrastination can be an old habit, so it’s best to go about changing your habit slowly and take one step at at time.

How do People Procrastinate?

After you’ve identified what you’re procrastinating on, it’s also important to identify what you tend to pick as a procrastination activity, or things that take you further away from the task or goal. Some common diversions include:

Pleasurable Tasks: Movies, TV, reading books, playing computer games, shopping

Socialising: hanging out with friends, going out.

Distractions: Sleeping, eating, drinking, doing drugs.

Lower Priority Tasks: Exercising, sorting things, tidying, checking emails.

Daydreaming: Thinking about the past/future, imagining the task is already completed, imagining a better life.

Distractions in themselves aren’t bad, but they do become a problem when they’re preventing us from completing other things. So the next time you notice yourself doing one of these activities, ask yourself, “Am I doing this as a way of procrastinating? Is there a more important task I need to be doing right now?”

Excusing Procrastination

Procrastination can also often be paired with guilt or shame; the idea that you “should” be doing something else. Some common excuses include…

  • I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • I don’t have everything I need, so I can’t start now.
  • I don’t have enough time to do it, so I’ll wait until I do
  • It’s too late to start now
  • It’s better to do when I’m in the mood, or feeling inspired
  • It’s too nice a day to spend on this
  • I’ll do it once this other thing is finished
  • I’ve got to do XYZ first
  • I have plenty of time, so I’ll do it later
  • Working on it today won’t make any difference.

One thing about these excuses is that there is often some kind of truth in them. It may be true that you’re tired, or that you don’t have everything you need. The problem is when you use these to make excuses for why it’s okay to not do the task at hand. So it’s the conclusion that needs to change, not the statement.

Stay tuned next week, when we’ll talk about the main reasons people procrastinate as well as the consequences of this.

Nicole Paulie is an author, Counselling Psychologist and co-founder of MyMoodandMe. She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

This blog post was adapted from Module 1: Understanding Procrastination Part I.

Putting off Procrastination
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