In his bestseller ‘The Time Keeper’, Mitch Albom says:
“Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralysing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
It’s 2pm on a Sunday, you’re sat with your laptop, determined to get that essay done. You next find it to be 8pm and you’ve browsed through the entire ASOS sale section, started a new series, watched eight make up tutorials and eaten an entire packet of the Maltesers jumbo share packet.
Fear not if the above was a complete description of your entire life, and always seem to find yourself busy doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing instead of doing that thing you know you need to get done.
We’re all procrastinators, one way or another.
What is it?
In a nutshell, procrastinating is the act of delaying something that needs to be done currently, in favour of doing something that is less important and usually more enjoyable (even if that’s clearing through the 147 emails that have been sat in your junk box for months).
Chances are, whilst you’re reading this, there’s something very important you know you need to get done, but you can put your guilt aside because procrastinating is completely natural. Here’s why:
When we begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed by something that’s particularly important, the amygdala (the part of the brain which is responsible for emotions and memory) releases adrenaline, which protects negative emotions of panic and depression. Apparently, adrenaline also dulls the brain regions responses to planning and logical reasoning, which leaves us with a more impulsive brain system and convinces us that stalking people on Instagram for four hours isn’t such a bad idea, even if you have an exam tomorrow.
Why do we procrastinate?
Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in the US, says procrastination, “really has nothing to do with time-management… To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person: cheer up.”
Instead Ferrari claims we procrastinate for two basic reasons:
- We feel like we’re in the wrong mood to complete a specific task
- We assume this ‘mood’ will improve later on
So instead you take a nap, with belief that you’ll be more focused later. Which everybody knows is never really the case.
How can we stop?
Most of the things we procrastinate from aren’t entirely difficult, and only seem time-consuming because we waste more time thinking about doing the job than actually getting it done. We have all the talent and skill to get the task done, but what we really lack is the motivation.
- Make a plan: Set yourself goals (micro and macro) that you know you’ll be able to achieve, and get them done! Create a to-do list, and throughout the day tick off each task you’ve done. There’s nothing better than the growing sense of pride you get as you see your list become ever diminishing.
- Remove all distractions: Don’t sit and write an essay in front of the TV or with your phone. You’ll end up watching the same re-runs and regret it at 10pm when you’ve still not got past the introduction.
- Start the hard stuff first: This way you’ll have more time to do the task properly, and can get the minor jobs done once the big one is out of the way. Makes so much more sense right?
- Take regular breaks: Don’t try and be a hero and do everything in one go, because you can’t afford to use up all your will power for one task. You have a lot to get done so don’t be so hard on yourself.
- Believe in yourself: Tell yourself you can and you will – it’s that simple!
What do you think? What other tips would you add to beat procrastination? Have your say in the comments section below.