We’ve all been there – you’ve got a deadline looming or a big task that needs to be completed, but for some reason you’re unable to find the motivation to do it and end up leaving work to the last minute.
You’re a procrastinator. Yes, us too! It can be tempting to put off tasks that we really don’t want to do, even though we know they’ll need to be done eventually.
You might feel that you need the rush of a looming deadline to get things done, relying on that rush of last-minute adrenaline (and coffee!) to complete the work.
The good news? If you tend to procrastinate, you’re more likely to be a creative individual.
According to a study by Jihae Shin at the University of Wisconsin, those who put off a task often came up with more imaginative work.
The bad news? Procrastination can lead to stress and anxiety – and leave you feeling generally on edge.
A 2007 study of university students found that procrastinators tended to delay tasks they didn’t like and were also afraid of failure.
The students who described themselves as procrastinators were more likely to feel anxious and experience physical symptoms of anxiety.
Take our procrastination test and read on to learn more about why we procrastinate – plus read our tips for stopping procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate?
What is the main cause of procrastination? There are lots of reasons why we procrastinate and doesn’t mean that you’re lazy.
Sometimes we avoid tasks we don’t like – or find boring – even when we know we really shouldn’t put them off.
A lack of structure can make it easy to avoid doing a difficult tasks too – if your tasks are disorganised it’s easy to be distracted by social media or online news.
If you tend to focus on the tasks which need to be done right now, rather than future tasks, then you’ll often end up deferring work so that it never gets done.
Anxiety sufferers also tend to procrastinate and put off starting work due to a fear of failure and procrastination can also be a sign of low self-esteem.
How do I stop procrastinating and get things done?
Procrastination is a complex issue, but one of the most common issues is aversion – you just really want to avoid a particular task because it’s boring or difficult.
One way to get around this is to ‘swallow the frog’. This is not as revolting as it sounds we promise!
Swallowing the frog means getting the most unappealing task out of the way first, even though you really want to avoid it.
As Mark Twain once said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
No one wants to swallow the frog, but you’ll feel much better if you stop dithering get it out of the way as soon as possible, rather than dreading it and putting it off.
Mark Twain also said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Check out these related articles on wellbeing:
7 ways to be more productive and stop leaving work until the last minute
- Break the task down into chunks. If you break down the intimidating task into small pieces, it’ll seem less terrifying. Think about how to split it into smaller parts and when you’ll need to do each part by.
- Identify your distractions. What takes your time and attention away from what needs to be done? If it’s Facebook or games on your phone, try keeping your phone out of sight or even deleting the apps. Alternatively, there are plenty of apps that block social media temporarily.
- Get supporters. Enlist the help of friends, colleagues and family to help you keep on track – ask them to nag you about the task until you do it!
- Reward yourself. Promise yourself a reward for completing each stage – even if it’s something small, like making a coffee or having a small treat.
- Set deadline reminders. Put little reminders on your calendar so that you stay on schedule.
- Write a list of things that you need to do. Number them in order of priority, then tackle the biggest ones first. After that, blitz through a few of the smaller ones so that you feel you’ve had a productive day.
- If something is important, try to do it right away. Getting it out of the way will make you feel less stressed.
Take our procrastination quiz
Photos by Alexander Solodukhin, rawpixel.com and Keenan Constance on Unsplash