Are you always putting things off until tomorrow? Procrastination — the act of postponing or delaying a task — happens to the best of us, and it could affect our mental and physical health. People who procrastinate have higher stress levels and experience lower well-being, say scientists. And delaying deadlines could increase the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
Now is the time to overcome procrastination for good. But how? There could be a solution. A researcher has developed a method for unlocking habitual hesitation.
The Procrastination Problem
For all of us who work in the motion pictures industry, procrastination manifests itself in multiple ways. Perhaps procrastination is that movie script we’ve put off for years. Or the phone call we should have made to our co-worker yesterday. (We’ll do it tomorrow.) The pandemic has made the problem worse. Working from home brings its unique set of distractions — kids, dogs, and daytime television.
Ninety-five percent of Americans occasionally procrastinate, while 20 percent are chronic procrastinators. And all this procrastination is having an enormous impact on productivity and even the economy.
Is there a cure?
How to Beat Procrastination for Good
While studying for his Ph.D. at Griffith University, Australia, Jason Wessel developed four questions for procrastinators. Ask yourself these questions the next time you feel like delaying a task.
- How would a successful person complete your goal?
- How would you feel if you don’t do the required task?
- What is the next step you need to do to complete the task?
- If you could do one thing to achieve your goal on time, what would it be?
Answering these questions could help us resist future temptations and focus on more important things. (In Wessel’s research, procrastinators who answered the four questions were more likely to complete tasks on time.) Perhaps we’ll finally get that movie script written.
Procrastination and Anxiety
Perhaps procrastination is a symptom of something else.
“Avoidance is a hallmark of anxiety,” says Robin Yeganeh, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
Yeganeh says that anxious people often engage in unproductive behavior to avoid discomfort. This behavior includes spending too much time on social media or carrying out trivial errands.
If anxiety is triggering procrastination, try these tips:
- Break a large, time-consuming task into smaller tasks. Doing this will make an upcoming project feel less daunting.
- Complete the highest priority tasks first and get them out of the way.
- Focus on doing the task not putting off the task. Visualize completing the task and the steps you need to take to get there.
Nearly everyone procrastinates, pandemic or not. Trying out the suggestions above could help you overcome the issue and stop you from putting off the inevitable. Other times, procrastination might be a warning sign for something else entirely. Either way, you will have more information for yourself, which can help lead you to change.