Procrastination, the Foe of Productivity



Procrastination is a challenge we have all faced at one point or another. For as long as humans have been around, we have been struggling with delaying, avoiding, and procrastinating on issues that matter to us. The problem of procrastination is so timeless that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia, which is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control.


Procrastination typically gets a bad name as a habit that impacts productivity and holds people back from fulfilling their potential. Procrastination has been linked to a number of negative associations, such as depression, irrational behaviour, low self-esteem, anxiety and neurological disorders such as ADHD. Others have found relationships with guilt and stress.


Some researchers define procrastination as "a form of self-regulation failure characterized by the needless delay of things one intends to do despite the expectation of negative consequences."


Behavioral psychology research has revealed a phenomenon called “time inconsistency,” which helps explain why procrastination seems to pull us in despite our good intentions. Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.


When referring to procrastination, some people may think of it as poor time management, an inability to organize and prioritize tasks, meaning that we do them at the last minute, or even past their deadline. We may procrastinate to reduce stress in the short-term. Increasingly, research has shown that procrastination is, in fact, a complex, often maladaptive reaction to various perceived stressors.


One study found that procrastination is positively related to psychological vulnerability. Other research pointed out that people who tend to put tasks off until the last moment may have lower self-esteem than their peers. Studies have also found that people who procrastinate tend to have higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-compassion.


A study published in in 2017 shows a correlation between certain types of procrastination and neuroticism, a personality trait that denotes a high susceptibility to feelings of anxiety, worry, or frustration. In 2018, researches indicated that the people who are most likely to keep on procrastinating seem to have larger amygdalae than non-procrastinators. The amygdale is a brain region that plays a crucial role in the regulation of emotions, particularly processing anxiety and fear. The researchers explained that regarding action control, this could mean that individuals with a larger amygdala volume have learned from past mistakes and evaluate future actions and their possible consequences more extensively and this, in turn might lead to greater concern and hesitation, as observed in individuals with low decision-related action orientation scores.


Another study suggests that people may use procrastination as a "quick fix" for the negative moods created by the stress related to a specific task.


Procrastinating may create more stress in the long run, affecting mental health. Some people tend to procrastinate if there is a task that they don't want to do, perhaps because it is unpleasant, stressful, or boring.



How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now


There are many strategies that can be employed to stop procrastinating. If you can find a way to make the benefits of long-term choices more immediate, then it becomes easier to avoid procrastination. One of the best ways to bring future rewards into the present moment is by bundling a behavior that is good for you in the long-run with a behavior that feels good in the short-run.


Procrastination is the bane of every student’s existence. We know what we should be doing; we just don’t want to do it. It’s easy to put off undesirable assignments until the very last minute, but then we’re forced to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Here are a few tips to crush procrastination.


  1. Get organized


You can't do any work if you don't know what assignments need to be completed. Start using the calendar app on your phone. This makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and important due dates.


  1. Set simple, achievable goals


It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan.


  1. Create a timeline/schedule


After you set your goals, create a timeline to complete them. Breaking an assignment into small chunks over time makes it much more manageable. If you have an assignment due, aim to have it completed one or two days in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you still have extra time to complete it.


  1. Get rid of distractions


It’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so you don’t get needlessly sidetracked halfway through your task. If you tend to spend too much time on Snapchat or Instagram when you should be studying, then shut your phone off (all the way off).


  1. Time yourself


When loaded with assignments, it's easy to overwork yourself. Set a timer for 60 minutes to prevent yourself from burning out.


  1. Take a break


It's important to take mental breathers from work every now and then. When your timer goes off, take a 10–15-minute break. Listen to music, take a walk, or do something  that takes your mind off of work and allows you to relax.



  1. Use self incentives


Everyone loves being rewarded. It’s important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, "If I work on this assignment for an hour, I'll watch an episode of my favorite TV show tonight."


  1. Get the hard stuff done first


It is best to complete your most challenging assignments first. That way everything after it seems easier and takes a shorter amount of time.


  1. Tell someone about your goal


It’s easy to forget about assignments or put them off if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable. If you really want to get something done, tell a friend or family member. Now there is someone holding you responsible for your goals.


According to education experts, procrastination is considerably more widespread in students than in the general population, with over 70 percent of students reporting procrastination for assignments at some point. A 2014 panel study from Germany among several thousand University students found that increasing academic procrastination increases the frequency of seven different forms of academic misconduct, i.e., using fraudulent excuses, plagiarism, copying from someone else in exams, using forbidden means in exams, carrying forbidden means into exams, copying parts of homework from others, fabrication or falsification of data and the variety of academic misconduct. This study argues that academic misconduct can be seen as a means to cope with the negative consequences of academic procrastination such as performance impairment.


Undoubtedly, taking any amount of pains to ward off the habit of procrastination would be highly rewarding in one’s life.


(Courtesy : ‘Atomic Habits’ by John Clear; Medical News Today)


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