By Preeti P.
Everyone has put something off at some point in their life — I even procrastinated writing this article. So am I really the best person to tell you how to overcome procrastination? It is, if you consider that procrastination can be so severe as to be pathological.
For some people, procrastination is a generalized, habitual self-destructive pattern. Avoidance and delay have become the core habit. The procrastinator cannot get anything accomplished on time, resulting in serious career struggles, persistent financial problems, and interpersonal issues. It affects every aspect of life.
Whether you are a debilitated or irritated by your tendency to avoid tasks, try these tips for breaking the cycle of procrastination.
Dashes of productivity. Break down big tasks into smaller ones, then progressively complete the smaller tasks through bursts of focused activity, baby-step style (2). Our brains release dopamine when we accomplish goals, so it’s a great way to “trick” your brain into feeling as though you’ve accomplished something (3).
Positive procrastination. Schedule some tasks to do at a later date, closer to the deadline. Focus on smaller but more urgent items immediately.
The Pomodoro Technique. This involves working in 25-minute slots separated by 5-minute breaks (called pomodoros); after 4, there is a 20-minute break. The idea is that the timer instills urgency, which can boost productivity (4).
Build in accountability. Ask a friend, co-worker or family member to check your progress. Share your plan and timeline with them so they can help urge you forward. This positive social pressure is a good motivator (5).
Identify the root of the problem. Understanding the root causes of your procrastination can help identify ways to overcome it (6). Anxiety and fear are to blame for many people (7). Fear of doing a poor job, not living up to expectations, disappointing others, or looking foolish or stupid may all underlie your reluctance to get started.
Analyse the pros and cons. Understand the benefits and negative repercussions of completing the task. Will the disappointment of your co-workers or friends be worse than actually tackling the task? Chances are, completing the task is more beneficial and you may be more likely to accomplish it to avoid the cons (8).
Overcoming the ‘double-agenda’ dilemma. This is a conflict between stated (the goal/task) and unstated agendas (the negative emotions associated with the task); there are two steps to overcome this: recognising the conflict and then applying your abilities to accomplish the task (9).
Mindfulness. This is a way of training your attention and focusing on the task at hand (10).
Unlinking performance and self-worth. There’s a link between perfectionism and procrastination; it’s important to remember the difference between who you are and what you achieve (11). Consider whether you may have Imposter Syndrome.
So, I see you made it all the way here without procrastinating – that’s a great start. Of course, these are only some of the ways in which you can overcome pathological procrastination. It’s important to note that not every method will work for you. Find out which ones do.
Do you struggle with procrastination? Contact the BFDC. We can help.
Preethi P. is one of our Work Experience Students and attends an international school here in Hong Kong. She joined the BFDC for a week to learn more about psychology as a career choice.