According to the Merriam- Webster dictionary, procrastination is intentionally and habitually putting off things that should be done.
So why do we do it?
Why do we put things off?
Why can’t we just get it done?
I know I have been guilty of procrastination at times.
It isn’t always the tasks I don’t enjoy either.
I can think of a perfect example of procrastination during my preparations for our Canadian Thanksgiving last weekend.
Normally I make the dressing, stuff the turkey and get it in the oven to slowly roast on low heat overnight because we typically have our big meal at lunchtime.
Not this time.
Oh, I tore up the bread earlier in the day on Saturday like I normally would but then in the evening when I should have been making the dressing with the rest of the ingredients I didn’t do it.
Instead, I chose to snuggle up and watch a movie with my husband and then before you know it is very late.
Like after midnight late.
The last thing I wanted to do was get that turkey in the oven because I knew it was about an hour’s work.
So I didn’t do it.
I ended up having to set my alarm for 5:30 and getting up very early to do it so I could have it in the oven by 7 am to have it cooked on time.
It was still delicious but not quite as juicy as usual and I was exhausted all day because I had to get up so early.
I love cooking preparing the Jiggs dinner every year so it isn’t because I don’t like the task.
So why do we procrastinate then, knowing the inevitable?
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What is the true cost of procrastination?
Everything has a cost right. So what is the true cost of procrastination?
Quite frankly that can totally depend on what you are procrastinating about.
In the case of my Thanksgiving dinner, the cost was that:
- I had to get up earlier
- I was much more rushed than normal
- the turkey wasn’t as moist as usual because it had to be cooked at a higher heat
- and I was exhausted all-day
If you are planning a trip and procrastinate about packing and leaving for the airport, the cost could be missing your flight and not enjoying that vacation.
I know a couple that chooses not to prepare for their vacation. They choose to leave it for the last minute and the night before they started to throw some things together but the majority of the packing took place in the morning.
After driving for 3.5 hours to the airport just in time to get checked in they discovered they had forgotten their passports and couldn’t make their 2-week vacation trip.
What about your work?
The habit of procrastinating at work could cost you that promotion you were seeking or it could cost you your job, this used to be something I struggled with at times.
There were certain tasks at work that I absolutely abhorred and I would put them off until the last possible minute before doing them.
You probably have some of those tasks that you would prefer to avoid if you could.
Now that I have my own online business I no longer struggle with job-related procrastination. The biggest reason for that is because I am doing what I LOVE and that makes all the difference.
On the other hand, I don’t like doing the budget but my partner does it so that is awesome for me. When he does need a little had I find I don’t mind it then, I just don’t like having to work with numbers, it’s just not my thing I guess but writing is.
Think about it, every single day I get to write about my passion, my family, my experiences and share with my readers. The funny thing is that I use to be very shy and now look at me.
And better than that…
I have the freedom to do it anywhere, so once COVID restrictions allow travel again I can follow my passion and travel the world.
If writing for a living sounds like something that interests you then check out this article about the training that taught me how to get started online.
To be honest I didn’t know I would enjoy writing until my partner introduced it to me 3 years ago and I am still loving it, actually even more today.
It is also possible that if you procrastinate about making that mortgage payment the price could be losing your house with bad credit so renting could be extremely difficult leaving you homeless.
If you procrastinate about saving for retirement it could mean the difference between enjoying your golden years or struggling in poverty.
If you procrastinate about visiting your parent or grandparent, you never know when they may leave this earth and the opportunity to visit them is forever gone.
In my own life both my parents have passed away years ago and I recall putting off calling them. I just never believed there would be a time when they wouldn’t be here.
Even though they had illnesses that eventually took their lives, I never really believed they would be gone.
As a result, I didn’t call or visit as often as I should have or could have.
Unfortunately, it is way too easy to fall into the trap of procrastination.
It really can happen to anyone.
I am certain we have all procrastinated about something in our lives even though we may have had an excuse for not doing it but let me tell you this…
… Regret is not an easy thing to live with.
This morning I was scrolling through my feed on FB and came across this poem that really spoke to my heart and I thought it was worth sharing with you today.
Barely the day started and…
it’s already six in the evening.
Barely arrived on Monday and it’s already Friday…
and the month is already over…
and the year is almost over…
and already 40, 50 or 60 years of our lives have passed…
and we realize that we lost our parents, friends.
and we realize it’s too late to go back…
Let’s try, despite everything, to enjoy the remaining time…
Let’s keep looking for activities that we like…
Let’s put some color in our grey…
Let’s smile at the little things in life that put balm in our hearts.
And despite everything, we must continue to enjoy with serenity this time we have left.
Let’s try to eliminate the afters…
I’m doing it after…
I’ll say after…
I’ll think about it after…
We leave everything for later like ′′ after ′′ is ours.
Because what we don’t understand is that:
Afterwards, the coffee gets cold…
afterwards, priorities change…
Afterwards, the charm is broken…
afterwards, health passes…
Afterwards, the kids grow up…
Afterwards, parents get old…
Afterwards, promises are forgotten…
afterwards, the day becomes the night…
afterwards, life ends…
And then it’s often too late…
Let’s leave nothing for later…
Because still waiting to see you later,
we can lose the best moments,
the best experiences, best friends, the best family…
The day is today…
The moment is now…
We are no longer at the age where we can afford to postpone what needs to be done right away.
After reading this I got thinking about how many things I procrastinate about in my life and decided I need to learn more about procrastination and find out if I can change this bad habit of mine.
There are 4 types of procrastinators
As I went researching I learned that there are 4 types of procrastinators and it is important to know which one you are to break the habit.
Let’s take a closer look and see if we can identify our patterns.
As a result, they tend to force themselves to focus by shrinking the time they have to do a task.
A big part of this could be that they are perfectionists and they always need more time to get it perfect.
Sometimes we have a history of so-called 11th hour saves and we mistakenly believe this will always work out in our favour.
It is important to note that putting this kind of pressure on ourselves is not sustainable.
We have all read about those people who succumbed to workday stress by heart attacks or strokes.
Personally, I don’t want to become a statistic.
For the performer, the biggest challenge is getting started.
It seems reasonable that the solution would be to set a start date and then force yourself to get started.
Focusing on when to start a task rather than when to end it removes a lot of pressure.
These people are the opposite of lazy so when they procrastinate they are super hard on themselves.
They are pushing themselves so hard constantly that when they don’t get something done they blame it on being lazy or stubborn when in fact they are merely exhausted.
Their biggest challenge is taking a break, we all know they always say they are too busy for breaks.
The solution for the self-depracator is to recharge. Take some time to go for a walk, give yourself the time and space required to recharge without distraction.
We have all heard the “I’m so busy” excuse.
The thing I find most interesting thing is that busy people often accomplish the most.
I have found that often when business is offered as an excuse for not doing something, it is usually an indication of avoidance.
They find it easier to blame too many other important tasks than it is to admit they don’t want to do something.
Their biggest challenge seems to be creating enough chaos to avoid facing things they don’t want to face right now.
They would get so much further ahead if they would simply take a moment to ask themselves, “What am I really avoiding?”
I know I have been guilty of this at various times in my life and it usually didn’t involve a task directly.
For example, I would avoid calling my Dad when my Mom was nearing the later stages of Alzheimer’s’ disease.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the actual calling I was trying to avoid.
I was trying to avoid his bombardment of questions about what is next.
I understand that because I worked in healthcare daily he was looking to me for answers about the progression of the disease.
I didn’t want to answer his questions because it meant facing the fact that this was my mother we were talking about.
So you see how it wasn’t about a simple phone call, it was the avoidance of a bigger issue.
The novelty seeker
They get very intrigued by and quick to implement every new trend but rarely see it through because they have to follow the next new trend.
They can make quick decisions but rarely see results because they can’t stay focused long enough to see it through to completion.
As you have likely already determined their biggest challenge is the completion of tasks.
A solution would be to write down new ideas but don’t allow yourself the freedom to pursue those ideas until the current project is completed.
Why is it so hard to stop procrastinating
Have you ever told yourself, “Next time it will be different”?
But then next time comes around and you find yourself procrastinating again.
Well, for every feeling we have our brain releases certain chemicals. More feeling creates more chemicals.
Procrastination can take us through a whole multitude of feelings and not just the negative ones.
The act of procrastination can produce a feeling of instant gratification which then our brain releases feel-good chemicals.
I got that sense of relief and rush of feel-good chemicals when I told myself I would put the turkey in the oven in the morning rather than do it now.
Or when I told myself I would call my Dad tomorrow.
You get this instant sense of relief before the guilt set in and then you tell yourself it will be different next time.
And of course, I got that rush of adrenaline when the turkey still tasted good. So I got away with my tight deadline… or did I?
Each time we procrastinate we get a dose of feel-good chemicals and if we keep doing it we become dependent upon those chemicals to do things.
Because we have become dependent on the brain chemicals we continue to procrastinate to get the chemicals.
Tips to avoid procrastinating
So now that we know we procrastinate and we know what type of procrastinator we are how do we stop?
There are a few things we can do to help break the cycle of procrastination.
- A good place to start is by establishing your goals. Be sure to define those goals as clearly as possible. Make sure these goals will allow you to make meaningful, measurable progress while also being possible to accomplish. In other words, set realistic goals.
- Determine what type of procrastinator you are. You can do this by thinking of examples of times you procrastinated and think about when, how and why you procrastinated.
- Create an action plan. This should include several relevant anti-procrastination techniques that will allow you to deal with situations as they come up
- Implement your plan of action. No plan will work unless you simply get started. Monitor your progress and add or delete techniques as required.
There are several techniques or tips available to help overcome procrastination.
- prioritize tasks based on their importance
- break up large tasks into smaller segments and complete them in order of importance
- get started on each task by only committing a few minutes to that task
- remove distractions from the work environment
- determine your most productive time of day and schedule tasks accordingly
- set intermediate deadlines for the various stages of the main goal and track your progress along the way
- create daily goals and mark on a calendar the days you completed those goals
- reward yourself for successfully implementing your plan
- focus on your goals rather than individual tasks
- visualize yourself enjoying the fruits of your labour
- count to ten before you indulge the impulse to procrastinate
- avoid perfectionism by accepting the fact that your work may have flaws, permit yourself to be human
- believe that you can overcome your procrastination habit
I asked, “what is the meaning of procrastination”?
When I went looking for the answer I found so much more.
I learned that procrastination is intentionally and habitually putting off the things that should be done.
To break free from the habit of procrastination we first need to take some time for reflection and determine what type of procrastinator are we.
Are we a performer, who believes we do better work when under pressure?
Perhaps we are a self-depracator who pushes ourselves with constantly increasing demands them are harsh on ourselves and calling ourselves lazy if we fail to meet a deadline when in fact we are exhausted.
Maybe we are an overbooker who hastily fills our calendar so we can avoid something we don’t want to do by claiming to be too busy.
Or we could be a novelty seeker, who is always distracted by the next new trend but never see anything through to completion.
Once we know our patterns we can decide on a plan of action which includes some anti-procrastination techniques.
Reward ourselves when we stay on task all day and especially when we complete a task.
Are you a procrastinator?
What type of procrastinator are you?
Do you have any tips to share about how to overcome procrastination?
Leave your comments or tips in the comment section below and good luck with overcoming your procrastination.
And if you’re interested in taking up writing as a hobby or even a full-time career then check out this article that covers in detail the free training that I took to become a blogger.