“Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.” - Benjamin Franklin

“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.” - Oscar Wilde

So, which side of the divide are you on - Mr Franklin’s or Mr Wilde’s? Whether you are someone who likes to finish all their tasks on time or someone who delays doing anything till the last minute possible, chances are, you have wondered why humans procrastinate? Let’s see why. 

Procrastination is the act of voluntarily delaying tasks until the last minute, in spite of being aware of the consequences of the delay. Even though it may seem like it, procrastination is not just laziness. 

Recent research suggests that people put off tasks that seem difficult, unpleasant, boring, or stressful. People may also believe that they will not do the task well, and thus putting it off seems easier than failing at it. Lastly, there are some people who simply enjoy the thrill of the last minute and believe that they perform well under pressure. 

Sometimes, the reminders on the phone, motivating videos, discussions with friends, or calls from your boss may not be enough to pull you out from under the procrastination spell, and you may have to dig deeper into your mental state. 

Read on for some key points for overcoming procrastination. 

5 Key Ways to Overcome Procrastination 

1. Be aware of your procrastination. When you are faced with a list of tasks, notice when you start procrastinating for a particular item. Which task are you putting off and what are your feelings associated with it? 

Does the task make you anxious or do you think it is difficult? Once you recognise your trigger for procrastination, you can address the associated negative feeling and manage your procrastination. 

2. Do what you can. People with perfectionistic tendencies go for the all-or-nothing approach to tasks. The desire to finish a task perfectly can stop you from either starting it or from giving the final desirable touches to it. 

However, you need not be perfect all the time. Just begin and keep going, and you can always make it better later. Also, you will find that it is easier to keep going with a task after you have managed to start it. 

3. Design micro-steps. When you look at a task, the amount of work involved in it can seem intimidating and insurmountable, giving you more reasons to procrastinate. At this point, break the task into small, doable steps. Make a list of these small tasks and finish them one by one. 

Small tasks can help you focus and at the same time, they sound easy and achievable. Remember, baby steps are better than not moving forward at all. 

4. Move away from distractions. Have you found yourself reaching for your phone and watching that 15-minute video especially when a deadline is looming large? Procrastination feeds off the distraction. Also, the funny video seems so much more enticing than the task that you are convinced you will fail at. 

When you notice yourself turning towards distractions, take steps to disconnect. Turn off all digital devices such as your phone, television, and laptop. Specify to your family that you will be unavailable during fixed hours. Then, use this distraction-free time to focus on the task at hand. 

5. List the cost of procrastination. When you find yourself putting off something important, it may help to list out what you stand to lose. For example, if you are procrastinating on completing an important task related to your finances, remind yourself how you could lose out on a lump sum because of the momentary hesitation. 

Sometimes, just putting the facts out there in black and white can work as the impetus to break out of the procrastination loop and take the first step of your task. From there on, it usually becomes easier. 

Remember, you are only human if you procrastinate. So, do not be too harsh on yourself. Consult a mental health professional if you feel that procrastination is affecting your life adversely. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.