Procrastination keeps you from completing the most urgent and important tasks in your work and life, ie it's a bit like trying to force the same poles of a magnet together. It is

"...a potentially dangerous force, causing victims to fall out of school, perform poorly at work, put off medical treatment or delay saving for retirement...... a study from 1997 found that college-age procrastinators ended up with higher stress, more illness, lower grades by the end of the semester..."

Western Reserve University, Ohio as quoted by Ana Swanson, 2016

Some thoughts on why people procrastinate:

- failure of self-regulation, ie similar to other bad habits, like overeating, gambling, overspending, etc, there is a lack of self-control

- lazy

- poor time management, etc

More recently neuroscience suggest that it is linked

" how our brains works and to the perceptions of time and the self..."

Ana Swanson, 2016

"...procrastination as a kind of avoidance behaviour, a coping mechanism gone awry in which people give in to feel good..."

Timothy Pychyl as quoted by Ana Swanson, 2016

This usually happens when people have a fear or dread or anxiety about an important task awaiting them. Aiming to counter this negative feeling, people procrastinate. They do something else that is easier and/or likely to do to make them feel better, on a temporary basis, ie looking for instant gratification. Then reality comes back, eg deadline is looming. This puts more pressure on the procrastinator as they feel more shame and guilt. For extreme procrastinaters, these negative feelings can justify further procrastination, with this behaviour turning into a vicious, self-defeating cycle.

Various kinds of procrastination: some people

- do 'useless things' like aimlessly surfing the net, reading a book, etc

- do useful tasks like cleaning the house, gardening, working on other jobs while neglecting the important and urgent tasks

- give in to instant gratification (this gives people the kind of instant relief, sometimes called 'hedonic pleasure', rather than staying focused on the long-term goal)

- perception of time and the difference between 'present and future self', ie people are more focused on the 'here and now' rather than the future. You

"...have very little concern, understanding or empathy for the future self..."

Ana Swanson, 2016

"...when making long-term decisions, people tend to fundamentally feel a lack of emotional connection to future selves......treat the future self as if he's a fundamentally different person, and as if he's not going to benefit or suffer from the consequences of my actions today..."

Hal Hershfield as quoted by Ana Swanson, 2016

People process information about their present and future selves in different parts of their brain.

People who have a strong connection with their future selves tend to procrastinate less.

Some ways to handle procrastination:

- prioritise tasks into a matrix, ie

  Urgent Not urgent



quadrant 1

important and urgent

quadrant 2

important but not urgent

Not important



quadrant 3

not important but urgent

quadrant 4

0 not important and not urgent

Sometimes called the Eisenhower Matrix (named after the World War II Allied Commander-in-Chief (Europe) and later president of USA) (for more detail of this technique, see general background to time management)

You need to maximise your time on what is truly important, ie tasks in quadrant 1 (important and urgent) and 2 (important but not urgent). However, procrastinators spend too much time in quadrants 3 and 4. Until panic or desperation, forces them into quadrant 1.

"...the road to the procrastinator's dreams - the road to expanding his horizons, exploring his true potential and achieving work he's truly proud of - run directly through quadrant 2. Q1 and Q3 may be where people survive, but Q2 is where people thrive, grow and blossom..."

Tim Urban as quoted by Ana Swanson, 2016

Tasks mentioned in Q1 and 2 tend to be more challenging and in the long term give more well-being and self-satisfaction, ie 'eudaimonic peasure'

- forgive yourself for procrastinating (this can result in less procrastination in the future and works because procrastination is linked to negative feelings

"...forgiving yourself can reduce the guilt you feel about procrastinating, which is one of the main triggers for procrastinating in the first place..."

Ana Swanson, 2016)

- ignore your feelings and get started (instead of focusing on the feelings, think about your next action)

- break the task into smaller steps that are more accomplishable (even a little progress will make you feel better about the task, which in turn reduces desire to procrastinate)

NB procrastination is not necessarily a time-management problem, it is an emotion-management problem. Irrespective of your feelings, what you need to do is to get on with it!!!!!

Remember: a house is built brick by brick!!!!!


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