Don't Put This Off: What You Need to Know About Procrastination

A perfectionist will procrastinate out of a desire to avoid failure. Procrastination is a symptom.

Everyone has procrastinated from time to time. Putting off tasks that you don't want to do or that are annoying to accomplish creates its own joy in the moment–but can create a lot of stress down the road and impact performance at school and work.

Everyone has procrastinated from time to time. Putting off tasks that you don't want to do or that are annoying to accomplish creates its own joy in the moment–but can create a lot of stress down the road and impact performance at school and work.

Occasionally delaying undesirable tasks isn't necessarily cause for concern, but for one out of five people, chronic procrastination can become a real problem. Regular procrastination can interfere with success inbusiness where team members rely on each other to complete components of larger projects. For students, procrastination often leads to late nights and lower performance.

There are plenty of reasons people slip into procrastination. Stress or overly complex tasks can both be triggers, but so can brain chemistry. People who are diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to procrastinate because they struggle with executive function skills that include things like organization and time management. Procrastination is a symptom.

Perfectionism is a condition that also can lead people to procrastinate. Perfectionism is a condition resulting from being overly concerned with failure and avoiding criticism at all costs. A perfectionist procrastinates out of a desire to avoid failure – they are convinced by that if a task is never finished, the person can never fail at it. Procrastination is a symptom.

Another reason people want to procrastinate is the effect of "temporal discounting." That's a fancy way of saying that we care less about things that seem far off in the future. The further away something is, the easier it is for us to not worry about it in the short-term. Procrastination is a symptom.

There are ways to address these learned behaviors even without medication. Training yourself in techniques to avoid procrastination is an important skill:

Identifying Barriers

One of the most important things we can do to end procrastination is to identify the cause of the symptom. There are many causes even beyond stress, complexity, perfectionism or temporal discounting that lead people to procrastinate. Not everyone has the same root causes.

By identifying the causes leading you to procrastinate, it becomes easier to strategize how to overcome the issue. What triggers lead you to procrastinate?

Vagueness Equals Procrastination

Accomplishing tasks becomes easier when there is a clear understanding of success and completion. But many people with executive function disorder need to clarify precise goals in order to even start thinking about them. Having concrete goals makes it easier to accomplish them, particularly when action plans have specifics for implementation.

Begin by writing out the specifics necessary to complete a task. What are the main objectives? List the results, and outline the methods for accomplishing those results.

Chunking Activities

Complex tasks can seem particularly overwhelming – and lead you to avoidance. But by breaking down those tasks into smaller pieces, you can change our perception of the problem.

Writing down your plan doesn't just help define the specifics of your task, it can also help you accomplish smaller parts along the way. Once tasks are identified, they can be broken down into smaller chunks making it easier to understand and accomplish. Small tasks can be completed sooner too, providing a sense of accomplishment that will encourage you to keep going.

Make A Plan

All of these tips are leading up to creating an action plan. Having specific goals and a blueprint for completing small tasks can be the foundation to planning your work. This is the groundwork for organization, and will help overcome the desire to procrastinate. How do you want to accomplish this task? What pieces have to be completed before you can move onto the next?

Having a road map can help plan your time better, creates clear accomplishments, and eliminates vagueness in what you need to accomplish.

Not everyone is able to stop procrastinating on their own.

As with other executive function skills, putting an end to procrastination is a learned behavior. Some people need help to overcome the problem.

There are some signs that you might need extra help like a tutor or a professional coach:

  • Difficulty putting together to-do lists
  • Frequently delaying tasks to the last minute
  • Fearing feedback from your boss or teacher

Professional coaching and tutoring can help you overcome procrastination by ensuring you have accountability while learning how to deal with the causes. If any of these problems sound like frustrations you face everyday, reach out to Dr. Abramo to schedule a free consultation.