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Procrastination: Why We Do It And How To Avoid It

Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing a task, something that affects nearly all of us. Whether you’ve put off getting up for a few minutes or waited until the last minute to write a 1,000-word essay, you’ve experienced procrastination.

Usually, the brain is a rational decision maker, thinking long term and making sure things that need to get done, get done. However, in a procrastinator’s brain, there’s instant gratification that gets in the way, this is what makes us procrastinate. You take up time with instant gratification tasks until you’re so close to the deadline you might not make it, and then panic sets in, you rush the task and ultimately don’t do as good of a job or even complete the task before the deadline.

There can be two types of procrastinator, one where these instant gratification tasks are watching pointless YouTube videos and one where these instant gratification tasks are doing the dishes or taking the dog for a walk.

Tasks are split into; important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, not important and not urgent. Going back to the two types of procrastinators mentioned above, the first type will procrastinate by carrying out not important and not urgent tasks and the second type will do urgent but not important tasks.

To combat procrastination the most popular piece of advice is to just stop what you’re doing and get to work. But this isn’t great advice as many procrastinators feel they can’t control their procrastination habits.

Research suggests if you forgive yourself for procrastinating for your first task you will procrastinate less on the second task. This works as procrastination is linked to negative feelings and forgiving yourself can reduce the guilt you feel about procrastinating. Guilt is one of the main triggers for procrastination.

One of the best ways to avoid procrastination is to ignore how you feel. You need to recognise that you don’t have to be in the right mood to do something.

Breaking your tasks down into smaller tasks is another great way of combating procrastination. Break your task down into minuscule parts, for example, if you’re writing a letter your first task is to write the date, then the first paragraph and so on. Small progress will still make you feel better about the task and increase your self-esteem which lowers that need for instant gratification.

We’ll leave you with a quote by Mark Twain ‘If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first’.

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