Productivity & Procrastination (EN)

Studies have shown that nearly 95% of people have let procrastination get in the way of productivity at least once in their lives. What is procrastination, and how can you overcome it?


2021-04-15 4 min read

Every day of our lives, all we do is navigate the endless tasks, assignments and decisions thrown in our way. When we look around, though, everyone else seems to be doing just fine (if we're being honest, they're probably struggling just as much as the next person). What do we call them? Productive.

Here it is, the word that every person living in the 21st century has a love-hate relationship with. It's almost impossible not to find yet another hack on the internet or a self-help book that is supposed to magically transform your life. However, nothing will truly change unless you take matters into your own hands, especially when it comes to procrastination.

What Is Procrastination?

In brief, procrastination is the habit of delaying or postponing important tasks for as long as possible in favour of others that seem easier to tackle. In this Ted Talk, Tim Urban explains the main difference between those who procrastinate and those who do not. 

The science behind procrastination is quite simple: the human brain tends to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. This phenomenon is called time inconsistency. For short, when you set goals, your brain perceives them as plans for the future, even though you should be taking action immediately. However, in the present moment, due to instant gratification, you might prefer watching NileRed turn a plastic glove into grape soda instead of doing your chemistry homework. (P.S. I am definitely not talking from personal experience 🙃)

Falling into the habit of postponing the things you have to do can take a toll on your mental health, inducing anxiety, guilt and burnout. Although, just like any other habit, it can be broken with a bit of self-control and motivation. 

How to Break the Habit of Procrastinating

Step 1: Acknowledge the fact that you are procrastinating and understand why.

Procrastination can take many forms: be it running off to make a cup of coffee as soon as you start working or waiting to be "in the right mood", you are still postponing a task. Understanding why you have the tendency to procrastinate can help you figure out how to act from then on to form new and more productive habits.

 -You have a hard time getting organised

 -The task seems too big or complicated to handle

 - You get distracted easily 

 - The deadline is very far from now, or you have enough time to complete the task at hand later

 - Your perfectionism is holding you back, and you fear that you may not be satisfied with the result or fail. 

Step 2: Take immediate action accordingly.

Here are some examples of things you can do right now to avoid procrastinating: 

 - Write down a To-Do List and prioritise your daily tasks.

To-Do Lists are a practical way of laying out everything you have to do for the day. However, write down one too many tasks, and you will only fall back into the vicious cycle of procrastination. This is where prioritisation comes in. Some people split their list into 3 parts:  The "Most important task" of the day (MIT for short) is the one thing you have to accomplish; The "Need to be done" tasks are those that are important but are not the main focus of the day (never write more than 2 tasks here); The "Everything else", as the name suggests, should include any other tasks of that day that added up never surpass the 2-hour limit. 

 - If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, do it now.

Any small chore that takes less than 2 minutes to complete should be done on the spot. This way, you can check it off your list and enjoy the small win!

 - Break down the task. 

A perfect way to tackle a task that feels too big to handle is to break it down into smaller parts. Once it is split out, it won't seem unapproachable, and you will feel more motivated to start on your project. 

 - Clear your workspace.

If you struggle with staying focused for an extended period of time, say goodbye to anything that might distract you as you work. Leave your phone in another room, turn "do not disturb" on your computer and get to work! With nothing around to divert your attention, you have a much higher chance of completing what you set out to do.

 - Make the rewards of taking action more immediate.

Making the benefits of long-term choices more immediate makes it easier to avoid procrastination. One of the best ways to bring future rewards into the present moment is by using a strategy known as temptation bundling. The basic format is: Only do [THING YOU LOVE] while doing [THING YOU PROCRASTINATE ON]. For example, you can only listen to your favourite album while running.

 - Move the deadline closer than it is.

Many procrastinators rely on deadlines to get their tasks done, cramming in as much as they can in too little time. By moving back the deadline to an earlier date, you avoid the problem of not finishing an assignment on time.

Step 3: Be consistent.

The only way to form habits is by following through with your plans and repetition. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the perfect strategy to overcome procrastination, but leading a more productive life without any of the guilt that comes with each delay is worth every minute. 

The Takeaway

Procrastination can be frustrating, so it is good to remember that probably everyone around you has had the same problem at least once in their life - there is no point in feeling ashamed of it. After all, what matters is to try and get to the root of the problem and better yourself. 

Now, go back to that assignment you have been putting off for the last few days. Or, you know, maybe tomorrow...



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