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Procrastination, when is it too late?

Image credits to https://blog.doit.io/procrastinate/

"I can do it later," "I'll do it when it's an even time," "I still have 12 hours to do it". That's what we try to tell ourselves. According to Wikipedia, procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something, putting things off that you have to do intentionally or habitually. It's hard to convince ourselves to do something, but procrastinating doesn't necessarily mean we do nothing; we might be distracting ourselves with trivial activities. We all experience procrastination, whether through school, chores, goals, stepping outside of our comfort zone, or going to sleep, but not all of us are procrastinators. We may procrastinate because we don't want to do the work or are uncertain about the process to come. Everyone procrastinates in different ways, but when procrastination becomes a continual cycle, it can negatively impact us, our mental health, and the people around us.

Now, Why do we Procrastinate?

Procrastinating is not a result of a lack of willpower or laziness. When we procrastinate, we know what we are doing, which makes us feel worse because we know we should be doing something.In an article in the New York Times: "This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational," says Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield. "It doesn't make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences...People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task." Essentially, this professor is saying that people procrastinate to cope with negative emotions that we don't want to feel around a task. Some of those emotions include but are not limited to boredom, frustration, insecurity, self-doubt, anger, and stress. When we don't want to do a task associated with negative emotions, we do other things to avoid that feeling. In "An Analysis of the Procrastinatory Cognitions Inventory," we learn that procrastination gives us temporary relief making procrastination a cycle. When we get rewarded, we want to repeat that process. However, in hindsight, procrastination makes us more stressed and face more negative emotions in the end.

When we make the decision to procrastinate we are thinking about the present rather than the long term consequences, in a study they found that more people perceive their future selves as strangers rather than themselves, work put off for the future feels like the task will be resolved by someone else, when realistically it's just a more stressed version of yourself. In an article on Medium, we learn that the main psychological causes of procrastination are demotivating and hindering factors outweighing self control and motivation. Psychology Today says demotivating factors are like fear of failure, fear of negative feedback, lack of an award, perfectionism, basically the opposite of what motivates you. In an article by Ayelet Fishbach it is stated that self motivation is harder to find because it’s based on the idea that there is an award, but the award may not come in the short term aspect. Hindering factors are what makes it harder for you to control yourself either emotionally or mentally like mental health problems, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, lack of energy or sleep.

Image credit to https://www.nomaconsulting.pt/all/12-ways-to-eliminate-stress-at-work/

Impacts of Procrastination

One of the main results of procrastination is stress; stress when cramming everything in a condensed time, the stress of failure, or not being able to finish on time. Stress is a normal response to pressure and demands from various situations; it is the result of hormones (brain chemicals) surging through the body. MentalHealth.gov says that stress activates our “fight or flight” response for us to take action. According to Psychology Today, a certain amount of stress is normal in day-to-day life as it can help us meet deadlines, be prepared for presentations, stay productive and arrive on time for important events. But an overwhelming amount of stress for long periods of time can be harmful to your mental health; this could be procrastinating to work on projects until it’s the night before the deadline. Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, sleep problems, pain, and bodily complaints such as muscle tension. The Mayo Clinic says It also increases the “risk of medical problems such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.” Although strokes and health problems are not as common among teenagers, they could still be affected by them due to stress. There are two main types of stress, acute stress, and chronic stress. Acute stress is short-term and immediate stress that is not as harmful unless you have severe repetitive stress. Chronic stress is long periods of stress. A continual pattern of procrastination could lead to periods of chronic stress.

Stress can be correlated with mental health problems as some popular ways teenagers choose to cope with stress are not healthy. According to the American Psychological Association for the Stress in America Survey in 2017, teenagers had more stress than adults. The results showed that teenagers understand that stress is not healthy, but they underestimate the impact of stress on their mental health. Procrastination can be a large contributor to this stress. One of the more obvious results of procrastination is decreased performance; this may not be the same for everyone, but decreased performance can be seen in marks, energy, ability to learn, etc. According to Procrastination.com, Some of us may work better under pressure, but doing last minute can have a negative impact on the output. School-wise, doing things last minute is more scrambled, and we’re more likely to put out our best work. On the other hand, sometimes you may be too late. Life isn’t going to wait for you; you have to get in there. For example, hand in that job application, learn a skill, start that passion project, etc.! Lastly, procrastination leads to loss of time, time is finite, and we have got a grasp on if how we are using our time now is effective, and it is how we want it to be used.

Preventing Procrastination

Procrastination is at some point inevitable, but how can we combat it? “I think the mood regulation piece is a huge part of procrastination,” says Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University, in an article by Eric Jaffe. “If you’re focused just on trying to get yourself to feel good now, there’s a lot you can miss out on in terms of learning how to correct behavior and avoiding similar problems in the future.”

  1. Motivation and Your Personal Vision

Creating your vision of what you want to do and your specific/long-term goals can help keep the motivation to persist through tasks that you don’t want to do. Having this vision allows you to prioritize what matters. To create this vision, you must understand what motivates and frame your actions to get you to a “result” and process.

  1. To do Today

Write down what you have to do today, and just today on a piece of paper, often times long to do lists makes us less motivated, just thinking about a full day of work. Also have other to do lists so you are aware of what you need to do before a certain time. Try to plan out your time a little bit going backwards from the due date to see how much time you can actually spend on that task.

  1. Habit Tracker

Creating a chart or something that allows you to keep track of your daily habits allows consistency and self-development. Making something a habit makes it part of our routine that, at a point, we do it subconsciously, using less mental energy. If we are procrastinating on a skill, the tracker allows us to see what we are doing to make strides towards the goal. It is important to note that at the start, you probably won’t be able to do it every day simply because you may forget as it is not part of your routine yet.

  1. Check Up on Yourself

Have some time put aside just for you to reflect on yourself, what you are doing and how that aligns with your personal vision? Try to think about how you have improved in this time and what you can do for the long-term plan. This could be especially useful if you are feeling burnt out and feel a disconnect from your motivation and personal vision. Your personal vision can change, and you check up on your emotions, mental health, and other aspects that can become a demotivating or hindering factor.

  1. Coping With Negative Emotions and Rewarding Yourself

Acknowledge relaxation is not procrastination, and sometimes relaxation is the best way to cope with our negative emotions. We are not robots, we need time to rest ourselves, and we aren’t usually motivated all the time. So try to create rewards to incentivize yourself to do something. We don’t have to be productive all the time or be in a work mindset. Some rewards could be like making coffee, going outside to play basketball, watching an episode of your favorite show (be mindful not to binge episodes this way, although I understand how difficult it may be).

"It's the job that's never started takes longest to finish." - J.R.R Tolkien

Article Author: Kelley Liang

Article Editors: Edie Whittington, Stephanie Sahadeo