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If you notice yourself putting off important tasks for no good reason or switching focus to something else, you are a procrastinator! But don’t worry, you’re not alone! Everyone’s faced procrastination at least once in their life. For as long as humans have been around, finding the willpower to do important work in a reasonable amount of time seems impossible when we’re faced with resistance from ourselves. Believe me when I say that it’s not easy to stop putting off tasks, but with the help of three important principles ─ uncovering, recognizing and addressing ─ you can spur yourself into action in a timely manner. So, let’s find out what the science is behind procrastination, and how we can overcome it! 

Uncovering procrastination

Humans procrastinate for a variety of reasons. For one, procrastination helps combat the fear of failure. Many people tend to procrastinate on important tasks simply because they’re afraid of what might happen if they fail. Whether it be a school or personal project or even a daily task, putting tasks off long enough distances people from potentially facing negative results. Perfectionists often struggle with procrastination for this simple reason. The stress of getting things “perfect” can often be too much to handle. In both situations, fear becomes one of the main underlying reasons why we procrastinate on important tasks.

People also tend to procrastinate because they lack the motivation needed to complete a certain task. Some tasks can be overwhelming, and others dull, leading us to push them off. Those who procrastinate for this reason tend to stay inside their comfort zone and complete tasks which they find exciting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, not every task we’re faced with is something we want to do. Sometimes you have to do things out of necessity, and delaying them can only cause even more stress.

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Recognize the truth

The only way to beat procrastination is to recognize that you are doing it. Understanding exactly what’s causing you to procrastinate will allow you to tackle this unavoidable action. Ask yourself, “Is there a nagging voice in my head telling me that I can’t be successful? Do I enjoy what I’m doing? Why am I procrastinating on this specific task?”

The causes for your procrastination can be hard to discover, especially when you’re putting off doing work for no reason at all. Watching TV or listening to music instead of doing work might be harder to justify than cleaning the house instead of school work, for example. In the first scenario you’re replacing doing an important task with mindless entertainment, whereas in the second you’re replacing doing an important task with another task. Again, ask yourself, “What’s stopping me from doing the work I need to do now?” After you assess the reasons behind your procrastination, it’ll be a lot easier to come up with concrete solutions.

Now that we’ve established what procrastination is and the reasoning behind it, let’s investigate how we overcome it. Although ways to deal with procrastination differ for every person, here are two ways you can kickstart your change.

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Photo by Ben White from Unsplash

Visualize your “perfect” self

To deal with the fear of failure, try visualizing yourself completing a task in a “perfect” way. For example, if you have an important term paper coming up, visualize yourself getting that “A” that you believe you deserve. Imagine your professor or boss telling you how proud they are and how great of a job you did. If you’re a perfectionist, try to imagine yourself being the “perfect” image you aspire to be. While it’s true that no one’s perfect, there’s no harm in imagining that you are. It isn’t easy to develop this mindset, but you should give it a try. 

Letterboard - "Be proud of how hard you are working"
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production from Unsplash

One step at a time

If you ever find yourself procrastinating on a difficult task that’s outside your comfort zone, I’ve got the solution for you! Break the challenge down into smaller tasks, and tackle each at your own pace. Rather than working on a hard project in one sitting, divide your work into small tasks. Make yourself a to-do list that lists each step needed to complete the task, and check them off as you go. This will reduce feelings of anxiety as you won’t feel the need to procrastinate on tasks simply because you think that they’ll take a lot of time. The more checkmarks you have, the more proud and confident you’ll feel.

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Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

As you can see, procrastination can be attributed to a variety of reasons. The next time you get angry at yourself for not completing difficult and important tasks within a reasonable time limit, be kind to yourself. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: dealing with procrastination is a challenge. It requires discipline and mental strength. If you want to beat procrastination, approach every task one step at a time. Uncover what procrastination is, recognize why you do it, and address it in whatever way fits best! So, what’re you waiting for? Let’s beat procrastination together!

Natasha Khan

York U '23

Natasha Khan is an avid reader and writer who loves expressing her viewpoints through captivating and informative articles. She is a second-year student majoring in the Honours Law and Society program at York University and enjoys advocating for social justice issues. When Natasha's not reading or writing you can find her in the kitchen experimenting with a combination of sweet and savoury treats.
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