Admit it – you have done it before. Most of us would have. Just as we realize we need start on our tax returns, send our vehicles for servicing, or even ourselves for our yearly health check-up, our brains scream in protest, telling you put it off and delay it for another week. Or two. Procrastination affects many aspects of our lives – but most regularly in things or acts that we personally find unpleasant, potentially difficult, or simply those that we rather have someone else do for us. We put off such unpleasant tasks until it becomes a little too late. Psychologically, however, procrastination is considered a ‘self-regulatory failure.’ In simpler terms, this means that procrastination is the delay, dallying and postponement of tasks we should be doing because we fail to properly, and effectively regulate our negative emotions towards those tasks. We avoid – rather than confront the task, and the unpleasant emotions it triggers. Common across many definitions of term is that the postponement of tasks or decisions is done despite the fact that this delay in action will result in a worse set of consequences than if action was taken immediately . Procrastination is not exclusively negative of course – there is some evidence to suggest that some ‘active’ procrastinators actually perform better when they deliberately hold off a task until later . Most of the time, however, procrastination is being detrimental to our well-being and ability to complete tasks – and so we will focus on this negative form of procrastination instead.
The inability to regulate one’s emotional reactions forms a key component for how to overcome this tendency. Instead of focusing on the task, procrastination causes us to focus on our emotions. We get ‘stuck in the rut’ because we fixate on how displeased, upset and distressed we are regarding a particular distasteful task, rather than address the task directly. This cycle then repeats itself – we continually put off tasks we dislike even though we realize (eventually) that we cannot escape our tax auditors, mechanics, or our GPs perpetually. Fortunately, there are some effective, evidence-based approaches to overcoming procrastination. Here are three you might try: