Why do we procrastinate?: Motivation Series I/II

Motivation Series Part I/III: Procrastination


Procrastinate. It’s something both you and I have probably done, and it’s something everyone has done at least at some point in their lives. Chances are, I procrastinated whilst writing this blog!!

It’s a word we hear often, but what does it really mean?

Rather than laziness, procrastination is more of decision to delay a task that needs to be done by occupying oneself with other more pleasurable or less difficult activities. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. It’s when you watch Youtube videos instead of doing your homework, or miraculously decide to clean your house instead of finishing a project as you desperately try to make this task tomorrow’s problem so you can forget about it today.

But why? Why do we procrastinate?

Usually it is to avoid the discomfort we know the task that has yet to be completed will evoke. These assumptions of potential discomfort are all as a result of a few restrictions you may have subconsciously set for yourself. Have you ever felt that you should delay a task because “I can’t do things when I’m tired” or “I need to know that I will succeed before I begin”? Yep, these are unhelpful restrictions! They are small parts of your mindset that prevent you from moving forward to work on a task because it makes you think that by doing that specific task you will embark on a road of unpleasantness and distress.

I myself know this feeling well. In fact at this very moment, I have a music assignment I have yet to begin for a deadline that is within the next few days. All because I know that I have difficulty with composing and know that it will be a frustrating journey that may only result in failure. So what do I do? I fill up my time by writing this blog article, while at the same time telling myself that “I’m not in the mood for music and I’ll just do it tomorrow” as a way to justify my actions, allow myself to make continue making new excuses tomorrow.

Obviously, this isn’t healthy and it will most likely lead to negative consequences such as failure to complete the task, punishment, loss etc.

So how do we get out of this cycle? There’s a few things you can do:

Solution 1: Create a reasonable timeline for yourself and stick to it.
Lay out the tasks you know you need to complete and set yourself small goals you can consistently work towards in order to complete the task. Writing down on a small sticky note of all the things you need to complete and sticking it on your fridge or laptop can be helpful.

Solution 2: Prioritise unpleasant tasks first
It may also be helpful to note that setting the most unpleasant or dreaded task as the first one to be completed may be helpful, not only to just “get it over with” but it will also make everything else seem much easier in comparison.

Solution 3: . Adjust unhelpful restrictions by approaching tasks without judgment or bias.

I know that this may be difficult, especially when it comes to things you don’t like to do. However, try to focus solely on what you have to do and stick to the checklist you have made for yourself. Instead of worrying about “it’s not going to be good enough if I do it when I’m tired” or “I might fail”, focus your energy on doing your best! Remember that you have all the time in the world to improve, refine and try again in later stages.

Solution 4: . Reward yourself!
It helps to set small rewards for yourself, such as promising yourself a nice dinner after successfully completing the tasks you have set. This can serve as motivation for you to continue completing the task and be able to bear the discomfort the task may bring. For those who procrastinate mainly assignments, something I have found helpful is to set an alarm for every 45 minutes. Where within the 45 minutes I focus solely on my work and after which I can have 15 minutes of free time to watch Youtube videos, relax, and do whatever I please. This not only helps to keep me motivated, it also allows me to refresh my mind and minimise stress.

Additionally, It is important to find a time of the day where you know you work best, finding a space free of distractions or simply turning off all distractions such as social media or other notifications. The best method to help you to stop yourself to procrastinating can only be found by yourself, but what is most important here is that you stick to it without letting the excuses deter you.

Make sure whatever you do is not a one-time act, but instead a habit you can slowly build for a healthier and more organised lifestyle!

Motivation is the drive that pushes us to take action in order to achieve a certain goal, be able to obtain something that is desired, etc. But when we’re in a slump and lack motivation, productivity may decrease, the habit of procrastination may manifest and we may find it difficult to take action. So, it’s safe to say that motivation is an important part of our lives, so keep reading to find out more about motivation in our everyday lives!

Written by Beatrice Sung and edited by Dr Julia A. Andre

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