Beat Procrastination Now, Stop Putting It Off

Home / Campus / ( Published on 2014-08-14 )

Procrastination can stop you from achieving things of which you are capable and hinder growth in your personal and career development.  Unfortunately, even though it can be destructive, procrastination is common.  By recognizing when and why you procrastinate and being proactive by developing time management skills, you can overcome procrastination and increase your productivity, as well as improve how you spend your time.  Besides reducing stress in your daily life, overcoming procrastination can heighten your sense of self efficacy.  In this article we will explore what procrastination is and why it happens. 

Simply put, procrastination is putting off something that needs attention for another activity that is either more enjoyable or with which you are more comfortable.  People who procrastinate spend just as much, and sometimes even more, time working than those who don’t, but they invest their time and energy in inefficient or un-useful ways.  There are multiple causes of procrastination.  Sometimes people procrastinate because of fear or anxiety and other times procrastination is simply a matter of poor organization.  In some instances, just one hurdle can hinder your progress, while for others there are multiple challenges to overcome to beat procrastination.  By understanding why you’re putting off a particular task, you can begin to remedy the situation and take back control. 

Many people don’t start projects because they are afraid of finishing them. Fear of failure or success is quite common and frequently gets in the way of career and personal development. Think, for example, of a nurse who procrastinates while applying for a promotion because he is afraid of the added responsibilities that come with leading a team, or an analyst who procrastinates working on a project because she is afraid that successful completion will mean higher expectations will be placed on her in the future. In these examples, the employees’ discomfort is getting in the way of their opportunities. Once they overcome their fears of development or growth, they will be more comfortable at work and have more options open to them, whether they choose to take those options or not. 

Perfectionism can be another culprit in procrastination. Many people think that if they don’t have the skills or tools to do a job perfectly, then they shouldn’t do it at all.  It’s important to note that not everything needs to be done perfectly to be done well. By making the demands on yourself and the expectations of your coworkers realistic, instead of perfectionistic, you might find that projects suddenly become less daunting and are therefore easier to tackle.  

Many people tend to shy away from things that are new or unknown. While this is a natural response, it is also important to remember that there is often some level of discomfort inherent in growth.  Procrastinating new tasks could involve an anxiety response toward going outside of one’s comfort zone, or it may simply be a matter of poor organization.  There is something to be said for jumping in and getting your feet wet when venturing onto new ground, but before charging too far ahead, make sure to stop long enough to assess the project.  Once you are familiar with it, developing a realistic plan for success can help prevent future delays due to procrastination.

Procrastination can be a tool for avoiding stress caused by disorganization. While it might be effective in the moment, it usually serves to create even more stress in the long run. Not understanding which tasks are most important, losing sight of the end goal or not having a goal in the first place can make a project seem laborious or more stressful, thus increasing the chances that it gets put off. Frequently people think that by acting quickly and jumping right in to a project that they are being proactive, when it is more likely to be a methodical, well planned approach that achieves the desired results. Such tactics make projects more manageable and decreases the motive for procrastination. 

Sometimes people have a goal in mind but are so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start, which can tempt them to avoid the task all together. Work driven by whichever demand is most pressing in the moment, as opposed to the ones that are most important in the long run, creates significantly more stress as well.  For example, you might find that when you are disorganized, you end up working on the most accessible task, instead of the most important one, which can cause frustration and delay progress.

The higher the stress level associated with a project is, the more motivation there will be to avoid it. The inverse is also true: The more organization and direction involved in a task the lower the stress level becomes and the less likely one will be to avoid it.  Providing, of course, that the project isn’t so restricted that it becomes boring, which also opens the door for procrastination. 

Other causes of procrastination are waiting for the right moment or the right mood before you begin. If you put off a task until the circumstances are exactly right, you may never start at all.  Or, you may find yourself facing a fast approaching deadline which doesn’t accommodate flexibility to stimulate your creative juices. 

It may not be natural at first to develop new time management skills or reorganize how you spend your day.  However, as you practice and learn new ways of beating procrastination and staying on top of your schedule you might surprise yourself by finding more time than you thought you had, or by being more relaxed and in control. 

If you are facing the challenges that come with procrastination or if you notice that you tend to put things off, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) can assist you. We provide confidential assessment, counseling, referrals, and consultation services that support the wellbeing of both the individual and the organization. For more information or to make an appointment contact us at 415/476-8279 or visit the FSAP website.