Have you ever procrastinated on something for so long that it causes you to feel overwhelmed later? You’re not the only one. Many of us have procrastinated at some point in our lives.
I am going to tell you a quick story you might be able to relate to. I remember I was young and fit when I started my first office job. I felt so lucky to have this job, so I worked long hours to impress. I remember thinking I didn’t have time to exercise, so instead I kept my head buried in office work.
Three months and 10 kilos heavier I would be out of breath just to take a single flight of stairs at the office. I would always find what I thought were more important activities than exercise. I couldn’t find time in the morning, at lunch or in the evening to do any sort of exercise. I would rarely even escape the office for a walk.
I even stopped eating healthy. Every morning I would go to the coffee van outside of work and order a banana bread and a hot chocolate. I knew this sort of food wasn’t healthy but I would order it anyway because, I would tell myself, “there’s nothing else available”.
I would make excuses for myself, like all good procrastinators do. Remember I considered myself young and fit when I started but very unfit after just three months. I later learned, after repeated attempts, that I can work hard and reclaim my fitness but my youth is a different story!
In almost every workplace, and indeed every office, there is someone who believes they don’t have time to exercise, don’t have time to eat right or both. I believe they are under some illusion that they will get healthy one day, however, that day seems to get further and further away.
Imagine your doctor told you to start eating healthy today or you will die from a heart attack tomorrow. I am pretty sure you could find a way to start being healthy and fit in some exercise. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the luxury of that warning. So, your best chance is to start being healthy early in life. Of course health is not the only thing people delay.
Most people don’t recognise their own tendency to procrastinate. You can procrastinate with anything from making dinner to finishing a major project. Procrastination can cause stress or lead to a range of negative consequences.
Chronic procrastinators experience problems like missed opportunities, late penalties, poor performance, health problems and insomnia. These problems are identified in Procrastination: Ten Things to Know.
Dr Theo Tsaousides, a neuropsychologist and brain-training expert, says there are three real reasons we procrastinate:
- Finishing a task at the last minute may give you an adrenaline rush or a false sense of confidence.
- You don’t have any real deadlines for your goals, so you delay a task indefinitely.
- Your brain stalls, as it is designed to do, because you believe you don’t have all the information required to make a sound decision.
An article about the psychological origins of procrastination suggests there are additional reasons we might procrastinate; such as finding something you value more highly in the moment than the task in question. You could also lack motivation or fear that your efforts will result in failure, so you decide not to try at all.
However you choose to address your inclination to procrastinate you will first need to recognise when you do it. Try writing a list of things you have decided to do but have been putting off. If you can’t think of anything your family and friends will usually be honest with you, so ask them.
Now set a realistic deadline for each of these activities you have identified. I would have to question how serious you are about getting your work done if you don’t take this step.
I hope you now understand some typical causes of procrastination. You should be able to start identifying the road blocks that have been preventing you from getting work done. Write down these road blocks next to your list of activities and start brainstorming what you need to do to overcome them.