If you ask the average person if they have ever “put something off until the last minute” or if they have ever “postponed” completing a task, they will most like say, “yes.”
Procrastination can be a common problem for many individuals. The Center for Clinical Interventions (CCI) reviewed research indicating that 20% of adults experience procrastination as a chronic problem.
However, procrastination entails more than just delaying or postponing tasks. According to the CCI, procrastination involves delaying an important task that you have committed to, in order to do a less important task, in spite of negative consequences to one’s life.
If procrastination leads to negative consequences, why do we do it?
In a recent article in Time, journalist Jaime Ducharme interviewed experts about what triggers procrastination and what we can do about it.
Those triggers typically fall into one of four camps: expectancy, value, time or impulsivity, says Alexander Rozental, a procrastination researcher and a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. In other words, “People procrastinate because of a lack of value [associated with the task]; because they expect that they’re not going to achieve the value they’re trying to achieve; because the value is too far from you in terms of time; or because you’re very impulsive as a person,” Rozental says.
Among the experts interviewed by Ducharme was David Ballard, who is the head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. Ballard discussed strategies for overcoming procrastination:
Strategies for overcoming procrastination will vary depending on why it happens in the first place.The first step is stepping back and figuring out what’s going on. Identify your own habits,” Ballard says. “Is there one kind of thing you always put off to last? What is it that you tend to put off, and what are your thought patterns around that?”
Once you have a clearer picture of your own work or study habits, Ballard says you stand a better chance of fixing them. Here are some common reasons you may be procrastinating, as well as strategies for combatting them.
If timing is the issue:
Many people are inherently more productive at certain times of day. Ballard recommends working around these natural productivity ebbs and flows when you schedule your days. “If you know you work better in the mornings on certain kinds of tasks, schedule it for then,” he says. “Don’t try to do it at a time when you’re tired and it’s harder for you to do.”
If you get overwhelmed by big tasks:
Many people procrastinate because they’re anxious about the outcome of a project, don’t think they can complete it well or fear failure, Rozental says. If that’s the case, it may help to break it into smaller sub-tasks.
Read the complete article by Jaime Ducharme here.
Sometimes what people view as procrastination can be the result of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns. At the same time, chronic problems with procrastination can also lead to or worsen preexisting anxiety or depression, leading to a vicious cycle. If procrastination is negatively impacting your career, relationships, or daily life, call or email The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Southern California for help today.
Author Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sports/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA.