We are all guilty of putting off a difficult task or filling our time with something unimportant to delay doing something more challenging or tedious. This is procrastination and can have a detrimental impact on a person’s ability to work, study or carry out general tasks effectively and on time.
Research suggests that around half of the general population feel that procrastination is having an impact on their lives. Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are much more likely to think this compared to older generations over age 55.
How do people procrastinate?
One of the biggest ways people distract themselves from their work is through checking social media apps. A quick scroll through your Twitter feed can soon turn into an hour wasted flicking between your accounts on Facebook and Instagram too. This is easy to do when your work involves the use of a computer or smartphone.
Gaming can also be a productivity-killer. One game of Candy Crush can easily spiral into several games when you know there is a different piece of work waiting on your desk for you. If you plan to complete a couple of tasks after dinner, television series on Netflix or other streaming services can quickly eat into your evening and leave you with no time to do what you had planned.
Procrastinating by doing other bits of less important or time-sensitive work is also common. Seeing an email notification and clicking onto it can take your attention away from what you are presently working on, and it’s tempting to switch to a task that is easier to complete for a quick win.
What is the cause of procrastination?
One reason for procrastination is simply boredom. If you believe a task is a low value or very menial, you are more likely to put it off. Some people also believe that they perform better under pressure and that leaving tasks to the last minute is their way of doing things.
Another cause of procrastination can be anxiety or lack of confidence in your performance. If you believe you won’t succeed at doing something, fear may stop you from trying.
Here are some tips and tricks to keep you on track:
Better time management
Try creating a schedule to keep you organised with the tasks you need to complete. It might help put your more time-sensitive or complex tasks in the morning when you have more energy and focus. A schedule will help you start nice and early and avoid leaving things until just before the deadline.
This method will also help to reduce distractions. For example, if you usually find yourself dropping everything to respond to an email when it comes in, try setting yourself specific times of the day that you will read and respond to emails.
Breaking things down into more manageable chunks
A large piece of work can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it can be difficult to decide where to begin. Consider breaking it down into smaller tasks and creating a checklist that you can tick off once each part is complete.
This method will allow you to feel the relief and satisfaction of quick wins and prevent feelings of stress.
Reconfiguring your environment
Removing the temptations around you can help to prevent procrastination. If you find yourself constantly picking up your phone to go on games or social media, try putting it in another room or turning it off while you work. You can also disable notifications on your laptop or set yourself to ‘busy’ on your devices to prevent these distractions.
If working from home, it is important to have a dedicated space where you can focus. This should be free of noise, an adequate temperature, and away from distractions such as the television. This can be easier said than done if you work in a busy family home, but foldaway desks and laptop trays can help you turn even the smallest of rooms into an office space.