Are you skilled in the art of procrastinating? That may be a problem if it’s keeping you from getting your priorities done. Have you said to yourself, “I can’t stop procrastinating!” The answer is yes, it’s possible to stop this bad habit.
Many people believe that procrastination relates to time management problems. However, procrastination may not always a time management issue.
I can’t stop procrastinating! How to stop procrastinating
Someone who procrastinates may have time management problems, and there are other factors to consider. In recent years, research has shown procrastination linked to managing your emotions. Emotional health can be a touchy subject to discuss, but essential to understand why people put off things sometimes.
In this post, I will go over some key research findings, along with a crucial tip in addressing procrastination.
I can’t stop procrastinating!
Short-term activities part of procrastination
When people feel bad about doing an important task, they may do something else to change their mood. According to a study by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, the participants read sad stories. While reading sad stories, they were more inclined to procrastinate by doing activities such as doing puzzles or playing video games. They preferred these activities over studying for an intelligence test they would take as part of the study.
Emotional regulation theory
The emotional regulation theory of procrastination makes sense for people desiring short-term mood changes. When I used to delay homework in school, I knew that writing a term paper had to get done at some point. But when I didn’t want to write that paper, I would watch YouTube videos or check email through my smartphone. It was the right way for me to avoid discomfort. By reading this study it helps me understand that I was doing short-term things at the cost of my long-term goals.
Stress-free activities boost your mood
There is a correlation between doing fun activities and short-term mood boosters. It may be part of human nature, but making it a habit to procrastinate can lead to stress later on. One study comprising thousands of people showed procrastinating as a motive for watching cat videos online. Doing this activity led to boosting their moods in the short-term. They wanted to do it to make them feel better when they should’ve been doing something more productive.
Short-term activities lead to guilt afterward
Regarding the emotional aspect of procrastinating, many of the participants in the survey felt guilty after watching the videos. While it brings short-term comfort, it causes problems later down the road. When I put off challenging, time-consuming tasks, I felt a little anxious and stressed out by building up issues later on. Not only did I feel stressed out, but guilty losing out valuable time. At least I now realize how important time can be, especially with achieving my long-term goals.
Chronic procrastination means long-term health issues
Procrastination can be a quick fix for some people, but a more significant issue for others. For those who procrastinate and stress out often, it can take a significant toll on their health. So it’s no surprise that more significant problems, including cardiovascular disease, can be costly down the road.
Tedious tasks lead to procrastination
Researchers have suggested people delay doing tasks that fill them with negative emotions. These can be very dull tasks. Therefore, they may procrastinate if these negative emotions come up.
Back to the Sirois study, even putting off daunting things such as going for regular health checkups can be consequential. Whether it’s people, don’t enjoy going to the doctor, or they’re concerned about medical bills, putting off on regular visits can cause long-term consequences. Maybe not for everyone, but those with chronic health conditions, it’s detrimental to their long-term health.
What to do? “Just get started.”
If procrastination is more emotional-based, the best thing is to get started on your next priority. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT, is one approach to combatting negative thoughts. For those that have taken part in ACT, they practice controlling their uncomfortable thoughts and feelings; for example, if you say,
- “I’m afraid of my feelings, OR
- “If I don’t do this task now, I’ll be stressed out in a few hours.”
Keeping these examples in mind leads to participants having higher scores in the ACT sessions. The ACT has had positive feedback from the participants, more effective than traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Start on the first step now
Along with ACT being a practical solution, getting through the first step of a task is crucial. Other research has found once someone gets started on a productive assignment, following through on it becomes much more manageable. Getting started on a project can be the most challenging part.
For myself, once I get started, I work much faster through the middle portion of my work. It could be the opposite way (people finding it difficult to finish a task), but getting started is vital for someone to achieve their goals.
Procrastination is a common problem for many people struggling with time management. But it also can be an issue with managing emotions. Whether that’s doing short-term activities for pleasure, it’s a significant reason people procrastinate because they prefer not to do tedious or challenging work. If more people were mindful of their emotions, their people would stop procrastinating if they knew it would bring them guilt later on. It’s a different perspective rather than looking at the time management issue.
Do you struggle with emotions? Are you guilty of watching cat videos when you know you should do something better?
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Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook and LinkedIn.