Procrastination is described in tons of ways, some say it is related to laziness and some people connect it to mental illnesses. But here's what clinical psychologist Insiya said about procrastination: “Unnecessary postponement of tasks one wishes to undertake is referred to as procrastination which may have many underlying causes.”
She added, “Procrastination includes laziness, which influences your motivational element, resulting in the intention-action gap.”
According to research, academic procrastination is high among university students, for example, writing a term paper, assignments, around 70 per cent of university students consider themselves procrastinators.
Types of procrastination
There are two types of procrastination: acute and chronic procrastination. Most of the population fall into the acute category. Individuals here only procrastinate occasionally and are able to identify the reasons for doing so.
Chronic procrastinators don’t even realise they are procrastinating and there may be underlying reasons like depression or bipolar disorder. Clinical psychologist Insiya mentioned her own experience, “I have had patients who unintentionally miss out on appointments because even a session is overwhelming for them, specifically BPD patients. Secondly may lose their credit card, forget paying bills.”
Are procrastination and laziness the same?
She also mentioned, “Procrastination and laziness become correlated when one has to clean the unpleasant chores. Such patients are likely to die young as they procrastinate in quitting smoking, starting a diet, or scheduling a medical check-up.”
Insiya sorts the thin line between laziness and procrastination by saying, “We are lazy if we perform the task in a haphazard manner, or participate in a less demanding or uninteresting manner. We are lazy when we can perform an activity but ignore it or are unwilling to do so. Laziness, however, should not be mistaken with procrastination.”
Procrastinators are generally in favour of doing work but lack the motivation to achieve the goal. “The causes for procrastination are varied and complicated, but laziness is rarely the culprit, contrary to popular belief.”
Why do we procrastinate?
Clinical psychologist, Tanushree Deka also shared her knowledge and explained after all why does every other human being suffers from procrastination.
She said, “We procrastinate because we are not confident enough in our potentials and thus, that creates anxiety and to reduce the anxiety, we postpone the task to a later period of time. If we feel that the task given to us to complete is unfair or extra, we might be frustrated. Since sometimes one feels they cannot show the anger towards a higher authority, they procrastinate in doing the work as a way of passive aggression.”
Deka also explained how the pandemic has affected our procrastinating behaviour. “During the pandemic, it has increased because routine work seems monotonous, due to a lack of creative/positive environment one starts to question the sense of fulfillment one is receiving from the work.
Since mobility is restricted, one cannot interact with people or go for outings, day-to-day frustration and anxiety gets pent up. A sense of dullness builds up which might get expressed as procrastinating.”
How can we overcome procrastination?
Here are some authentic solutions suggested by clinical psychologist Tanushree Deka which can help overcome such problems:
Follow Pomodoro technique - Breaking your work into small chunks, say 3 chunks... taking around 20 min to do one chunk(that is one Pomodoro). Taking a break of 10 mins and then following the routine for the next two. Doing tasks in these chunks increases stress (the good kind of stress that gets work done) and makes it more likely that you are going to complete the work.
Being self-compassionate - Being kind and forgiving oneself for past failures makes one motivated to take up new tasks.
Being mindful of distorted cognitions - Certain cognitions like 'This task is hard. I might fail', 'I don't have everything needed to do the task', 'I need to do a perfect job' are mental barriers called cognitive distortions which affect the motivation to do the work.
Changing perspective towards the work - thinking that we 'get to do the job' rather than 'have to do the job' makes one feel internally motivated as one tries to find meaning or purpose behind the task.
Meditation - Even minutes of mindfulness or meditation, can help us gain better control of our emotions.
Procrastination appears to be an emotion regulation strategy. By doing something that makes us feel good, we can avoid feeling the bad emotions linked with a task. Or, at the very least, it helps us feel better.