How I am breaking the chains of procrastination
At some point in our lives, we all surrender to procrastination. Can you think of a time, you intended to start your day by something you must do (like writing a report or finishing a project) but ended up watching your favorite Netflix show for an hour later? Or instead you chose to indulge in binging ‘Friends’.
Before I get into further details let me introduce myself. Am a psychology student doing my third year with Middlesex University. I am also a Dyslexic who deals with procrastination on a regular basis. I find that I sacrifice my best hours of the day dwelling in my fears and often wondered on the reasons to why me and probably others procrastinate.
Being raised in Dubai, I was regularly in conflict with the mixed-race culture and the speed at which the country grew. While trying to fit in and finding my identity, somewhere along the line I developed a high fear of failure. I am not sure if that is because of the difficulties I faced as a dyslexic who had to explain every step of my way to people. Frequently when I did things differently from the standard norms, people considered me a failure.
So instead of people understanding me or myself creating my space as an individual, I took on the fear of being in the wrong, always and the fear of not reaching up to standard norms became a daily worry. This fear then contributed to lessen the trust I had in my skills and I questioned myself at every process and step. I was led to believe that I am unable to achieve my true potential and so it led me to doubt my steps to success.
Less confidence in oneself takes the major share of the pie that contributes to procrastination. Feeling as a person with much lesser skills than the task in hand means that I could never complete the given task as expected. I usually go through the process of continuously wishing I did it the way it should be but I freeze at the moment I tend to actually start the action. I worry over every small detail over and over again.
These thoughts take up most of my brain capacity and then I tire out.
I just don’t have the energy to do the real task.
That is when I get into trouble or pulled out.
I have noticed that this is like a vicious cycle, and I get sucked in it. It becomes a part of me or a habit that I cannot get rid of. I even tend to believe I inherited this too. Is that possible?
Can I say that procrastinators tend to be blind-sided and focus on the destination rather than the journey?
To make it clear: Procrastination is not laziness; procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute or past their deadline. In psychological terms, it is "form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences."
I would like to quote Dr. Piers Steel. He is a world-renowned expert on human motivation and the leading authority on why people procrastinate. He has spent the last 10 years studying procrastination. He created an equation to understand the reason why we procrastinate in depth. His equation for procrastination is expectation multiplied by value divided by impulsiveness multiplied by delay.
Procrastination = (Expectation x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay)
When we break down this formula, we can see that an individual is steered by his expectation and the value he attaches to any task, and it is inversely proportional to his Impulsive nature causing much delay in the task. Hence the more an individual attaches value to his expectations the less likely he ends up procrastinating.
As to being impulsive, we all humans are born with it. Some have it high, others low and some maybe not at all. It has a hand in how much a person will give into disconnected thoughts or distractions, causing delays on your calendar days availability to complete the task.
In an article written by John Rampton, he has explained the physiology of procrastination as “Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex,” let me explain some of the terms: “The limbic system is a set of brain structures containing the pleasure center, while the prefrontal cortex controls planning and decision making.” If the prefrontal cortex isn’t as “developed and thus weaker, often the limbic system wins out, leading to procrastination".
Now being a dyslexic and procrastinator, I have had several struggles in my school days. But I should say there were many kind people on the way who supported and guided me. And I came across few steps that help trick my mind and do tasks that are not endearing to me - and may also work for you:
Allow yourself to procrastinate in short intervals – try to time your procrastination period.
Break down your huge assignment, project, or task into smaller pieces, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the task – Micro Action.
Reward yourself after every small part complete – with something you really like such as your favorite chocolate, 30 mins of your fav movie on Netflix, or scrolling through Instagram etc. (as long as the reward is timed)
I started practicing this for quite a while and I can say that it has made my life much each easier. The day-to-day activities are less stressful now and I am more resilient. I am continuously thinking of more strategies, which I would share along the way.
Rose Thompson - Behavioral Science Associate @ Bessern
Looking to live a life learning how to manage procrastination to the fullest.