Procrastination – To do, or Not to do!

Procrastination is the unnecessary delay of things one intends to do.
Virtually all of us have at some stage in our life dilly-dallied, but some people have made it a way of life. Research has revealed that up to 25% of the general population and 75% of university students consider themselves to be procrastinators, with students reporting that up to one-third of their day is taken up by procrastinating activities. These include sleeping, playing or watching TV. Research has revealed that aversion to a task as being the biggest reason people avoid doing a task. The more unpleasant the task, the more likely they are to put it off. People find it more appealing to engage in an enjoyable activity, rather than the focal activity they are disinclined to tackle.

Easy as it is to blame laziness as a reason for procrastination, this is not the case. Similarly, it may appear that lack of interest in the task to be performed could account for procrastination, which is typically a mistaken notion. Usually procrastination is a combination of factors. People often procrastinate because they are afraid to fail. Boredom is another reason, and furthermore hostility to the person assigning the task may cause delay. The task at hand may seem overwhelming.

Setting goals and deadlines can eliminate procrastination to an extent. It is important to adopt a “now” attitude.

“There is no mystery about managing time. Everyone has 24 hours each day and 168 hours each week to eat, sleep, work, relax and exercise There is nothing magical about getting the most out of these hours – it just takes proper planning.” Time management requires control and self-discipline until the behaviour patterns become internalised and managing time becomes a habit.

It can be extremely easy to self-sabotage your day by not creating priorities which often results in doing low-value activities that don’t generate significant results. The most effective strategy for overcoming procrastination is to improve your ability to choose which tasks should be worked on and which tasks should be avoided. We have all at some stage made excuses for putting things off, but if you take the time to explore your thoughts you will find that most excuses are due to a subconscious feeling that the task isn’t that important.

So, what is the solution?
Make a habit of associating every task to a goal. When you are about to begin a task, ask yourself if it fits in with your long-term plans. If the task forms part of your long-term goal, then make time to do it. If a task does not relate to that goal, don’t be afraid to assign it or eliminate it. Setting goals is your sure advantage in fighting procrastination. Realising what is important creates a framework for your daily routine. You will no longer be delaying a specific task but instead will take action, knowing how it fits in with your long-term plans.
You may apply this habit through the use of SMART goals, which is the acronym for:
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed.

Specific
A specific goal has a much better chance of being accomplished than a general goal. Provide enough material to ensure there is no indecision. A general goal would be “I want to lose weight.” While a specific goal would be “I want to lose 5kg in three months by cutting down on my calorie intake to 2,000 and walking 5km every day” Use the 6 “W” questions.

1. Who is involved?
2. What do I want to accomplish?
3. Where will I complete my goal?
4. When do I want to do it?
5. Which obstacles may prevent me from achieving my goal?
6. Why am I doing it?

Measurable
Choose a goal with measurable progress so you can see the change as it occurs. A measurable goal can be assessed through a sliding measure (1-5), as a hit or miss, success or failure. Based on the Specific example, “I want to lose 5kg in three months by cutting down on my calorie intake to 2,000 and walking 5km every day” the goal is measured.

Attainable
Having an achievable goal is an outcome that is realistic given your present social, economic, cultural resources and time available. If the outcome is difficult to begin with your goal may be difficult to achieve. Our goal example is to “lose 5kg in three months”, which is achievable.

Realistic
Start with what you feel you can do and enjoy the experience of meeting your goals. Gradually increase the intensity to redefine the goal. Our goal example is realistic “lose 5kg in three months”. If the progress is slow or really good, then the goal may be redefined to 4kg or 6kg or two or four months.

Timed
Set a time frame for the goal such as “three months”. Setting an end point will give you a clear target to achieve.
Goal setting should be part of your every decision you make in life. Trying to overcome procrastination means you should look at each task and see how it fits into your long-term plans.

References

Kaftan, O. J., & Freund, A. M. (2018). A motivational perspective on academic procrastination: Goal focus affects how students perceive activities while procrastinating. Motivation Science. https://doi.org/10.1037/mot00001100
Knipe, A., Van der Waldt, G., Van Niekerk, D., Burger, D., & Nell, K. (2002). Project management for success. Sandown, South Africa: Heinemann.
Klingssieck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination: When good things don’t come to those who wait. European Psychologist, 18(1), 24-34. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000138
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94 https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.1.65