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Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. Some researchers define procrastination as a "form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.(verywellmind)

William James (often referred to as the ‘Father of American Psychology’) stated that ‘nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task’. Procrastination gets the best of all of us, to the detriment of our work, happiness and health. For many people, procrastination is the major barrier that prevents positive change. Chronic procrastinators are less likely to fully accomplish simple tasks or find it difficult taking major life's decisions including marriage, job and even health issues.

Procrastinators also struggle to find time to exercise, since they will always put off physical activity for another day. And, thanks to the general chaos that arises from the constant dodging of important tasks, they tend to feel high levels of anxiety. The result is an elevated risk of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease.

The three most common ways that students report procrastinating? Sleeping, playing and watching TV (although this finding came from a study 15 years ago, and we would expect being on their phones and social media to be more prominent now).

Researchers have found that procrastination is associated with low self-esteem, irrational beliefs, a fear of failure, depression and poor study habits. Furthermore, those who procrastinate have been found to be more stressed and likely to be ill nearer a deadline, often culminating in lower exam results.

Who Procrastinates?

>Those with low self-esteem are also likely to procrastinate. One possible reason for this is because procrastinating can be a self-protective strategy, providing a handy excuse to hide behind (i.e. ‘I only failed because I didn’t try’). Those with a rebellious streak are also likely to procrastinate, as they are likely to see externally imposed deadlines as controlling and therefore may try to act to avoid them.

>Students who are not confident in their academic abilities are most likely to procrastinate, followed by those with low levels of self-regulation. This is logical, as we..

(a) put off things that we are not good at and..

(b) are more likely to procrastinate if we can’t manage distractions.

Reasons Why We Procrastinate

In addition to the reasons why we procrastinate, we often come up with a number of excuses or rationalizations to justify our behavior. According to researchers, there are 15 key reasons why people procrastinate:

>Not knowing what needs to be done
>Not knowing how to do something
>Not wanting to do something
>Not caring if it gets done or not
>Not caring when something gets done
>Not feeling in the mood to do it
>Being in the habit of waiting until the last minute
>Believing that you work better under pressure
>Thinking that you can finish it at the last minute
>Lacking the initiative to get started
>Blaming sickness or poor health
>Waiting for the right moment
>Needing time to think about the task
>Delaying one task in favor of working on another

How to Overcome Procrastination

1. Do the task for just a few minutes – Not only do procrastinators spend longer distracting themselves doing the ‘wrong things’ but they also delay starting the ‘right’ things. This was the finding of a study into students who procrastinate. To combat this, Professor Richard Wiseman talks about The Zierganick effect, which describes how once you start something, your brain remains alert until you finish it. Starting a task is often the hardest part. If you can persuade someone just to start it for a few minutes, the brain's desire to see it through to completion should then take over.

2. Do the hard and important tasks first – Our daily biological clocks, known as our Circadian Rhythm, ensure that we are often at our most alert at about 10am before we suffer a mid-afternoon dip. The harder the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them. It therefore makes sense to do the hardest and most important tasks first because trying to start them when you are tired is difficult, often resulting in people putting them off for another day. Be it in the school, workplace or at home, get on with the hardest task first while you still have energy or early enough so that by the time you are getting fatigued, you'd be having just the less difficult tasks left.

3. Manage your environment – If you can see temptations, you are more likely to be distracted by them, and therefore procrastinate. For example, a recent study found that having your phone out and in sight, even if you are not using it, can make you perform 20% worse than if you had put your phone away. The authors of this study state that ‘the mere presence of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention’. Consider your working environment; is it conducive to the task at hand or one where procrastination can flourish?

4. Increase confidence and self-belief – Individuals who believe that they won’t be successful at the task at hand are more likely to procrastinate. One way to increase their confidence is to highlight how others who have been in a similar position have been successful (psychologists call this ‘modelling’). This can make the task at hand seem achievable and provide a possible template to follow.

Remember, procrastination is thw thief of time. It steals away the time you have to accomplish tasks, fulfill life's goals, exercise and remain fit and taking life's most crucial decisions. Do not allow low self esteem, depression and the fear of failure make you back out. Failure on its own is actually not a failure but a process to victory!

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