Defeating The Cycle Of Procrastination

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Procrastination hits you like a ton of bricks, and it lays the foundation for a wall that you feel like you’re stuck against. Procrastination is evident from the millennia of research and documentation we have about the idea of ‘laziness’, ‘not doing one’s tasks’, and ‘lack of pleasure from the job’. We all have this sinking feeling on Sunday evenings, as we know that our Monday-Friday routine starts all over again. We feel depressed and want to know why, but our brains just tell us that we need something else right now.

The loss of productivity can be as much as 20-30% according to researchers in the US, and there are cases where an average employee can lose as much as 40hours of his/her work-time to procrastination or symptoms related to procrastination. There has to be a better way of dealing with our problems at work or college, and we can’t keep relying on the cycle of procrastination to keep us beaten and battered for long. We must change the way we see ourselves and view a different future for ourselves. One with productivity, lifestyle changes and hacks that can help us evolve our brains to function better and take less procrastination breaks

Inability to correctly measure our procrastination

We are poor judges of our own procrastination as evidence states by research from Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”, according the Joseph. He theorizes that procrastination happens for two simple reasons – delay of action due to poor mood and assuming that our mood will change in the near future. However, what makes us feel trapped in this loop is the very thing that we are hoping will fix us. We want our future selves to be better, but our current selves won’t make the effort to do it. We feel trapped and hope that our trapped selves will become un-trapped shortly. And because that “near-future” and “shortly” doesn’t come, we feel even more trapped as we hope for our own brains to fix us.

We can change this by acting now instead of later, and we can effectively distinguish our emotions and feelings when they arise when a task is given to us. We can beat the cycle if we are aware of our symptoms and not indulge in them as we go down the cycle of work and play.

Stress Management

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The average employee is stressed out almost 30% of the time according to the 22,000+ person Global Benefits Attitudes Research, which also found that levels of workplace disengagement significantly increase when employees experience high levels of stress.  While most employees complain about work-life balance, the second leading cause of stress comes from poor staffing and over-loading of work. There are many problems associated with the stress that accumulates, including those related to the cortisol build-up in the system. The same cortisol doesn’t flush out completely and leaves the body tired and over-thinking about the smallest things to avoid the pain of working through our stress. The challenge with all the science is that people are “human”, and need quick fixes for problems rather than changing the way they are.

That’s the problem, according to Ian Robertson, author of The Stress Test and a distinguished scientist at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas. The chemical “Norepinephrine” in the right levels has remarkable properties in the human brain as it builds new connections and helps us evolve better to our surrounding. So, stress is our friend. We need to see stress as a compass and not as a brick wall as previously mentioned. When we experience stress, we need to find out the root cause and dissolve it quickly before we revert into old habits and self-fulfilling procrastination cycles.

Job dissatisfaction

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Not a lot of people are collectively doing something they love. Philosophers, scientists, governments and economists have debated for years about what makes for the perfect job profile or the perfect economy and there exists none. We look at Utopia as a shiny dream but that perfect job doesn’t exist for us. We have to make it happen. If we are feeling trapped in the same position, then we should talk to our managers. If we are not able to grow then we should change, and not waste our time. We need to take action before job dissatisfaction takes over our lives completely. It may take you 5 months, maybe it takes 2 years, but if you pursue it because it gives you happiness then all those challenges will feel inconsequential in the long race of life. Find something that pleases you, and work towards it relentlessly.

Lifestyle, habits and social norms

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There is no one trait or personality that defeats procrastination. Researcher Dr. Caplan from Anadolu University wrote a book about it, titled “Relationship among Perfectionism, Academic Procrastination and Life Satisfaction of University Students.”

In the research, Dr. Caplan broke down perfectionists into three categories – other-oriented, socially prescribed, and self-oriented. He mentioned, from his study, that the self-oriented perfectionists (the ones who have high expectations from themselves) procrastinated more when it came to academic preparation, and in many cases, didn’t even realize it. This was because they had built their lives to achieve all the time, and when they faced stress related to their academic performance, they couldn’t match up to their high-standards. This caused procrastination as they weren’t in the right mindset.

Focus on lifestyle changes. The way we sleep, eat, drink, party and work. We need to have the right balance of these and only then will we be satisfied by either of them. Lifestyle changes can often create the biggest impact to our lives outside of working hard and persevering.

There may be many reasons behind why you procrastinate, but if you take the active steps to conquer it and not let it take over your life, you will end up victorious.