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Understanding Procrastination: Why We Delay and How to Tackle It

As we start to say goodbye to the summer days, and the back-to-school season peeks around the corner, it's the perfect time to dive into a topic that affects us all: procrastination. You might be wondering, "What exactly is procrastination anyway?" Well, let's embark on this journey of understanding and learn how to conquer the urge to delay tasks.

Defining Procrastination: More Than Just Laziness

Have you ever put off doing your homework to play your favourite video game? Or delayed cleaning your room to watch Netflix? We often mistake procrastination for simply being "lazy," but it's more complex than that. When we procrastinate, we make a choice to delay or avoid a task or goal for no good reason, opting for something less important. For instance, you might choose to watch TV instead of doing your chores, even if you know there will be consequences.


The Variety of Procrastination

Procrastination isn't limited to school tasks; it sneaks into various parts of our lives. It can involve everything from schoolwork and household chores to pursuing hobbies or staying healthy. Think about it – anything you need to accomplish, whether it's practicing an instrument, finishing a project, or even cleaning up, can become a battleground with procrastination. There might be tasks you're great at completing and others that seem to invite procrastination with open arms.

Activities of Distraction: What Do We Do Instead?

When procrastination strikes, it brings along its sidekicks – procrastination activities. These are the things we do instead of tackling the main task at hand. It could be reading a book, chatting with friends, or even daydreaming. Imagine you're supposed to be practicing your multiplication tables, but you find yourself lost in your favourite book instead. These activities might feel fun, but they can lead us away from what we really should be doing.

Excuses We Make to Procrastinate

To make ourselves feel better about putting things off, we often come up with excuses. These excuses convince us that it's okay to delay important tasks. For instance, you might say, "I'm too tired right now; I'll finish my homework tomorrow." Or, "I don't have all the materials I need, so I'll wait until I do." These excuses provide temporary relief, but they don't help us in the long run.

Breaking Down Unhelpful Rules & Assumptions

Sometimes, our procrastination habits stem from beliefs we hold about how things should be. These beliefs can make us uncomfortable about a task, leading us to avoid it altogether. Let's say you believe that you should only do things that are fun. If your assignment doesn't seem enjoyable, you might postpone it. Or, if you believe that you must be perfect at everything, you might resist trying new things because you're scared of making mistakes. These beliefs act as roadblocks to productivity.

Common Unhelpful Beliefs and Procrastination

  • Wanting to Be in Control: Thinking that things should always go your way and ignoring others' input.

  • Chasing Pleasure: Believing that tasks should only be enjoyable and easy.

  • Fear of Failing or Displeasing: Being afraid to make mistakes and worrying about disappointing others.

  • Fear of the Unknown: Feeling uncertain about outcomes and preferring not to try at all.

  • Doubting Yourself: Believing that you can't succeed and underestimating your abilities.

  • Lacking Energy: Feeling unable to work when stressed, tired, or unmotivated.


The Consequences of Procrastination

Procrastination comes with its own set of rewards and consequences. On the positive side, it offers relief from the discomfort of a task, a sense of satisfaction from sticking to our unhelpful beliefs, and even enjoyment from our distraction activities. However, the negatives can pile up too, including guilt, preserving those unhelpful beliefs, self-criticism, and an ever-growing list of tasks. This cycle can make procrastination seem like an appealing option in the future as well.

How Can Psychotherapy Help?

Uncovering Underlying Beliefs:

  • Psychotherapy can help us unearth the unhelpful beliefs and assumptions that drive our procrastination habits. Remember those thoughts like "I have to be perfect" or "I'll only do things that are fun"? A therapist can help us recognize these patterns and replace them with more productive ways of thinking.

Building Strong Coping Strategies:

  • With the guidance of a therapist, we can develop effective coping strategies to tackle procrastination head-on. They can teach us techniques to manage uncomfortable feelings like boredom, anxiety, or uncertainty, which often lead to avoiding tasks. These strategies can be our secret weapons in staying focused and getting things done.

Setting Realistic Goals:

  • A therapist can help us set achievable goals, breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This approach can make daunting tasks feel less overwhelming and help us build a sense of accomplishment with each step we complete.

Boosting Self-Confidence:

  • Sometimes, low self-confidence can feed our procrastination habits. A therapist can help us recognize our strengths, celebrate our achievements, and build the confidence needed to tackle tasks that once seemed too challenging.

Breaking the Cycle:

  • Remember the cycle of temporary relief followed by negative consequences? A therapist can help us break this cycle by teaching us how to stay focused on our long-term goals, even when the allure of procrastination beckons.


So there you have it, a closer look at the world of procrastination – something we ALL grapple with. As we gear up for the upcoming school season, it's a great time to reflect on how procrastination might be affecting us and to develop strategies to overcome it. Remember, we're all in this together, learning and growing, one step at a time. So let's tackle procrastination one step at a time and welcome a more productive and fulfilling school year!



About The Author

Natasha Filntissis is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Western University. She is a passionate advocate for mental health, & believes in the importance of taking care of one's physical and mental well-being. In addition to her academics, Natasha was also a former semi-professional soccer player. Her favourite self-care activities include journaling, practicing yoga, and working out. Currently, she is working with children with Autism in 1:1 and group settings. Natasha intends to pursue a Masters degree, & her ultimate goal is to inspire and educate others about the value of mental health and self-care to lead a fulfilling life.

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