It’s grocery shopping lists, videos of cute dogs, episodes of your favorite series or podcast… There’s so much around that it’s almost impossible to beat procrastination, a common and totally human attitude. It’s hard to find a single person who hasn’t put off performing some task at least once in his life.
But a researcher is trying to help those who suffer from it, especially people who have various problems at work, studies and even personal and family life because of it.
Fuschia Sirois, a professor of psychology at the University of Durham in England, has been studying procrastination for 20 years. She’s heard so many heartbreaking stories that she’s now publishing a research-based guide, offering insights and practical strategies for dealing with it.
“I do a lot of public speaking and I get emails after lectures, people whose lives are hampered by procrastination, they can’t move forward with their goals, it’s taking a toll on their health and they’re desperate for any kind of advice.” site The Guardian. Below are some of her tips:
No guilt and better identifying the problem
There’s a lot of advice and opinions on the subject, which doesn’t help, Sirois said. Phrases like “You’re lazy, go take a time management course” don’t help. In fact, according to her, procrastinators need to better understand the source of the problem in order to solve it. They should also stop blaming themselves for procrastinating and be kinder to themselves.
Sirois explains that procrastination among students is worryingly high. “It’s estimated that between 80 and 95% of new students procrastinate at least once or more, but 50% of students chronically procrastinate and that’s a real problem.”
For her, procrastination was never a good thing, despite some researchers arguing about the benefits of “positive procrastination.” Sirois says, “Embedded in the definition of procrastination is that you voluntarily and unnecessarily delay an important task, despite knowing the consequences are harmful. How can that be positive?”
No Judgment: Procrastinators Are Not Lazy
In essence, procrastination is an irrational and emotional act, says the researcher. “Procrastination is a form of emotion regulation in which sufferers avoid a task that can trigger negative emotions, either by losing engagement or putting off.”
Sirois said harsh judgment isn’t the solution and procrastinators need to know they’re not lazy — and they don’t just need to work on their organization or time management.
Procrastination, she said, is due to “not being able to manage our emotions internally. So we manage them externally. We take that task that is unpleasant or boring or frustrating or stressful… , we have an immediate sense of relief”. But the task always comes back to “haunt”.
One of the reasons Sirois said he wanted to write the book — which is only available in English — “was to help people recognize what was causing their procrastination and find ways to help them break out of that cycle.”
“Procrastination is not a trivial issue,” Sirois said. “It can have substantial negative impacts on a person’s life. But it doesn’t have to be, there are ways to deal with it and there is hope for those stuck in a pattern of chronic procrastination.
In addition to the researcher’s tips, see other measures that can help you beat procrastination:
- Do what’s boring first;
- Organize the tasks;
- Make the environment pleasant;
- Think of the motivational effect;
- Give yourself a reward;
- Monitor your thoughts;
- Invest in mindfulness;
- Relate the task to a goal.