Understanding procrastination and how to break the habit

Why people procrastinate, the impact of that behavior and how to make changes.

Are you a procrastinator?

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” This line, from English poet Edward Young (1683-1765), is spot-on as to what waiting and delaying, avoiding and languishing over accomplishes. Procrastinators waste tremendous amounts of time.

Leading experts on the topic, Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, tell us that procrastination represents an extreme problem with self-regulation. Procrastination is a learned behavior through family role modeling and is generally a result of an authoritative type parenting style.

While it is estimated that one-fifth of adults and half of all students procrastinate, this behavior is not taken seriously in our culture even though the impacts of procrastination can be harmful and touch our lives physically and emotionally, affect our work and relationships and impact quality of life.

Studies indicate that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior and can have lasting effects on our lives, including:

  • Compromised physical and emotional health
  • Missed opportunities at work
  • Low self-confidence, low self-esteem and lack of self-compassion
  • Increased stress, worry and guilt
  • Strained relationships
Why do people procrastinate?
  • Fear of failure or fear of success
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Overwhelmed easily
  • Unmotivated
  • Fear of losing control over others
  • A coping behavior to avoid more demands from others
  • Perfectionism
  • Stubbornness
Steps for tackling procrastination
  • Change your mindset
  • Pick one thing that you’ve been putting off and list all the reasons for delaying
  • Find the best place to begin
  • Start small, decide what part of the project you will complete first
  • Visualize the finished product
  • Don’t give up, keep trying

Making changes and experiencing positive outcomes will reduce the stress in your life, increase free time and, boost your self-confidence. Work to change your procrastination habits today. Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found.”

Michigan State University Extension offers Stress less with Mindfulness and RELAX Alternatives to Anger programs that may be of help while working on changing self-defeating habits like procrastination.

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