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Just One More… Procrastination and its Sneaky Tricks

By Andrew Scott
Psychologist
Alpha Psychology & the Resilience Centre

Grab a quick TV show or two, add a dash of Facebook, a dollop of Youtube and a smattering of entertaining memes to browse through and you have the perfect recipe for procrastination. We all love a bit of procrastination here and there, but sometimes procrastination gets the better of us.

Procrastination’s Sneaky Tricks

  • Pseudo-work

Procrastination loves to encourage us to do all kinds of things that look productive, and even feel productive, but don’t really finish the task at hand. Few of us are strangers to this trick. We spend hours formatting when we’ve only just started the report, search the net for good pictures to include with our blog post (guilty!), spend so much time preparing or planning that we end up running out of time to actually do our task.

  • Procrastination’s excuses

Have you ever thought “I’m too tired to start now”, “I haven’t got everything I need, I’ll wait until I have everything before I start”, or “there isn’t enough time right now to do it properly”. Procrastination loves to make excuses such as these to keep us from our tasks.

  • Time warp

There is nothing procrastination enjoys more than overestimating or underestimating the amount of time a task will take, or how long we have until it’s due.

  • Perfectionism

Procrastination often teams up with its cousin perfectionism. For tips on dealing with that dynamic duo I would recommend reading Ruth’s blog post below.

Beating Procrastinating?

Procrastination is a tricky foe. If you do what procrastination says you feel a sense of short-term relief and enjoyment while you sit there surfing the net or getting lost in a show. Staying on task, on the other hand, can feel incredibly uncomfortable and even quite distressing for some people. Procrastination likes to masquerade as our savior from discomfort, the one who rescues us from stress we can’t cope with… But can it be trusted? Overall, does procrastination reduce discomfort and stress in our lives?

Beating procrastination requires us to identify when procrastination is using one of it’s tricks and then doing the opposite, even if it’s only for a short time. “Easier said than done” you might think, but you could try an experiment. When you next notice procrastination say “I’m too tired to start now” test it out by starting a task now, even if its only a small start. Experiments can tell you how much discomfort you can actually cope with and how intense that discomfort can get. Many people find that the discomfort comes in waves, and that it starts to get easier if they can break through the initial ‘spike’ (like a runner breaking through the pain barrier).

Some other tips you may be interested are:

  • Use momentum

Start a task you don’t mind doing to energize yourself and then switch (without a break) to a task you have been putting off.

  • Just 5 Minutes

It is not easy to put up with the discomfort of fighting procrastination, but it is something you may be able to put up with for 5 minutes. Plan to spend just 5 minutes on your task and at the end of your 5 minutes reassess to see if you can spend just another 5 minutes on the task.

  • Reward yourself

Plan a reward for yourself after you have achieved a goal (which could be a word count or working for a time period). Beating back procrastination is always worth a little bit of a celebration!

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