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Procrastination and Time Management

Procrastination is defined as “the intentional postponement of a planned activity despite understanding that such a delay may hurt the individual in terms of task performance”, or, to put it another way, procrastination is a needless voluntary delay.

Perhaps you’ve put your clothes away for a while, preferring to focus on your university assignment or office duties. What if, on the other hand, you’re skipping your morning or evening walk, your Daily prayer or Quran recitation, or your doctor’s appointment? The act of disregarding laundry or prayer is procrastination if you favor watching a movie or scrolling through Facebook for 20 minutes.

All procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.

This means, there is nothing preventing us from acting in a timely manner except our own reluctance to act.

Approximately 80% of students and 25% of adults admit to being chronic procrastinators, according to research and with the internet and smartphones offering an endless number of distractions from what we should be doing, it may be getting worse.

So how can we take control of a wandering mind for a happier and more productive life?

Step one is to work out what is causing the wandering in the first place. According to psychologist Tim Pychyl of Carleton University in Canada, and author of the book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, procrastination is largely an emotional problem – a psychological coping mechanism that kicks in during times of stress. “We have a brain that is selected for preferring immediate reward. Procrastination is the present-self saying I would rather feel good now. So, we delay engagement even though it’s going to bite us on the butt,” he says.

The good news, though, is that people can change their ways. “Willpower is like a muscle… over time you can strengthen your attentional resources. I’m a big believer in that,” says Pychyl.

  • Why are we reluctant to act?
  • Why is it we become our own worst enemy?

Procrastination for many people is a habit.

Habits are not easy to change.

We need to make a conscious effort with specific strategies for change to be successful.

Strategy for Change

Tim suggests as Initial strategy for change is to begin to categorize in your own mind which delays in your life are procrastination.

As you begin to identify which delays are truly voluntary delays that undermine your performance and well-being, you may see a pattern emerge.

List those tasks, projects, activities, or “things” in your life on which you tend to procrastinate. Next to each, jot down what emotions and thoughts come to mind when you think of each of these moments of procrastination.

Do not overthink this. It could be, for example, that you are uncertain about what to do to complete a task. Or in case of prayer or morning walk, I will start in few days.

When you have finished your list, look for patterns in the emotions or thoughts involved. You may find similarities of reasons and feels.

Quick Fix

Self-awareness is key, jump into action — procrastinators find it difficult to take the first step.

The best way to overcome procrastination is to launch now.

  • Open that book.
  • Write that first word.
  • Dial that number.
  • Ask the first question.
  • Start practicing.
  • Cross the line.
  • Chop up tasks into smaller ones. Create internal deadlines.
  • Own your priorities. Start with what you hate. Or what you love. Mix up things. Build momentum.
  • Facing your emotions is key to jump into action. Go fight the battle in your mind.
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