by Lee Boblitt
Most people approaching a professional to get help with their procrastination are encouraged to look toward better time management as the solution. It turns out, however, that the causes and remedies of procrastination are not so easily ferreted out and dealt with. Jotham Friedland and Sander Marcus, both Ph.D. career and business consultants, classify procrastination into six categories:
- The task feels overwhelming.
- There is something that seems more important at the moment.
- Fear of being evaluated.
- The feeling that there is “plenty of time.”
- Confusion over how to do the task.
- One is simply too tired, bored or disinterested in the task to finish it.
This list is not definitive but simply illustrates that the origins of procrastination can be many. Also, a person may have several of these depending on the task at hand. Friedland and Marcus go on to suggest remedies for each type of procrastination.
When the task feels too overwhelming break it up into smaller parts. I would add that once you break the task down, set definite times and dates to accomplish each part. Even if the period of time to accomplish each part is only 15 minutes, schedule them so that they don’t begin to get lost in the rush of doing other things.
In these days of high stress and “never enough time,” it is important to learn to prioritize tasks to be accomplished. While it may feel like everything has to be done right now, that is rarely the case. We especially feel the press of tasks when there is one or two that we don’t want to do. Writing down and prioritizing a list of tasks to be accomplished is an essential skill for success in our complicated world. Without this rational judgment, our emotions may keep us from accomplishing what needs to be done in the time frame required.
Fear of being evaluated can be a complicated thing to sort out. This fear may have developed from negative school or family experiences where you felt you were judged unfairly, or where expectations were more than you could meet. You may need to talk with someone to sort out your fears about a particular assignment(s). Either by yourself or with someone you trust evaluate whether your fears are realistic or not. If they are not realistic you may want to seek counseling to help overcome this and/or related fears.
There is only plenty of time to accomplish a task if you use the time. To simply put off the task because there is plenty of time could be dangerous, especially if it is a task you are dreading. Schedule exactly when you will start and finish the task. If there is plenty of time, why not get it over with time to spare?
When you are confused as to how to do a task, seek assistance immediately. If you don’t have the skills or understanding today and you don’t do anything about getting them, you won’t have the skills tomorrow AND you will have one less day to do the job.
There seems to be a myth that one must be “ready” or “motivated” to do tasks. This is simply not true. There are any number of tasks required of students or professionals that are boring or tiresome. If one is to be successful, they still must be done. Instead of waiting and hoping motivation will arrive in time, simply drag yourself through the task. Get it done. The longer one waits the uglier or more overwhelming the task can become. Accept that the task is going to be boring and move through it.
These are a few ideas of the origins of procrastination and some tips on overcoming it. Please remember that this is not all there is to diagnosing and overcoming procrastination. What I want readers to know is that procrastination is not just simply mismanagement of time or laziness. It can be much more complicated. If you would like to seek help with procrastination contact Lee Boblitt at 786-2231, firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by his office in the lower level of Sangamon Hall in the Center for Academic Success.