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TV, cleaning, napping: When procrastination turns into a problem

procrastination
We'd all like to put our heads down and nap at our computers sometimes... But it won't make us any smarter. Source: Shutterstock.

Nearly everyone has found themselves in this predicament once or twice (or one thousand times): there is important work to be doing, facts to be learning, essays to be writing and yet you are doing just about anything to avoid actually doing them.

As you add to your ‘to do’ list, procrastination rears its ugly head, yet you feel ill-equipped to battle it.

So, you clean the entire flat – even the ‘smelly drawer’ in the fridge no one dares open – and watch a documentary on salmon farming and take three scheduled naps. There, you think, I have had a productive day, yet your deadlines are still looming and you only turned your laptop on to look up facts about salmon…

Close the tab, take a deep breath and shut off your phone.

Although everyone experiences procrastination – some more often than others – its effects are seldom thought about, but they can be pretty detrimental to your wellbeing.

“Procrastination is affecting people’s lives due to modern society’s increase in demands,” Counselling Directory Member Peter Klein told The College View.

“People who procrastinate can start worrying about tasks that they have to complete and this can prevent them from being present and enjoy what they are doing at that moment.”

“Chronic procrastination can therefore drastically increase stress and anxiety levels which can lead to numerous physical and mental health problems,” he added.

Students who consistently procrastinate can suffer from “lowered self-esteem”. As their work mounts up, they begin to “start overestimating the difficulties of the tasks they are avoiding” which in turn increases the likelihood of them procrastinating, starting a “vicious spiral.”

Pretty bad, right? So…

How do you overcome it?

The majority of people can crush procrastination by setting small achievable goals, Klein said. By breaking tasks down into more manageable chunks, you will feel reward in the form of mini accomplishments, motivating you to keep at it.

When you just want to nap but there’s studying to be doing… Source: GIPHY.

But be sure to keep in mind an end goal when writing your mini tasks to ensure you stay on track.

Remove distractions from your study area. So, turn off your phone, ensure you are in a clean space, log out of social media, ask the friend who has been hovering over your shoulder begging you to go for milkshakes to go home, and then try and begin again.

“Create a good environment for yourself to study in, with nice pens and nice notebooks. Reward yourself, whether it’s cappuccino and a muffin or a holiday when it’s over,” Dublin-based Specialist in Cognitive Science Therapist Veronica Walsh told The College View.

Rewarding yourself helps to keep you motivated, but only use treats when you really deserve them otherwise they become futile and you end up procrastinating via your rewards.

Not the best move after writing two sentences of your essay due tomorrow. Source: GIPHY.

For some people, however, the problems lie deeper than simply sticking to longer to do lists with shorter tasks, removing distractions putting in place a reward system.

Walsh uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help solve students’ difficulties with procrastination by increasing awareness and self-management skills.

“It’s illogical to procrastinate, it’s irrational,” she said. “CBT teaches rational thinking, realistic thinking, planning, and designing new ways to think, so it fits really well with procrastination.”

“It’s 2018 and there’s too much out there to overwhelm us. Avoid information overload, because when you’re overwhelmed, you run away because it’s stressful,” Walsh advised.

By teaching students to rationalise their tasks and cope with feelings of stress, procrastination can be overcome.

If you’re procrastinating right now, do yourself a favour and close the tab… Or you could embrace it and keep reading the articles below – you’re an adult, we can’t tell you what to do. 😎

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