How to beat procrastination

Travel | Brighten Youth Education Centre 21 May 2019

The desire to procrastinate is almost universal and can have complex roots. It might originate in a lack of understanding of the original task, unseen stresses or traumas impeding productivity, or perhaps even the belief that the task cannot be accomplished.

There are many approaches to managing this issue, but most scholars recommend that you resist the urge to force yourself to work, although deadline pressures might mean that this is an impossibility.

Instead, psychologist Neil Fiore ( recommends a process of "unscheduling."

This involves calendaring activities which bring you joy and help you recharge. The belief is that this approach allows you greater control over your life and gives you something to look forward to.

It also leaves a lot of space blank in your calendar, space which can be devoted to work. Fiore also argues that tasks should be tackled in small increments, preferably of no more than 15 minutes.

Piers Steel (, professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary, argues that procrastination isn't because of laziness or poor time management. It's self-harm.

When we procrastinate, we know that we are acting against our better judgement. This is part of why procrastination feels so bad. It isn't logical to put off something that we know is going to have negative consequences, yet we do it anyway.

Fuschia Sirois (, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, believes that people are sucked into a cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative emotions surrounding a particular task.

More positive strategies for managing these feelings include creative curiosity. This involves being mindful of the feelings and sensations that arise when you are tempted to procrastinate. How do they change? Are they associated with anything?

The next action involves slight self-deception. Psychologists agree that focusing only on our "next action" helps us calm our nerves.

Your next action could be hypothetical. What would you do if you were to accomplish this task? What would you do first? What would you do next? Motivation follows action. Begin and the motivation will come, often with even a little progress.

At the same time, you need to make your temptations more inconvenient, because it is easier to change our circumstances than ourselves. Place obstacles that cause frustration and anxiety between you and your temptations. Then, remove roadblocks between you and what you need to be doing.

This might mean having a friend change your Netflix password while you make your desk a more pleasant place in your home. After all, the new season of Rick and Morty doesn't start until November, but that huge project is due much sooner.

If you have any questions about our column, or the issues raised within it, please e-mail them to us:

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