Laura B., BSc Psychology & Counselling Student and Volunteer
There is not one individual who has not procrastinated at least once in their lifetime. Individuals who might say ‘I don’t procrastinate’ are just better at dealing with the negative emotions that come with completing a task. Some might say they have a better self-discipline. When we procrastinate, we are fully aware that we are avoiding a task and that it is a bad idea to put it off for later, this leaves us with a constant nagging guilt and massive amount of regret when the deadline is facing us.
We might procrastinate because the task itself is not pleasant or because we are anxious and have certain insecurities about our ability to complete that task. It depends what type of procrastinator you are. Other mental health issues might feed into procrastination and vice versa, in some cases it turns into chronic procrastination and seeking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from a professional is the only way to break the habit of procrastinating.
In essence, procrastination is a battle between your present self and your future self; our brain understands and values long-term benefits of completing a task now (future self) however, it values immediate gratification more (present self); it looks at the future self as more of a stranger then anything else. The only way to stop procrastination is to move the future rewards and punishments to the present moment. The biggest hurdle is to get started.
In my case due to a period of depression when I got into Sixth Form, I started to procrastinate. When I procrastinated, I did not do so well in my grades and it fed my depression and anxiety, it become a vicious cycle I could not escape. This went on for years; I graduated Sixth Form with atrocious grades and was stuck with the option to either retake A-Levels or take the Foundation offer from a university I applied for. I choose to do the Foundation year, retaking the A-Levels seemed like a nightmare to me at the time but I chose well, as I do not regret my decision.
On the other hand, my cycle of procrastination had yet to stop, I just got better at completing things last minute and getting passing grades, although that did not last long. I did terribly in one of my modules and I might even have to retake it next year. This was a wakeup call for me. I was lucky enough that I had to do volunteering with a charity like Shawmind which focuses on Mental Health for one of my modules. The training provided, as well as volunteering sessions I attended, were helpful in dealing with my negative emotions. Learning why I felt anxious, how I could deal with that anxiety and knowing other people had the same issues as me, helped greatly in gaining the courage to face my biggest demon, procrastination.
I knew I had an online test the following week, but I barely understood the material. Thus, I set a plan for myself, a schedule on what I want to complete each day. Every single day I would go over 2 lectures recordings, I then would take notes on them and finally I would do the further reading assigned. I did this until I was done with all the weeks available for that module, I now had to set a new plan in motion since the one I set myself was completed. Doing this allowed me to tone down the level of procrastination I was at, as well as my anxiety. I grew confident that as long as I sat down and started the task at hand, I would be able to get going and enter my state of ‘flow’. This does not mean I was completely cured, in matter of fact I procrastinated to write this blog, but not the way I used to in the past. Forgiveness and compassion towards myself played a huge role in overcoming procrastination. Since I had hated myself and regretted the fact I procrastinated, I instead just did things that would eliminate that feeling, like binge watching all the Harry Potter movies again as that was better than starting my 2,000 words essay due tomorrow.
I had learned to make daily goals for myself and assign those tasks as a state of emergency, but I split them small enough so that I would not feel overwhelmed at the thought of completing those tasks. I even applied this method to my weight loss plan, and it was a success in making me stick to it. It is important to figure out what works best for you. You just have to look for it.
Feel like learning a bit more about other people’s experiences and get a chance to share your own? Come join us at 7pm on Wednesday 17th of March at our BreatheUni café. And follow us on Instagram @breathe_uni!