Procrastination is a common part of human behaviour. Often people mistake procrastination for 'laziness'. In everyday language people use definitions like, “putting off”, “postponing”, “delaying”, “deferring”, and “leaving to the last minute”.
Knox Wellbeing Team
Procrastination and anxiety presentations are relatively common and is usually linked in with other unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns.
Procrastination involves behaviour that is contrary to one’s intentions: making a decision for no valid reason to delay or not complete a task or goal you’ve committed too, and instead doing something of lesser importance, despite there being negative consequences to not following through on the original task or goal.
Everyone procrastinates to some extent. The extent to which this is a problem is determined by the consequences: the worse the negative consequences – the greater the procrastination is a problem.
There’s an endless list of possible reasons we procrastinate - but here are the most common culprits.
First step - monitor your procrastination. Identify what sort of procrastinating behaviours you engage in. For some people, it’s browsing their phones and social media, for others it’s Netflix, taking naps etc. Be realistic and identify this.
Next - record when you were procrastinating, what happened before you started and was there some discomfort or feeling you were trying to avoid. Establish an awareness of the unhelpful patterns and the solution will be much easier to tackle, should you choose to. For example, some common thoughts that keep you procrastinating may be:
Once you have this information, make a plan of action of how you’d tackle each of these behaviours. Make SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time related) goals. Of course, everyone have their individual cognitive patterns which may make this tricky, and usually it’s a trial and error process - find someone to help you through this process and keep you accountable. The process is rarely a straight forward one, but once you get started it’ll get much easier to bear with.
A typical scenario is that when I sit down to work for 40 minutes, I frequently stop to do something other than study (check an email or text, check a YouTube clip, ponder the meaning of life, survey the view outside my window, take my pulse, make a detailed exploration of the imperfections on my skin, etc). Some of this I do unconsciously – and kind of presume that because I am at my study desk in my study chair – that I must be studying!
Procrastination commonly frustrates our efforts to do school work/study. What is commonly at play is that procrastination is enabled when:
That pattern familiar? Then, try this:
This approach does not force you to do anything – it just highlights that you are in control of your choices. You can’t be fooled into thinking you are studying just because you look like you are positioned for a bout of school work. It makes your behaviour more deliberate and obvious – so that you can more consciously choose what you want to do.
Also, this works in part because we associative beings: simple, if we learn to associate a particular chair with study – then we will more likely study in that chair. Conversely, if we tend to do other things in that chair then we will associate that chair with not studying and we will tend not to study when in that chair. For the same reasoning – we advise people who have difficulty sleeping to only sleep, rest and relax when in bed – and not anything else (chatting, gaming, reading, pondering, problem-solving, inventing stuff…). That’s called “sleep hygiene”.
For further information about psychological services at Knox, please contact the Knox Wellbeing Centre on 02 9119 0828 or via email at email@example.com.
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