Are you a procrastinator? I am, and you most likely are too. In fact, 95% of the population is prone to procrastination. Among this group, 20% are chronic procrastinators. Chronic procrastinators have an increased chance of losing their jobs, having financial problems, health problems, substance abuse, as well as, serious problems with their interpersonal relationships.
Procrastination is not a time management problem or a problem of planning; it represents a profound problem of self-regulation. It is also one of biggest fail safe ways to sabotage your life.
Procrastination Self Test:
- Have you taken an exam and failed because you did not study?
- How many times have you passed up taking a promotion test, even though you have the material to study?
- How many times have you gotten nasty grams, scolding or threats from your supervisors for late reports or missed deadlines?
- How many times do you hit the snooze button before getting out of bed?
- Do coworkers or family members think you are a slouch because you don't get your work done and they have to pick up the slack?
- Have you ever been penalized for not paying your bills on time, even if you have the money to cover them?
- Are you reading this article in lieu of doing something that needs to be done now?
- Do you do your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve?
- Have you needed an extension for filing your taxes?
- How many social events have you missed or been late for in the past year?
- Have you broken promises to your family because of procrastination?
- Has a medical or dental problem gotten worse because you procrastinated making an appointment?
- Do others consider you simply lazy?
- Have you missed opportunities to buy items or tickets that were important to you?
- Do you tell yourself that you work better or are more creative under pressure?
- Do you consistently do the smallest task first, postponing work on a bigger project later?
- Do you feel anxious when you put tasks off?
There is no scoring for this test, you should get the point. If you see that your procrastination is interfering with many aspects of your life, consider yourself a chronic procrastinator. People procrastinate for different reasons. There are three basic types of procrastinators:
- The arousal procrastinator is a thrill seeker who waits to the last minute to do things which can lead to a feeling of euphoria.
- The avoider procrastinator avoids tasks because of fear. This could be a fear of failure or success. The avoider worries about what others think about him or her. It would be better to be thought of as having a lack of effort rather than a lack of ability.
- The decisional procrastinator simply cannot make a decision, which allows the individual to be absolved from the responsibility for any and all events.
Characteristics of a True Procrastinator
It is easy to spot a real procrastinator. Real procrastinators tell themselves lies:
- I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow.
- I work best under pressure.
- This isn't important anyway.
- I am more creative when I'm under the gun.
Procrastinators frequently squander the resources they need to complete a task. They also overestimate the time they have left to do a project; while they underestimate the time it will take to complete the task. Additionally, they overestimate how motivated they will feel the next day (the next week, the next month); mistakenly thinking that succeeding at a task requires the need to be in a certain mood to tackle a project. Procrastinators actively look for distractions, and invariably find one. Checking your e-mail is a perfect distraction.
The Consequences of Procrastination
- Lost opportunities
- Missed deadlines
- Irresponsibility to others/failing to keep promises
- Lack of preparedness
- Poor performance
- Career troubles
- Unnecessary expenses and financial difficulties
- Medical and mental health problems
- Increased risk for alcohol and substance abuse
- Dissatisfaction about oneself
- Problems with family members and friends
Procrastination and Mental Health
Procrastination can become a persistent, chronic, and debilitating problem for some people and can lead to significant psychosocial dysfunction. This is especially true for individuals who already have an established diagnostic psychiatric disorder including depression, a generalized anxiety disorder, a panic disorder, a perfectionist personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, or chemical dependency. Many people with psychiatric disorders have chronic low self esteem; they frequently feel worthless, helpless, and/or hopeless. They are also prone to excessive worry, panic, and catastrophization. No matter how maladaptive, for the mentally ill, procrastination becomes a coping skill that often brings a temporary relief from the perceived pressures in their lives.
While procrastination is considered a behavioral condition, people with underlying mental health disorders can be effectively treated with therapy and medication. Individuals who battle with chronic procrastination should be encouraged to see a trained therapist or psychiatrist to determine if mental illness is contributing to their procrastination.
Tips to Reduce Procrastination
You were not born a procrastinator; procrastination is a learned behavior. Yes, you can change your behavior, but it will take some effort; actually a lot of work if you are a chronic procrastinator. Buying yourself a day planner with no other interventions is about as effective as telling a depressed person to cheer up.
The Three Most Important Tips
Just get started. Don't waste any more time thinking about or planning the task. All that mental anguish just provides another avenue to avoid the work. Just do it, and do in now. Sure, you don't want to do it, and facing the task can bring on a slew of negative feelings. Get over it. You probably need a kick in the butt to get going. If there is no one to kick your hind side, do it yourself. No, you don't need to be in the mood to do this. There is no guarantee that you will be in the right mood in two hours or tomorrow. No, you are not more likely to be creative on Thursday than you are right now. Stop trying to make yourself feel better or more creative, just do the work.
Stop lying to yourself, be honest. If you are a procrastinator it's time to face it. No more self-deception. Rechecking your e-mail, watching your favorite television show, or any other excuse to postpone your work just doesn't cut it.
Rethink your time frame. If you think it will take an hour to do the project, leave two hours. Stop telling yourself you have two more days to do the work; something else will invariably come up if you keep postponing the task.
Ten Step by Step Instructions to Get You Started
- Make a list of everything you have to do.
- Prioritize that list.
- Eliminate tasks that you never plan to do. Be honest with yourself.
- Write a statement of intent to complete the tasks on the list.
- Set realistic goals, jot these down.
- Break it down into specific and meaningful tasks.
- Don't stop working on a task until it is complete.
- Turn off the radio, television, telephone. Only use your computer for the task at hand.
- Promise yourself a reward.
- Estimate the amount of time you think it will take you to complete the task, and then double it.
There are certainly professions where procrastination is more detrimental than in other careers. It is difficult to be a successful medical professional, accountant, broker, or lawyer if you are prone to procrastination. LEOs are no different. There are cases that need immediate response, timely evidence collection, and prompt reporting to file with the DA. Postponing even nuisance reports can backfire. There is always a chance that your memory will not recall all that you saw or heard three days ago. I haven't met too many deputies or officers who actually relish the idea of writing a long report, only to have it redlined by their supervisor. However, all reports need to be done efficiently and accurately. If you are one of those officers who frequently breaks from a dispatched paper call, to handle a trivial matter (hoping that someone else will offer up for the original call), STOP IT. No one appreciates a slug. Any procrastination in a law enforcement agency can negatively affect all other team members, including supervisors. There are some people you just don't want breathing down your neck.
If you are prone to procrastination you probably have some things to deal with in your personal life as well. Fix the leaky ceiling this weekend; it will rain again. Record the big game to watch when you really do have the time to see it. Check the calendar and make sure you know when your wife's birthday is; start planning now. Pay the bills early. Organize tax return paperwork; make an appointment with your accountant. If you tell your son you will play ball with him later, make sure later happens. Start studying for the corporal examination; you probably already have all the materials. The truth is if you are on top of things, you are going to feel more relaxed, more worthwhile, and more appreciated. Plus, you will be able to enjoy your down time much more if you can get the I should be doing monkey off your back.