Dealing with procrastination

Uncategorizedon June 24th, 2014No Comments

What is procrastination?

Consider the following scenario:

It is already late February and your best intentions to start exercising and eat healthy have been postponed since you made your new year’s resolution. You promised yourself every Saturday that on Monday you will start your new healthy lifestyle and exercise regime.

Monday arrives and you are very tired from the weekend, you feel as if you may be developing a sinus infection, or it is too cold to get up so early so you decide to start tomorrow. And “tomorrow” never comes. In the meantime you gained weight, became more lethargic and less enticed by the idea of exercise. This is a scenario most of us are familiar with in some way or another.

Procrastination is the voluntary delay of any action despite the knowledge that putting it off will likely result in a negative outcome (Sirois & Pychyl, 2013). People delay all types of activities both in their social and occupational lives. A stay at home mother may delay cleaniDeathtoStock_Wired3ng a particular room, or de-cluttering a cupboard while a corporate employee may delay preparing for a presentation or writing a report. A smoker may delay quitting smoking, while a runner may delay his training program.

Studies have indicated that prevalence of procrastination is around 20-25% of the population, while academic procrastination; the delay of studying or writing of term papers, is even higher and up to 70% of students will admit to procrastination (Klingsieck, 2013b).

Further research in the area of procrastination shows that procrastination rarely has good results and the definition of procrastination includes the fact that the action is delayed despite the knowledge that there is a negative outcome (Sirois & Pychyl, 2013). In fact, studies show that academic procrastination is generally associated with poor results, higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of self-efficacy (Klingsieck, 2013a).

In fact numerous studies agree that procrastination is associated with a variety of negative outcomes with a significant connection between self-reported procrastination and negative emotional experience such as lowered self-efficacy and performance (Krause & Freund, 2014).

In many cases, procrastination is also closely linked to an element of perfectionism. It has been suggested that procrastinating behaviour stems from excessively high standards and that perfectionism, anxiety and low self-confidence are often maintaining factors in the procrastinating behaviour (Rice, Richardson & Clark, 2012).

As a result, procrastination is not a pleasant experience and often results in more anxiety and emotional discomfort yet most people do not seek treatment for procrastination. Most people struggle alone to overcome procrastination.

Dealing with procrastinating

Many studies have suggested that procrastination is less likely to occur in personalities that have high levels of self-motivation, are self-determined and have an internal locus of control (Klingsieck, 2013b). In this sense, overcoming procrastination would then mean setting more realistic standards for behaviour and task performance, increasing self-confidence, increasing motivation levels and sense of mastery over tasks, as well as working with goal setting parameters.

In many cases fear of failure is what often leads to and maintains procrastinating (Krause & freund, 2014), so help for procrastinators would include goal setting work that assists the individual to set realistic goals with realistic expectations of performance as well as helping the individual deal with their fear of failure.

While many people wish to stop procrastinating, they simply find themselves in a vicious, anxiety provoking cycle where they feel stuck and are unable to make any real and lasting changes. Few people will seek professional assistance in treating procrastination and will attempt to make changes on their own. However, seeking help from a professional may be more effective in overcoming procrastination.

Hypnotherapy has been a popular adjunct to therapy in the past, particularly as an adjunct to cognitive behaviour therapy as it deepens the individual’s understanding of the concepts. Hypnotherapy, with its relaxed state of focused awareness, allows the individual to more readily accept suggestions aimed at reducing anxiety and fear of failure, as well as reinforcing the internal locus of control and self-confidence.

Such suggestions and positive changes may result in the individual overcoming procrastination by feeling more in control and more able to complete the task, rather than delaying it due to fear of failure or anxiety around the task. Hypnotherapy sessions will also focus on goal setting that is realistic and achievable and work on lessening perfectionism and excessively high standards if performance.

Again, this reduces the anxiety surrounding the task and, thus, reduces the need to procrastinate as a coping mechanism.

Conclusion

Procrastination is very much a maladaptive coping behaviour used to delay actions or tasks that cause anxiety due to fear of failure, unrealistic standards of performance, perfectionism and low self-confidence. Those individuals that feel in control, are self-motivated and confident are less likely to procrastinate than those that don’t.

As a result, treatment of procrastination should involve assisting the individual with increasing their level of self-confidence, teaching appropriate and realistic goal setting and dealing with the anxiety resulting from fear of failure or perfectionism.

Hypnotherapy is an especially useful tool in helping people cope with anxiety in general, as well as increasing self-confidence and motivation. Dealing with issues such as fear of failure and feeling out of control is another way in which hypnotherapy can help people to stop procrastinating.

References

Klingsieck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination in Different Life-Domains: Is Procrastination Domain Specific?. Current Psychology32(2), 175-185

Klingsieck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination: When good things don’t come to those who wait. European Psychologist18(1), 24-34

Krause, K., & Freund, A. M. (2014). How to beat procrastination: The role of goal focus. European Psychologist19(2), 132-144

Rice, K. G., Richardson, C. E., & Clark, D. (2012). Perfectionism, procrastination, and psychological distress. Journal Of Counseling Psychology59(2), 288-302

Sirois, F., & Pychyl, T. (2013). Procrastination and the Priority of Short-Term Mood Regulation: Consequences for Future Self. Social & Personality Psychology Compass7(2), 115-127

Resources

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

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