Today I would like to talk to you about procrastination. Procrastination has always been an issue for me, and I have always been really hard on myself when I am procrastinating, and I have been really embarrassed that procrastination have been and still is such a big issue for me. I have been too embarrassed to acknowledge my procrastination and written it off as me being lazy, and therefore it didn’t even occur for me to ask for help. I have seen the memes on Facebook and Instagram about procrastination, and I have tagged friends I study with in the memes, and said “ha-ha, this is so me”. But you see the thing with these memes is (this is just my opinion), they make joke out of real problems, and it was easy for me to write of my struggles as a joke, and not something which needs to be taken seriously.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, then I have been in group therapy for perfectionism, and one of the big topics in the meetings was procrastination. In the beginning I was super confused about why we were talking about procrastination, because I was sure that procrastination was just an excuse people (including myself) made when being lazy. After beginning to describe the problem, and just talk about it, it became clear for me why I do it. I came to the conclusion that I procrastinate because I am afraid of failing and not fulfill my own unreasonably high expectations. And it was nice to finally be able to understand why I do what I do, but I still didn’t know how to change it.
“Procrastination is often a symptom of perfectionism. Because perfectionists fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible. This stems from the fear that not meeting the goal means that there is something bad, wrong or unworthy inside of them. Further, perfectionists fear that failure will invoke criticism or ridicule either from internal voices or external authorities and peers. The higher the fear of failure and ridicule, the more perfectionists procrastinate.”Web Standards Sherpa
Then one day, when I was supposed to be writing my bachelor thesis, I was procrastinating and watching random videos on YouTube, but then I got annoyed with myself, and began thinking about why I am procrastinating. I decided to spend some time researching procrastination, and trying to understand what it is, figure out how other people handle procrastination, and most importantly, trying to find ways to stop procrastination and actually getting stuff done. That day I spend a lot of time reading about it, watching smart people talk about it in TED talks and other videos. Doing all of this research actually helped me better understand what actually happens, and I picked up some techniques on how to beat procrastination. There is one blog I have read, www.waitbutwhy.com, which have some very useful tips on how to stop procrastinating, and they also do an incredible job of explaining what happens you are procrastinating. Here are the techniques which have helped me while writing my bachelor thesis:
- Making it clear what steps/tasks needs to be done today. I found out it helped me describe exactly what I needed to do in each task. An example is that I changed “finish the analysis” to “compile the resource analysis into strength and weaknesses” and “write the last part of ‘getting to know the stakeholders’ based on the interviews made”. This is just one example I can remember from my bachelor thesis.
- Making sure the list is not too long. For me it helped defining 4-5 steps at a time. This way I didn’t get to overwhelmed with long to do lists.
- Understanding the fear that is holding me back and giving myself and the fear a reality check. When writing my bachelor thesis, I was afraid that I was going to fail the last exam, and therefore not graduate in the end of June. But when I started to think logically about my fear, then I realized that the change of me failing the thesis is very small, I might not get the highest grade, but I wont fail, and when I started to actually believe this, I began trusting myself more and it became slightly easier to actually write the thesis.
- Just starting, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel, just starting the process, and then checking something off my to do list, made me feel so good, and it motivated me to continue the work.
After I began doing these four things, I was procrastinating less, and my anxiety about writing the thesis almost disappeared. In the end I managed to finish the thesis before the hand-in date, and I didn’t feel the same amount of stress and anxiety as I have felt in the projects I have done in the previous semesters, and after I had handed it in, it didn’t feel like a big burden had been lifted of my shoulders, it was more a feeling of ‘okay great, now I can put I check mark next to that box’. It was so nice to not be super stressed and anxious when writing it, but it is also really weird, since I am used to almost feeling high when handing in a project, because I am so relieved that it is over. Because this feeling is so foreign for me, I now feel stressed and anxious, because my mind is trying to convince myself that the reason, I felt so calm handing it in, was because the thesis was/is complete shit, but that is a whole other issue…
Even though these four steps works for me, I am still a procrastinator, and I think I always will be to some extent, but if you have any techniques which works for you, please share them!