Procrastination – avoidance at its best

Rachel Farrell

The ability to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today.

Procrastination. A fifteen letter word that’s almost as difficult to spell as it is to overcome. Everybody experiences it, but the major impact it can have is often overlooked.

 Procrastination is “the act of putting off important tasks such as study or work in favour of less important things,” according to Spun Out. Whether it’s falling into the dark hole of Netflix or simply sitting with your phone for hours, procrastination can impact students more than they think.

 “Procrastination is affecting people’s lives due to modern society’s increase in demands. People who procrastinate can start worrying about tasks that they have to complete and this can prevent them from being present and enjoy what they are doing at that moment,” explained Counselling Directory member Peter Klein.

 A gold standard accredited therapist in the UK and the official therapist of the German Embassy, Klein explained that every day procrastination can turn into a chronic problem.

 “People who procrastinate can start worrying about tasks that they have to complete and this can prevent them from being present and enjoy what they are doing at that moment. Chronic procrastination can therefore drastically increase stress and anxiety levels which can lead to numerous physical and mental health problems.  

“It can often lead to lowered self-esteem as people start overestimating the difficulties of the tasks they are avoiding. This in turn makes it more likely that individuals procrastinate which sets off a vicious spiral.”

 For most people, procrastination can be overcome by setting small goals, says Klein. Finding motivation can be difficult with important tasks to do, but the key is having a goal at the end of the job that needs to be done.

 But for others, the key to overcoming chronic procrastination could be in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

 Veronica Walsh, a Dublin-based specialist cognitive science therapist, described CBT as awareness and self-management.

 “It’s illogical to procrastinate, it’s irrational. CBT teaches rational thinking, realistic thinking, planning, and designing new ways to think, so it fits really well with procrastination,” she explains.

 “The avoidance behaviour is always the harder road. The more we put off studying, the more we worry and build a feeling of dread.

 “When that feeling of dread stops you studying, you get caught in a vicious circle. If some people have actual panic attacks, others feel they’re overwhelmed and can’t cope, that’s typically when they’ll go to a GP or a therapist.” Walsh says.

 Setting goals, removing distractions and starting new habits are just some of the ways students can overcome procrastination at exam time.

 “It’s 2018 and there’s too much out there to overwhelm us. Avoid information overload, because when you’re overwhelmed, you run away because it’s stressful.”

Walsh advises: “Create a good environment for yourself to study in, with nice pens and nice notebooks. Reward yourself, whether it’s cappuccino and a muffin or a holiday when it’s over.” 

 Whether it’s a chronic problem or a bad habit, procrastination can be a hindrance- but one that can be solved with the right mind-set.