Procrastination is when you put off important tasks, usually because they feel daunting, until you end up close to the deadline with very little time to complete it. Some people justify procrastinating by saying they work best under pressure.
A degree of procrastination may indeed be helpful in this sense, but for many, procrastination involves a constant sense of dread, and guilt for not working, with immense feelings of stress and anxiety when the task is finally tackled under pressure of an imminent deadline.
Procrastination often goes hand in hand with perfectionism, as people feel so daunted by the prospect of having to produce something “perfect” that they would rather avoid it altogether.
How to address procrastination
As well as practical steps (see below), it's important to address the roots of why you are procrastinating. It’s possible that you are avoiding feeling hopeless and incompetent in the face of a task you’ve convinced yourself you can’t do a good job of. Is this a fair assessment of yourself? Can you aim to produce something that is good enough, even if not perfect?
Some other helpful, more practical approaches:
Break your task down into small steps
Identify what is essential for your task (for example essential reading) and focus on that, rather than trying to complete additional work that is not strictly necessary
- Identify the time of the day you are most productive and aim to focus your work around it
- Try to face the most unpleasant task first, even if only for 10 minutes
- Build in breaks to avoid becoming mentally and physically exhausted
To learn more, take a look at LSE LIFE guidance on how to be organised.