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If You Want to Lie in Bed, Do It Productively

Dina Zafesova, a psychologist of the Psychological Counselling Centre, talks about why we procrastinate and how to resist the urge to put things off

© COSMAA/ISTOCK

Students will soon have to turn in their final papers, submit their theses, complete big project reports, and take exams, which have been postponed until the fourth module. Procrastination is a notorious urge that haunts many of us when we have to address major (and even smaller) issues. Under the current quarantine conditions, this urge can be particularly strong: you might find it difficult to stay focused, plan things, or keep your energy levels up. Dina Zafesova, a leading psychologist of the Psychological Counselling Centre, speaks about how to overcome the eternal problem of procrastination.

Dina Zafesova

Leading psychologist, Psychological Counselling Centre

The urge to procrastinate can occur in certain situations, and it is a reflection of important inner processes.

Procrastination may be attributed to tiredness, which for whatever reason has gone ignored for quite some time. At some point, your self-regulatory mechanisms realize that you’ve had enough and switch into a power saving mode, because rest is a key ingredient for any activity.

Read more

Five questions to discuss with yourself

Our internal resources are not limitless, and we need to restore them from time to time. Procrastination is a way to take a break and recuperate. Listen to yourself, evaluate how tired you are, and don’t get back to work until after you’ve taken a break.

Procrastination can also be an indication of your health: a vitamin deficiency, anemia, or illness. If so, you should see a doctor for a medical check-up.

Look for internal motivation

Another important aspect is motivation—our desire that incites us to do things. As a rule, you tend to procrastinate if you don’t understand why you are doing a particular task or how you will benefit from it. It doesn’t mean you have to do the job because you want to reap a reward—this is external motivation, which is weak and fails to meet our intrinsic needs, life goals, and values.

© cosmaa/iStock

You shouldn’t look for motivation from external sources—your boss, spouse, children, university, or your mum and dad. Look for motivation from the inside; think of how it will change your life. Suppose you are doing a task to master new skills or advance in your field. Or maybe you are doing it simply because you like doing it and enjoy taking on challenges. 

If you realize you have begun procrastinating and putting things off, just stop for a moment and make a list of these things. Then look at the list and think about why you need to do these things and how they, when completed, will help you meet your life needs and reach your goals. Also consider what you will learn and gain by doing them.

Let yourself take a break

Another important aspect that may lead to procrastination in your life is your attitude to your desires and needs. 

Procrastination occurs when we have spent too much time on the things we have to do, to the detriment of the things we would rather do. As a result, the things we want to do tend to lose their value and become unimportant. You never have time for them, and you put them off or don’t do them.

© cosmaa/iStock

You should understand that all our activities are equally important: you need to let yourself take breaks and spend some time idly or do something that you really like doing; you need to restore value to the things that, for whatever reason, were categorized as useless.

Learn to make mistakes

Procrastination may be caused by unrealistic goals you have imposed upon yourself. You want to do the job perfectly, impeccably, without any mistakes, and right on the first try. If you aren’t able to do so, you blame yourself for having failed, for being incapable of performing the task, for lacking the relevant knowledge and skills, etc. 

It is important to understand that it is impossible to do everything perfectly and that it is normal to make mistakes while you are learning. Mistakes do not characterize you as a person. They are your lessons learned. 

You need to be able to differentiate between your mistakes and who you are. You need to analyze mistakes you have made to form your experience based on them. You could, for example, begin seeing a psychologist to discuss your life to understand what happens in it and why.

Train yourself gradually

Procrastination may also occur if one is not accustomed to working hard, if one cannot concentrate on what one is doing, or if one doesn’t have enough will power to get down to work. If this is the case, careful and gradual training of these skills is needed. 

A good rule of thumb: never put off turning over a new leaf to next week. You will never do this. You should begin training yourself by setting some small realistic goals and increasing your workload gradually. It is like in the gym—you start working out with small weights and you work your way up to heavier ones.

Procrastinate effectively 

There are many different fears in procrastination—fear of receiving a bad mark, fear of getting the wrong outcome, fear of giving a mediocre performance, fear of failure, or fear of being criticized. Do not expect these fears to disappear: fear is an inherent part of completing anything that is significant, or for which you will be evaluated, and so on.

You need to encourage yourself to act in spite of your fear, devising ways of how you can make it at least a little less stressful. Getting support, assistance, and new information, and taking actions aimed at completing the tasks are usually helpful.

© cosmaa/iStock

Procrastination is a multi-stage process. You need to find out what is happening at each stage and look for something that can help.

I’m going to give you instructions of how to procrastinate properly as long as you know that you are in good health and you have no anemia and or vitamin deficiencies. Whenever the urge to procrastinate gets so strong that you can’t help it, just give up. Go for it! This is what will help you become more productive. I’m not kidding!

Just follow a few rules: 

  • Let yourself procrastinate. If you can’t help procrastinating, just tell yourself, ‘Ok, if this if so important, I will procrastinate’. Make a list of activities that you will do while procrastinating.
  • Allocate time for procrastination. Schedule comfort breaks and tell yourself ‘This is when I’ll be procrastinating’. Mark this day on the calendar, set up a reminder that it’s time to take a break and unwind. Let yourself procrastinate when you are tired, you don’t feel like working, feel unmotivated, don’t understand why you should be doing what you have to do, or when you are not sure you will be able to cope up with the tasks that await you.
  • Do the things you haven’t let yourself do for a while. Enjoy watching a series, playing a game, or meeting with friends. Visit a place you have always wanted to visit, do something you have put off doing for a long time, take up something that you never got around to doing. Don’t blame yourself for this, don’t feel any guilt. Do the things you have always wanted to do for the sake of enjoyment and excitement.
  • Rid yourself of the negative self-talk and the idea that procrastination is bad, counterproductive, and a waste of time. Instead of getting down on yourself, think of why you want to procrastinate. What makes it so particularly attractive or desirable for you? Make a list of these important things to do.
  • If you want to lie in bed, do it productively! Make yourself comfortable with pillows and blankets, and relish the feeling that you are doing exactly what you want to be doing at that moment. Lie down, focusing completely on what you are doing. Feel this state.
  • Carry each task to completion. Do things until you are fully satisfied, and you can say to yourself ‘That’ll do. Now I want to do something else’.
  • At this point, think of the things you have to do and why you need to do them. Not because someone else, like your mum and dad, your boss or academic supervisor wants you to do them, but because you want to do them yourself. Because you want this to happen in your life and change it for the better.

 

Now, it’s time to move on and do something.

April 08