These negative feelings of inadequacy lead to diminished feelings of self-efficacy. Psychologist Albert Bandura has introduced the concept of” self-efficacy,” or belief in one’s abilities to accomplish a goal. Self-efficacy affects the individual’s motivation and thereby determines goal expectations ( psychologist Barry Zimmerman).

Is there a magical solution to our problems?

To get into a problem-solving mode, we have to accept ourselves as we are and commit to a behaviour change ( psychologist Steven Hayes’ Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Acceptance comes by practicing Mindfulness which essentially focuses on the present or “being in the moment.” By blocking our negative thoughts even temporarily, Mindfulness helps us in clearing our minds. Mindfulness thereby helps us to be more emphatic and be less judgmental about our shortcomings. It gives us the momentum to keep going and builds up our motivation. Mindfulness, therefore, helps us in focusing and prioritizing our commitments. 

The next step would be to reframe our thoughts on “procrastination.” “Reframing’ is identifying our maladaptive thoughts, which are cognitive distortions and replacing them with more adaptive ones. “Cognitive distortions” are irrational thought patterns that are not based on the reality of the situation the individual faces. By modifying our cognitive distortions, we can change our emotions and behaviours (psychologist Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Identification of cognitive distortions

 We display the “all or none’ thinking” pattern when we can recall only our failures from previous attempts. We fail to recognize our efforts. We ignore the fact that we “made” the time to begin the task, despite numerous distractions we had at that time.

“Magnification” of our failures and “minimization” of our completed tasks is another cognitive distortion.

We display “catastrophic thinking” when we believe that all is lost whenever we do not complete an assignment. 

Calling ourselves “lazy” is the cognitive distortion of “labelling.” 

Our reasons for procrastinating

For the majority of us, we procrastinate when we find the task “difficult” to accomplish. Here, we may have set for ourselves very high expectations. We can be aiming for high grades. Or we have failed before and are trying “our best” to avoid getting low grades again. We want to complete the quilt we started last year but cannot decide on the “correct” pattern. 

In this scenario, “fear of failure” or not doing a “good” job inhibits our productivity.

We procrastinate when we leave a task unfinished, as we have an “emergency” like watching a favourite television show. We tell ourselves that we will finish this task at a later but more convenient time.  

Here, lack of planning leads to distraction.

In both cases, we are left with guilt and decreased self-efficacy.

Behavioural plan for dealing with procrastination

We all make plans for our future. The next time we procrastinate, we can have a plan, so the consequences of procrastination do not make us “feel” less about ourselves. 

  • Identification of high-risk situations leading to procrastination.
  • Keep an activity schedule; it will help in identifying our productive time.
  • Divide the task.
  • Start the task. If possible, choose the easy part first.
  • Be prepared to give it up “temporarily” as soon as we think of something “more” necessary to do. Plan for time away from the task 

The shaping of behaviours by successive approximation

  • By taking small steps towards the goal, we get positive feedback that we are “doing something” to reach our goal.
  • .Gradually, we can increase the time we spend each time on achieving our goal.

Making a start makes all the difference. 

Procrastination is like any other learned behaviour. Therefore, our habit of procrastinating can be modified by the “right” mindset. Having an action plan will empower you to deal with or even prevent procrastinating.

This article was published in the Telegraph-Journal.

The picture is from Mind Matters A.S. Consulting;

 Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.