Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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Stop procrastinating and start working

Procrastination can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, and here are a few tips on how to beat it.

A few weeks ago, I planned to go cycling as first thing in the morning, but reaching home from the mosque after fajr prayer and feeling the coldness of an air-conditioned room made me decide that it’s too warm outside to cycle and it's better to go back to sleep saying I will cycle another day.

Procrastination is defined as “the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks”. In other words, it is the force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do. Procrastination is a common behaviour that we all do from time to time and for different reasons, but it can become a problem if we do it too often since keeping work to the last minutes and the risk of missing deadlines can cause stress. Such stress can have negative consequences to mental and physical health.

A recent study reported that people with heart disease were more likely than healthy people to self-identify as procrastinators. The study also showed that procrastinators with hypertension and heart disease were less likely to change their lifestyle, eat healthy diet or exercise regularly.

According to psychologists, there are several reasons for procrastination, and some are related to the task ahead. For example, we are more likely to delay tasks we find difficult, unpleasant or boring but some time the reasons are related to feeling anxious or having low self-esteem which makes us doubt our abilities to complete the tasks. Yet some people enjoy the thrill of keeping tasks to that last minutes as they believe they work best under pressure.

So, what can we do to overcome procrastination?

Like addressing any unhealthy behaviour, the first step is admitting to yourself that you are a procrastinator, then trying to find out the best way to beat it. Remember that relying on willpower alone to address procrastination does not always work, instead try to learn tips to manage the situation.

Psychologists suggest that instead of ignoring the unpleasant aspects of a task, try considering them to be an important part of achieving your goal. It will improve your motivation to start working. Other tips include looking at the positive aspects in the task you keep postponing instead of just focusing on the rewards that await you after completing the task, be it passing the exam or getting the promotion; and trying to find something good and enjoyable about the process itself such as learning new things or building wider social networks. Another tip is to plan well and break down big projects to small steps. Once you get started with these steps you are more likely to gain confidence and progress with the full task.

Being kind and compassionate towards oneself is also helpful since procrastinators are often highly critical of themselves. Try telling yourself: “I’m not the first person to procrastinate, and I won’t be the last”. Focus on doing your best, instead of worrying about what others think of you. If you tend to use social media when procrastinating, then limiting access to online news and social medial while working will help you focus on the task ahead. Keep your phone away when working and disable notifications from your laptop. Set aside a special time to use your phone during your break but be mindful how long these breaks are.

Finally, remember that adapting new habits takes time and efforts so keep practising the tips above and see what works well for you. Remember to share it with others, so that we can all learn from each other.

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