Sam Radford

April 7, 2021

Why your procrastinating may be getting worse

National Geographic recently published an article on the effect of the pandemic on our procrastinating. If your procrastinating has been getting worse over the last year, you are not alone. And you have something other than yourself you can now blame! 

Before delving into why, let’s remind ourselves what procrastination is. From the article:

Experts who study procrastination define it as the voluntary delay of an intended act despite the fact that you can expect to be worse off in the long run by putting off the task. We know the task doesn’t go away, but sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. Our “present self” calls the shots, and our “future self” suffers because of it.

But why has this been getting worse? What about the Covid pandemic is making us delay what we need to do more than usual?

“Our need to socially distance and stay at home has derailed our ability to do those things which make it easier for us to stay on task,” such as maintaining a regular schedule and carving out separate spaces for specific goals, says Julianna Miner, an adjunct professor of global and community health at George Mason University in Virginia...

... If people are indeed procrastinating more, Miner blames the rise in remote work and learning, which creates challenges in differentiating between workspaces and spaces for relaxation, as well as an inability to clearly break up our time between work and relaxation. “The lack of structure is really detrimental to people who struggle with procrastination,” she says.

I actually become a home-based worked six months before the pandemic hit. It was a choice, and I’m glad I made it. But I made sure to get plenty of tips from people who had done it for much longer than me. And their advice all centred around these things the article highlights. Structuring my day. Separation of home space from work space. 

No matter how hard you try though, it’s still a challenge. And I’m lucky: I have a dedicated room as my office that I can shut the door on at the end of the day. If you’re having to work at your kitchen table, it’s immeasurably harder. 

This problem is unlikely to go away. Even once we’re through the worst of the pandemic, far more of us will be permanent home workers than ever before. So what can we do about this?

Research shows that mindfulness and self-compassion can help with procrastination, perhaps because these practices are about overcoming negative emotions. In a 2018 study in the journal Mindfulness, scientists found that people who were able to acknowledge their mistakes or other personal failings and then forgive themselves for it were less likely to procrastinate.

Interesting! The more we beat ourselves up, the more we procrastinate. The more we are kind to ourselves, the less we procrastinate.

Perhaps our home-working environment, with it’s known challenges, is causing us to take our struggles out on ourselves. We’re blaming ourselves, being hard on ourselves, more than ever. And the end result is we procrastinate more. So blaming the pandemic-enforced change of circumstances, rather than ourselves, will help!

It’s legitimate to acknowledge that this last year has delivered a shitty set of circumstances! And of course that’s affected how we work and our ability to get things done.

We need to embrace this as permission to be kinder to ourselves. Do that and, who knows, we might start procrastinating less!

Have you found yourself struggling with procrastination more this last year? Does this resonate? What have you found helpful in trying to limit your procrastinating? I'd love to hear from you – just hit reply or drop me a note.

–Sam