I WAS having a conversation with someone recently, who asked if I would explain what procrastination is.

Put simply, it is when we continually delay or postpone the things we have to do, repeatedly putting things off.

It is a common phenomenon that transcends age, gender, and profession. It can manifest in various forms, from putting off a work deadline to avoiding household chores or delaying personal errands. While occasional procrastination is a normal human behaviour, chronic procrastination can become a significant obstacle to our overall well-being.

There are many reasons why people find themselves procrastinating. For some, it stems from fear of failure or perfectionism, leading to avoidance of tasks that may expose their perceived inadequacies. Others struggle with impulsivity, prioritising immediate gratification over long-term goals. In some cases, procrastination may be a coping mechanism for underlying anxiety or depression, providing an escape from challenging emotions.

People often find themselves caught in the clutches of procrastination at work, juggling multiple demands and deadlines. The constant pressure to perform, coupled with the ever-growing to-do list, can lead to a state of overwhelm, causing people to delay tasks until the last minute.

Procrastination isn’t just confined to the workplace; it can affect the lives of individuals across all walks of life. The student putting off studying for an exam, the parent delaying a difficult conversation with their child, or the individual postponing a trip to the doctor. Does any of this sound familiar?

So, how can we help ourselves to avoid procrastination?

Are there recurring patterns or specific emotions that lead to avoidance? Identifying these triggers is the first step towards managing them.

Large, daunting tasks can be overwhelming, which, as I mentioned above can lead to procrastination. It’s better to break down large projects into smaller, more manageable steps to create a clear path forward. Set realistic goals and deadlines for each step, ensuring they are attainable and realistic.

So, for example, if you have been intending to clean out a particular room for months, and it all just seems too much, then just start with one drawer. Empty the contents out, throw out what you don’t need, clean out the drawer and then put back the remaining items. In most cases, this will fire up our own ‘reward’ systems in the brain. It can make us feel good, and help settle the mind, possibly motivating us to carry on and do some more.

Think back to the last time you put off doing something to the very last minute, deliberately delaying making a start on it, perhaps it was your tax return, or making a start on the decorating. It most probably played on your mind all the time, which very probably distracted you from getting on with many things, constantly knowing, at the back of your mind you had this important thing to deal with. Now, think back to when you actually did finally get around to it. How did that feel? The chances are you felt really good, and wondered why on Earth you had delayed it for so long. Does that sound familiar?

Making that first move, and starting to deal with things that you need to, can be the hardest part. It can be helpful to create a daily or weekly schedule that prioritises tasks based on their importance and urgency.

It’s a good idea to identify and eliminate anything that you find distracting. This may involve silencing notifications, working in a quiet environment, or using website blockers to minimise distractions from online temptations.

Procrastination often stems from negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your challenges without harsh judgment. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and remind yourself that setbacks are an inevitable part of the learning process.

Remember, procrastination is not a sign of weakness or laziness; it’s something we all do from time to time, so don’t be too harsh on yourself.

If you have any mental health events happening in and around Bradford, or you run any type of group or service which supports people with their mental health issues, then get in touch, so that I can include details at a later date. If there are any particular aspects of mental health and well-being that you would like me to cover, then please drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.

If you feel you are in a mental health crisis or emergency and may be in danger of causing harm to yourself or others then please contact your GP, go to A&E, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258

* Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England wellbeing@martinfurber.com