Addressing Procrastination with CBT: Techniques to Boost Productivity

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Procrastination is that pesky habit that some of us have to unnecessarily delay tasks or actions well into the future. Many people have been prone to procrastination habits or bouts of procrastination that can cause anxiety, well-being issues, and mental stress.

If you have experienced procrastination that has negatively impacted your mental or physical health, you know all too well the dangers that constantly postponing action in your day-to-day life can lead to. For example, neglecting to finish chores in your home can leave dishes and dirty clothes piling up. Or, postponing work on an assignment can lead to last-minute stress and poor academic results.

When dealing with procrastination issues, there may be some relief for you in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (or CBT). In this article, you will learn about what CBT is, how it works, and how you can address procrastination tendencies with CBT techniques. Keep on reading to determine how effective CBT can be in boosting your everyday productivity.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Procrastination

To understand what procrastination is and why we are prone to it, we need to look at some of the psychology behind these tendencies. For example, some of the key reasons why we procrastinate include trivialization, external blaming, perfectionism, and simply laziness and avoidance.

There are a number of reasons why we delay action on tasks and sometimes extend due dates multiple times. Perhaps we make excuses by comparing ourselves to peers who have done less work, therefore justifying our procrastination. Or, maybe we distract ourselves with entertainment and social media before getting to the task at hand.

Whatever the case, procrastination is a roadblock for many of us and, unfortunately, can become chronic and negatively impact our performance and day-to-day life. Fortunately, however, there are some techniques that you can utilize to help stop procrastination and get on track to boosting productivity and mental health.

One of the ways we can manage procrastination and become better at dealing with our to-do lists is by using cognitive behavioural therapy to our advantage. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps us to understand and address the links between emotions, thoughts, and our actions and behaviours. CBT is recommended as a treatment for many mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Essentially, this cognitive model hypothesizes that people’s emotions and feelings are rooted in how they interpret events, rather than the actual events that occur. CBT aims to challenge our negative emotions and is a hands-on approach to finding solutions for problems such as procrastination and perfectionism.

While CBT cannot get rid of our problems altogether, it can help us manage issues positively and change behaviours over time.


CBT Techniques to Overcome Procrastination

Overcoming and managing procrastination is certainly possible with CBT techniques. Basically, CBT involves teaching the patient new skills to address their procrastination.

CBT is also usually tailored to the needs of an individual. However, some common techniques include mindfulness training, using a calendar to schedule activities, behavioural shaping, and cognitive restructuring. Below are a few CBT interventions that can help you to avoid procrastination.


Upgrade Your To-Do List

Instead of just writing down all the things you need to do in no apparent order, this method works better and will be more manageable if you create your to-do list with tasks listed in order of priority.

This will help you determine which tasks really need attention and which can be put off later. A prioritized to-do list helps you manage your time more effectively and puts your more urgent matters at the forefront.


Do Certain Tasks on the Spot

It works to your benefit to start completing some tasks immediately. If a job only takes a couple of minutes, make it a point to do it on the spot instead of putting it on the backburner. This tip may take some mindfulness but will be worth it as your stress load decreases with every task completed.


Break up Larger Jobs

Looking at a big project can be intimidating and overwhelming. Try breaking it up into smaller, more actionable goals throughout the week so that it becomes easier to tackle. Instead of completing the whole project in one go, schedule an hour every day to get it done over the span of a few days.


Set a Timer

While this may seem anxiety-inducing at first, setting a timer and giving yourself a deadline can actually work to your advantage. This helps to ensure that you are dedicated to the task at hand and won’t become easily distracted, knowing that you only have a set amount of time to get it done.


Case Studies and Personal Experiences

Procrastination has been a problem throughout human history and is linked to high levels of stress and lower standards of well-being. There have been a number of university studies concluding that psychological inflexibility and poor time management are both factors related to procrastination and, therefore, need to be addressed in order to improve productivity.

For example, a study from October 2017 to June 2018 in Zanjan, Iran done on 47 midwives to determine the effects of CBT in the workplace found that decisional procrastination was significantly reduced in the group of midwives that practised CBT techniques, as opposed to the group that did not.

Furthermore, cognitive behavioural therapy has been proven effective at improving self-esteem, which is directly linked to procrastination and perfectionism habits. Many patients have found success in challenging their inner critic through positive self-talk and rational, realistic approaches.

All in all, CBT has been successful in treating various mental ailments along with procrastination. Addressing underlying issues and emotions can lead to heightened self-esteem, better time management skills, and greater productivity.

If you would like to know more about cognitive behavioural therapy, you should first get in touch with a professional and reputable therapist who can help guide you on your journey to be free from procrastination.


Get Started on Enhancing Productivity

Ultimately, though procrastination habits may be normalized in our culture and society, it doesn’t have to be something you resign yourself to. In fact, tendencies to procrastinate can be overcome and improved with cognitive behavioural therapy and the practice of regular CBT techniques.

Don’t allow the quality of your work and life to suffer through procrastination. Find better coping mechanisms than procrastination and start becoming accountable and realistic with your expectations.

Remember that perfectionism is all-or-nothing thinking, and can certainly put a damper on productivity and keep you waiting endlessly for that elusive “perfect” moment to start a job or other venture.

Begin today, reward yourself for your good practices, and be forgiving to yourself in the process. After all, in most cases, as long as you are striving to be better (rather than perfect), you are setting yourself up for success.

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