deadline, stopwatch, clock


There is a thief among us.

He is an elusive, insidious adversary that robs us of our precious time, energy, and productivity; a silent stalker that lulls us into a false sense of efficiency, while in reality we spin our wheels in a desperate attempt to avoid something we don’t want to confront. His name is PROCRASTINATION.

In some form or another, procrastination happens to everyone. It may be as benign as making a last minute McDonald’s run because you couldn’t come up with a creative idea for dinner, or it can manifest in the extreme, as when you pull an all-nighter after ignoring an important project deadline. Procrastination is a time thief, but he does not act alone. His main accomplice is AVOIDANCE, and avoidance has some powerful gizmos in his arsenal that lure us into the time-wasting zone. These days, social media is procrastination’s weapon of choice, and it is terrifyingly easy to get sucked in. The good news is that you don’t have to be victimized by procrastination; you already possess the tools to beat him at his own game.

What is Procrastination?

The simplest definition of this all-too-human experience is the habitual or intentional delay of starting (or finishing) a task, despite the high probability of negative outcomes. Indecisiveness, boredom, or a feeling of inadequacy can encourage the temptation to procrastinate, making it easy to postpone an unwanted task. As soon as any of those indicators are present, avoidance strikes with a ping! on your phone, alerting you that someone in your social mediasphere has announced a status change. Of course you feel compelled to react, and procrastination has you in its clutches.

Warning Signs

Do you find yourself jumping every time there’s a notification from your favorite news outlet? Are you constantly checking email to make sure you don’t miss something? Do you cyber stalk certain people to remain aware of their activities? If you answered YES to even one of these questions, you may be using social media as a crutch to enable procrastination. Social media is so pervasive – it’s on your phone, PC, laptop, even your smartwatch – it’s just too hard to resist.

Procrastinators instinctively understand that the main benefit of their behavior is stress relief. They are not emotionally prepared to deal with the issue at hand, so they find other tasks to take its place. According to Mel Robbins, motivational speaker and author of “The 5 Second Rule”, procrastinating is like “a smoke break for the mind.” Whether you veg out watching cat videos or do a deep dive on Facebook, procrastination is an attempt to cope with fear by employing a distracting activity. And while you may be quite productive in that distraction, deep-down you know the activity is not moving you toward the more important goal. That knowledge often causes guilt or shame, leading us to become angry with ourselves for doing it again. If the pattern is repeated frequently enough, the stress begins to manifest in the physical body, resulting in fatigue and illness.

How Do You Stop??

The College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers some helpful tips for cutting down on social media distractions:

  • Have a plan – understand that it’s not okay to be on Instagram (or your platform of choice) all day, and plan specific times that you will interact with it. Periodically review your usage and change the plan if you are spending more time than you’ve allotted.
  • Manage your physical space – when your work or study space isn’t organized it’s easy to get off track. Minimize the tendency to procrastinate by staying out of the coffee shop, and find a quiet, well-lit place with an ergonomically designed set up conducive to productivity.
  • Try online quarantine – if you lack the discipline to follow your own rules, get help. Online apps like Freedom, Anti-Social, Cold Turkey, or Rescue Time allow you to put a temporary ban on sites you can’t stay away from.

As our societal dependence on social media and technology grows, the problem of using it to procrastinate is only going to increase. Start smart by realizing that it’s not necessary to follow every media outlet, and put the brakes on your own usage before it gets out of control.