The curse that is Procrastination

You know it needs to happen, you’ve told yourself over and over again. Yet somehow it is just not registering the way it is supposed to. It’s about time for you to roll up your sleeves and get the work done but you just can’t manage to bring the hammer down. Somehow doing, anything else, seems so much more interesting and relevant, as opposed to the actual work that needs to get done. Only when the final hour strikes and you are backed up in a corner do you succumb to the inevitable and dig your nails in. It’s as good a time as any to get to work!

Suddenly, your brain is able to fire on all cylinders. Despite barely being able to muster a complete thought during your last attempt, this time around you mean business. Where was this no-nonsense side of you before the going got rough? Before the clock started breathing down your neck?

Definitely not a sustainable way of working. I would much rather call it a high demand and high stress situation. But why must history repeat itself time and time again? You told yourself this time would be different but there you were again burning the midnight oil… Definitely not the most efficient way to be living life.

Procrastination, what is it really?

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, and carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.

— Denis Waitley

Have you found yourself guilty of the following commonly used phrases?

Later when I feel like it…

I’ll do it soon…

If I could only … then…

Let me first do this (really quick). ..and then I’ll start…

Procrastination is not always bad. It happens to the best of us and that is okay. It only really becomes a problem when we’re talking about problematic procrastination. The difference between the two is in the negative consequences that result from not taking action and continually putting off the work.

Rather than eliminating a natural coping mechanism, for dealing with challenges, why not learn to understand it and then make it work in your favour?

Why do we do it?

Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.

— George Claude Lorimer

Breaking down Procrastination

Calvin and Hobbes – Procrastination

If we think of procrastination as the lack of motivation to do something then we can break it down to the following:

Piers Steel Equation: Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay)

  • Expectancy: Your fear of the task that you need to complete being difficult or having a bad outcome.
  • Value: The amount of joy you expect to get from completing the task.
  • Impulsiveness: What is the nature of your impulses? Are you driven by your brain (prefrontal cortex) or by your natural inclination (limbic system) to procrastinate?
  • Delay: How long a task will take to complete and therefore how long it will take to get your reward.
The science of procrastination and how you can tackle it.

What can I do about it?

Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. Do it now, or decide when you’ll do it.

― Gretchen Rubin

What is there to do when the urge is stronger to delay rather than to act? If there is any hope in this world of turning yourself into a productive individual, it might be best to get to the root of it all. After all, you cannot help that which you do not understand. But it sure does help to be aware that what you are doing is procrastinating. Let’s start by seeing what kind of procrastinator you are. Yes, indeed, there isn’t just one kind of ‘lazy’. Procrastinators come in many different forms.

Call me lazy one more time… If only it was that simple. To some people’s genuine surprise laziness is in many cases not at the root of the issue for most procrastinators. Depending on your type it can be caused by different things.

The 4 Types of Procrastinators:

  1. The anxious procrastinator (anxiety-driven): Procrastination born out of anxiety about starting or completing a task. If the task involves making a choice then anxiety can often be the result of choice paralysis.
  2. The fun procrastinator (instant gratification-driven): When you would prefer to do something fun rather than the task at hand.
  3. The ‘plenty of time’ procrastinator (optimism-driven): When you have the false believe that you have plenty of time to start/finish a task.
  4. The perfectionist procrastinator (fear of failure-driven): The fear of failure and producing sub-par work keeps you from starting or finishing a task. A big part of this is the tendency to often overthink everything you do.

3 Techniques to Tackle Procrastination

The 5-minute rule: Overcome task aversion by kick-starting yourself into getting started. Give yourself 5 minutes to start on the task. This usually helps get past the initial obstacle of starting on a task.

Visualization (mental practice): If doing the task is what you fear, picture yourself doing it in your head. This can help take some of the fear away. As the shroud of mystery surrounding the task disappears, it becomes more familiar and the initial fear should start to reside.

Mindfulness: If you are stuck in a negative loop, of constantly delaying starting/completing tasks, then trying to create new and positive loops might be beneficial. One way is to set up new habits and establish new routines.

Of course, one size does not fit all and there are plenty of other tips to tackle procrastination.

Takeaways

Sometimes we try so hard to eliminate a bad habit when we’d be better off making it work for us. Procrastination doesn’t have to be bad, especially when you understand it and can use it to your advantage. Finding out what type of procrastinator you are and putting actionable steps to work can get you a long way to procrastinating on procrastination.

Step away from problematic procrastination and reduce your likelihood to unnecessarily miss opportunities, suffer from reduced performance and/or suffer from increased stress. Therefore, it’s better to know what you’re in for and take active control than to let your lack of action determine the course of your life. Most importantly, keep in mind that procrastination comes to collect later in life in the form of regret!


***

“Indecisiveness and procrastination are the chosen ways of life for most people. They follow the course of least resistance, which is to do nothing. This provides a security blanket of never being wrong, never making mistakes, never being disappointed and never failing. But they will also never succeed.”

— David Peoples in “Selling to the Top” (1993)

***

%d bloggers like this: