Procrastination: Is It Pure Laziness or Are We Predisposed to Putting Things Off?
By Janis Rowell
I for one am guilty of procrastination and used to think of myself as lazy. However one evening as I lay on the sofa and I recounted my very busy day in my head – I needed that justification for having not started my very important writing project.
I realised that in essence I was not lazy at all, my day had been full, I had achieved lots of objectives and done the jobs that had needed attention. However, I had just put off the very job that was really important to me. WHY?
In my search for answers the one thing that I did discover is that I am not alone. I have been closely observing my partner and friends and discovered that most people procrastinate to some degree or other. The degree at which people procrastinate varies from the most chronic procrastinator who never seems to achieve anything – for a variety of ‘good’ reasons real or unreal. To the mild procrastinator who can at least admit and notice when procrastination is taking place and do something about it.
Why do we put off important tasks through procrastination?
I found this to be most perplexing. My task was important to me, I was eager and keen – yet I found I was never in the right mood, the place was too messy, I had the washing to do. The phone is ringing and I had better answer it or… or what? Why was I making everything else so much more important than that what I wanted to do?
The dictionary definition of procrastination is: The act of postponing, delaying or putting off, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.
So basically procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and so putting off important tasks to a later time. This is exactly what I was doing; I wasn’t being lazy after all or was I?
A procrastinator needs to address ‘why the task is being put off’. The identifying reason alone will be the motivating force to take action and complete the errant task
In essence procrastination is a thief of time. Time management experts may say write a ‘to do list’ and tick them off as you go, however if you are like me, I can tick off things and still avoid the one thing that was really important to do, because obviously it can go on tomorrow’s list. Yet when tomorrow comes another day dawns, and other things still always seem to take priority.
Procrastinators are not born that way. They are made over the course of time. The procrastination habit can be learned within the family and in the school of life. But I believe not directly, it is a learned action more by submitting to a pressure or a fear of failure.
Learned behaviours can be unlearned, so procrastinators can change – one small step at a time.
Why do we attach ‘no importance’ to very important tasks?
Believe it or not procrastinators actually tell lies to themselves. They do not see themselves in their true light, they say things like “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I’ll work best after a good nights sleep.” But in reality they do not get the urge the next day or work best after rest. Plus, they justify themselves by saying “this isn’t really that important”. Procrastinators can actually squander their resources.
There are many ways to self sabotage your success in life and procrastination is once choice or path that people take without even realising they are doing it. Procrastinating behaviour can be actions taken to avoid the fear of failure or even fear of success. Some procrastinators are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort, rather than ability. By not making decisions procrastinators absolve themselves of the responsibility for the outcome of events.
There can big costs to procrastination. Health is one, as well as a productive life. Procrastination can lead to guilt, stress and insomnia, which can in turn lead to severe loss of personal productivity as well strain in personal relationships. It has a tendency to shift the burden of responsibilities onto others, who may then become resentful. So it is very important to try to modify or reduce this behaviour.
You can change this prevailing and self-sabotaging behaviour
Traditionally, procrastination has been associated with the following tendencies:
� Perfectionism, which is a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one’s own performance.
� An intense fear and avoidance of evaluation of one’s abilities by others.
� Heightened social self-consciousness and anxiety,
� Recurrent low mood.
Exploring why you procrastinate is the first step toward a transformation. There can be many reasons for example; fear, dislike, pressure, boredom, and avoidance of responsibility. This habit has been developed over a long period of time, so change will take time too. You can change your behaviour; just don’t expect to change it overnight.
You can experiment with different strategies as the same strategy does not work for everybody.
Try some of these useful tips:
� Break down large tasks or projects into smaller chunks.
� Reward yourself for small successes – you deserve it
� Do not punish yourself when you do procrastinate. You will eventually develop new habits with new feelings of self-confidence and achievement.
� If you are finding this really difficult enlist the help of an ‘Anti Procrastinator Coach’ who is usually a very good friend you have confided in who will alert you when they find you procrastinating.
� Start on your important task of the day FIRST and follow on later with all those other less important tasks of the day.
In brief most procrastinators are not lazy, but have the ability to do all sorts of other tasks in order to put off – the most ‘important task’ of the day. This is accomplished for a variety of reasons, most of which are not reasons but excuses. Being a self confessed procrastinator myself, I know it is not always intentional but once it is recognised you now have the ability to stop in your tracks and put it right.
In my opinion the way to ‘solve’ the problem of procrastination is to enjoy the pull of achievement by not putting off the ‘important task’ but by putting off the ‘less important tasks’ that can be left undone. These feelings of achievement are the feelings that will help you drive the changes to your behaviour.
So stop procrastinating and take action and start doing. As Alexander Graham Bell once said “The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.”
I am Janis, my key focus is spiritual and personal growth applied into everyday life. My website Master your Better Self is designed to reach out and challenge your way of thinking and to draw from you a more open perspective on life.
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