PROCRASTINATION. Ironically, this is one subject which I have been putting off to write for some time now.
I know there are already lots of articles and blog posts written on this subject. Most, if not all of them are talking about the same thing; the causes of procrastination and how to deal with this inevitable malady.
Then why am I still writing on this topic which has been overly covered?
Personally I’m one of those millions of procrastinators. And I admit I know that by procrastinating, I’m sabotaging and lying to myself.
I know it is stressful and my life would improve if I would snap out of it, yet I still do nothing about it.
All I do is every time, I merely tell (or rather lie to) myself, I’ll get around to it soon.
It is difficult to curb, no matter how hard I try use my willpower and self-control or how many times I resolve to reform.
Most of tips and advice from all those books, magazines and blog posts are of not much help.
In fact I have tried to overcome it. I got a daily planner and wrote out a to-do list notes. But I still failed miserably, because the problem is not that I am poor at time management or self-control.
It is easy to say, just do it, get it done or take action. But all these calls don’t seem to rouse me into action easily and all the time.
As I delved deeper in my own research and reading, I find that it more than just a bad habit.
No wonder I was all along fighting a losing game. I found it has to do with issues like present bias, planning fallacy, hyperbolic discounting and others.
All these psychological terms may sound daunting, but actually they are quite easy to understand.
Since I have gathered all these information on procrastination, I might as well write it out in simple language to share with my readers.
And I considered all these reading and learning as an important life lesson. Like many of you, I too have the same limited knowledge about this topic, until I take some time to read from various sources.
We are good at coming out with excuses like “I’m not in the mood today, Ill do it tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.”
It is true that procrastinators always look for distractions and excuses, especially ones that don’t involve much commitment on their part.
Basically it is an act of intentionally and habitually putting off something that should be done right away.
Or the act of replacing more urgent actions with tasks less urgent, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.
We knowingly and willingly put off or defer doing the need-to-do, despite recognizing we’ll be worse off for it.
People prefer avoiding negative emotions and delaying a difficult task. It is not a problem of time management or planning.
There are those who put off tasks, thinking that what is difficult now, will prove to be easier later on. The reasons are they assume they will be smarter, or have better resources, or have more help in the future.
According to some psychologists, procrastination seems to be related to issues of anxiety, low sense of self-worth, and a self-defeating mentality. And also has something to do with planning fallacy.
Planning fallacy is where people underestimate the time it will take to complete a future task, despite knowing very well that previous tasks have generally taken longer than planned.
Some say it is a bad habit; a type of behavioral trait. As mentioned in Jenny Maryasis’ Procrastination: Habit or Disorder?, there are two kinds of procrastination: behavioral and decisional.
Then there is this thing called present bias; what you want will change over time, and what you want now isn’t the same thing you will want later.
It is what they called time inconsistency. In other words, a decision-maker’s preferences change over time, in such a way that a preference, at one point in time, is inconsistent with a preference at another point in time.
This is also where they say we are made up of different “selfs” or “different you” (now-you, future-you, next year-you, Monday-you, Wednesday-you, etc).
The “now you” which made the decision now will not be the same “you” facing the decision in the future. It will be the “future you”.
And that person cannot be trusted. The “future you” will give in, and then you’ll go back to being “now-you”.
Then they also say that it has something to do with what they called hyperbolic discounting, which is related to self-control.
Hyperbolic discounting refers to the tendency where we increasingly choose a smaller-sooner reward over a larger-later reward as the delay happens sooner rather than later in time.
That’s why we prefer to indulge in simple or less important task (more interesting) right away and delay in doing more important or more difficult stuff.
Procrastination Has Nothing To Do With Will-Power
So it looks like procrastination has nothing to do with will-power.
Theories abound for why people procrastinate.
Here are some of the more commonly mentioned reasons why one delays or postpones:
7. Lack of Interest
8. Lack of Motivation
12.Fear of Failure
13.Lack of Will-power
14.Lack of Self-Discipline
15.Lack of Initiative
16.Poor Time Management
17.Lack of Skill
How To Overcome Procrastination
One suggestion which I come across is you set a time frame and force yourself to complete a task . I think this is futile.
The forcing part is not even possible in the first place.
Some termed procrastination a form of personal incompetence. In order to eliminate it, is to replace it with personal competence.
So you need to look into emotional strength, well-directed thought, time-management skills, control over habits and task completion abilities.
Then I have read somewhere, merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reducing procrastination.
The most common advice is to break large, daunting goals into manageable tasks.
Another popular tip to break postponement is free from distractions.
Personally, what I do is to incite my emotion. Get myself all pumped, with the help from reading motivational books or inspiring movies.
It can work for a while. At least, it gets me started. Then I also like to picture mentally the reward or bliss associated with getting something done. It works for me to a certain extent.
Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog suggests we focus on doing the worst task at hand as the first thing every single morning, then the rest of the day is going to be really easy in comparison.
Another interesting source on procrastination and self-control is from Dan Ariely author of “Predictably Irrational”.
He says that this putting off problem has to do with time believes in associating undesirable tasks with pleasurable activities.
By the way, for those who still have problem with procrastination, then forget about all those tips I have mentioned above.
Instead get John Perry’s book “The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing“.
Find out from him about what he called structured procrastination. What he means is procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. In fact you are still doing some thing else.
He even says procrastinating encourages productive subconscious thought. You see when you put off doing something, our subconscious focuses on it.
So when you get around to doing it, you are full of good ideas.
Well, I hope you do learn something more about why you keep delaying or prolonging tasks which you should do or wanted to do for a long time now.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net