What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks and it’s a big issue if someone wants to make a massive change in their life. Not to mention building an online business.
Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment.
Historically, for human beings, procrastination has not been regarded as a bad thing. The Greeks and Romans generally regarded procrastination very highly. The wisest leaders embraced procrastination and would basically sit around and think and not do anything unless they absolutely had to.
The idea that procrastination is bad really started in the Puritanical era with Jonathan Edwards’s sermon against procrastination and then the American embrace of “a stitch in time saves nine,” and this sort of work ethic that required immediate and diligent action.
But if you look at recent studies, managing delay is an important tool for human beings. People are more successful and happier when they manage delay. Procrastination is just a universal state of being for humans. We will always have more things to do than we can possibly do, so we will always be imposing some sort of unwarranted delay on some tasks. The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well.
Why we procrastinate?
Procrastination is a human condition. About 95% of people admit to putting off work, according to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation.
As for the phenomenon of putting stuff off, it’s “a purely visceral, emotional reaction to something we don’t want to do,” says Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. The more averse you find a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate.
Some scientists have argued that there are two kinds of procrastination: active procrastination and passive procrastination. Active procrastination means you realize that you are unduly delaying mowing the lawn or cleaning your closet, but you are doing something that is more valuable instead. Passive procrastination is just sitting around on your sofa not doing anything. That clearly is a problem.
In order to understand and solve your procrastination problems, you must carefully analyze those situations where your work is not being completed. First, determine whether the cause is poor time management; if so, you will need to learn and develop time management skills. If, however, you know how to manage your time but don’t make use of those skills, you may have a more serious problem. Many individuals cite the following reasons for avoiding work:
- Lack of Relevance – If something is neither relevant nor meaningful to you personally, it may be difficult to get motivated even to begin.
- Acceptance of Another’s Goals – If a project has been imposed or assigned to you and it is not consistent with your own interests, you may be reluctant to spend the necessary time to see it to conclusion.
- Perfectionism – Having unreachable standards will discourage you from pursuing a task. Remember, perfection is unattainable.
- Evaluation Anxiety – Since others’ responses to your work are not under your direct control, overvaluing these responses can create the kind of anxiety that will interfere with work getting accomplished.
- Ambiguity – If you are uncertain of what is expected of you, it may be difficult to get started.
- Fear of the Unknown – If you are venturing into a new realm or field, you don’t have any way of knowing how well you’ll do. Such an uncertain outcome may inhibit your desire to begin.
- Inability to Handle the Task – If through lack of training, skill, or ability you feel that you lack the personal resources to do the job, you may avoid it completely.
Dealing with procrastination
Procrastination is something that will most likely never go away. But if you do want to limit your procrastination, you need to understand the root causes of it.
This can be difficult, because you may be procrastinating one task for one reason and a second task for a different reason.
Understanding the root causes of procrastination requires taking a deep look inside ourselves to find out what is motivating it.
Firstly, ask yourself, what are the reasons these worries are coming up for me?
Dr. Abdel-Malek suggests keeping a log of the tasks you have and how quickly you got started on them. Then look it over to see what they have in common. What are the things you procrastinate more on than others?
Once you understand the underlying reasons for your procrastination, you can attend to those anxieties and worries first.
Another suggestion is to forgive yourself for procrastinating. Recognize that it is a very human behaviour. Forgiving yourself can help to reduce the guilt you feel for avoiding a task, which is one of the main causes of procrastination in the first place.
As with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But it’s good to start by recognizing the underlying reasons for your procrastination. They may not be what you think they are.