Most of us, if asked, know what ‘procrastination’ is or what it represents in one form or another. For anyone who isn’t sure, a simple definition is… ‘to defer an action’. For example, you might hear or say “I have deferred my decision till next Friday”.
What that means is that we putting things off until we have a better judgement of doing a task or make a decision.
What holds me back?
The typical reason is that we want to protect ourselves from an unpleasant emotional state. In practice, we might rather watch hours of Netflix series instead of studying for an exam (you might experience thoughts like ‘If I start I might get bored of the studies so will postpone it until I’m ready’.
Causes of procrastination
It feels like a threat to your self-esteem. A good example could be not asking someone out because you might feel rejection or disappointment.
Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT)
Some of us have very little ability to endure frustration, boredom, hardwork, uncomfortable feelings and setbacks. Every unpleasant task that you start you either avoid or quickly give up after starting. (‘I can’t stand the pain for future gain’)
This is something that is not obvious from the outset but the main emotion hidden under the delay of action is ‘anger’. As one is unable to, for any reason, directly communicate one's feelings then they manifest through procrastination. Example of the situation - your partner asks you over and over again to go through some important documentation before a certain date. You feel like they treat you ‘like a child’ by telling you what to do. As a result, you deliberately miss the deadline just to ‘show her/or him!’. You don’t even care about the consequences of your behaviour. Nobody will tell you what to do!
Excuses and behaviours
To understand our way of procrastination we need to understand how it manifests.
There are several options that your procrastination can display:
Contemplation - you know what to do and how to do it but you are not engaging
Last-minute - leaving tasks to the latest possible moment (thinking you are gaining more time for pleasure)
Claiming ‘I will do that tomorrow’ - postponing till another time (that never comes…)
I will do that when … - you are making future action contingent upon present problem-solving (e.g. I will start dating when I lose some weight)
Taking care of a task that was not important previously (e.g. cleaning the entire house even though you don’t need to do this)
Undertaking pleasurable pursuits first as a way of encouraging yourself to face a difficult task eventually (e.g. you know you need to do some laboriously mundane admin work but instead you are urging everyone around to have a nice drink and a bar of chocolate)
Being continually on an alert to endlessly plausible reasons to stop you from starting or dropping a task (e.g. of a situation - the phone is ringing and it could be something very important. My partner could be in trouble! After the call though you look for something else to distract yourself.)
Creating an illusion of tackling the task (e.g. tidying the desk and the room to perfection before starting the writing process)
Calling yourself ‘lazy’ or ‘slow starter’ so you can justify your procrastination (this is great because it allows you to deflect the criticism from others)
Waiting ‘to feel motivated’ before starting the task
Telling yourself ‘Let things settle’ (e.g. when you don’t want to confront your partner or co-worker). You are therefore waiting for ‘the right moment’.
Procrastination can show up also when it comes to a career change - this might mean initial success but also a potential subsequent failure. Let’s just stick with the bad that we already know. :)
Which procrastinator are you?
Jack Maguire and Linda Sapadin (1996) identified 6 fundamental procrastination styles.
Take a look below and think which one represents you (you can leave it in the comments section).
The Perfectionist - You are reluctant to start or finish as you may not achieve your highest standards.
The Dreamer - You have a tendency towards vagueness and lack of realism; ideas are not translated into achievable goals.
The Worrier - You fear that things will go wrong and be overwhelmed by upcoming events.
The Crisis-maker- You are living ‘on-the-edge’ in hopes that a difficult task will miraculously disappear.
The Defier - You can be aggressive or argumentative towards others’ suggestions or instructions (‘they’ are telling you what to do).
The Over-doer - You are always working on something or often creating extra work for yourself. Yet, you don’t focus on important tasks that need to be tackled. You have difficulty delegating the work.
I hope you enjoyed that short reading.
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