Dear fellow procrastinators,
You didn’t, ironically, open this while chilling on the couch, right?
For us “procrastinators,” we aren’t the same as everyone. And for me, my proclivity was always to transform into a couch potato. I broke every “anti-procrastination” technique I tried to stick to and spent time regretting it after. While doing nothing about it but blinking eyes… on the couch. When I came up with the idea of writing about procrastination, I aimed to talk about all the wrong patterns and habits I used to do. And how did I finally rose from the ashes and found a way to get things done.
Here’s the whole story…
What is procrastination?
What, why, how and when are questions that lurk behind every extension in time you waste instead of getting up and doing what you got to do. The ignorance of knowing the answers may increase the aggravation of the problem.
Naturally, as an expert procrastinator, I never bothered myself by googling these questions but this time I did.
Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones. Thus we voluntarily do more pleasurable tasks in place of impending ones.
And following up I googled “procrastination,” and I was amazed!
Did you know that out of all the places you expected to find a solution, the dictionary would be one! And thank god it sounds easy. Sigh!
“Your first tip is to avoid procrastination” not forbid, not prevent but avoid. It’s a right and wrong tip. Right because no one can prohibit or prevent to procrastinate. Wrong because it isn’t an option for real procrastinators. When I procrastinated, I didn’t have a specific reason in my mind, but I didn’t have any motivation or energy to do anything but in the last minute (sometimes it was more like the last second) after a lot of scolding and self-talk. But it’s not about motivation or energy. It’s more than that.
Why do we procrastinate?
Is it a right time to bring some science into our discussion? Cause it is.
According to this Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at Depaul University, these are some of the reasons we procrastinate:
1- We toss our self-compassion to the wind. (Emotional control)
Negative self-talks won’t get you anyway forward. I used to feel like I will fail any project I’d participate in. That talk led me to be extremely stressed. Tearing down every confidence brick I built.
And it went like this, from someone who has a very hopeful future sight to someone who’s narrowing her view to the immediate rewards that may increase her confidence/compassion.
2- We don’t think we’ll be successful in the task. (Aversiveness)
Writing this article! Ugh. That task stayed in my to-do list for almost 2 weeks after its deadline. I spent a long time wondering “can I do this?” “do I have what it takes to do that task?” and don’t get me started on the hows, when! “How long the research would take?” “ when would I even do that?” and end it with “let’s watch the cattle boiling water while aiming to do nothing after.”
Although I did similar and harder tasks than that one, it wasn’t the task’s fault that I took it. Yet it was such an unpleasant task to do.
3- We have a bias toward a specific type of tasks. (Neuroticism)
Everyone has that type of tasks that make one feel they’ve done magic. And finishing that task with a pleasurable smile would be normal.
Pleasant, unpleasant, tedious or interesting task. They’re all a must-do to sail the ship to its next harbor. That time I tried a conventional technique which helped me. Instead of distracting myself on the goal of the task( feeling incompetent), I shift my focus into dividing the task into a series of simple and intermediate tasks. Needless to say, it didn’t work with me. Not to mention my most significant trouble “TIME.”
4-Our time estimates are a little off. (Timing)
The gap between the finish line I estimated and the actual one couldn’t get any bigger. What I estimated to end in 20-30 minutes, took a day… okay, maybe two!
Postponing the task was my favorite solution without putting the future time or other plans into consideration. When time difficulties arise, I turn to a trick (in other words: lifesaver). I try to insert that what I’m postponing and pending will take more time in the future, so it’s better to end it all now.
5- Our perfectionism gets in the way.
Why did perfectionism stumble my way off the couch? Because I habituated procrastination and it habituated me being its best follower.
Later on, I knew that being a perfectionist and a procrastinator won’t get me anywhere. Thinking that things weren’t done perfectly always go hand in hand with procrastination. I assure you that this drained my energy along the process. And climbing out from that black hole was even more consuming and irritating.
Failed attempts that led us to the successive ones
- I thought that chaining myself into the desk would do magic. Yet I felt like I’m cursed. I couldn’t leave the desk, but I wasted time and energy doing other things instead.
- I left social media platforms on the block mode and locked myself away from the phone. It didn’t help either. My mind kept actively searching for ways to be distracted.
- Crafting to-do lists didn’t save me. Anxious Feelings were running after me trying to grab me panicking. Though I struck a closed gate panicking anyways. But having a list to follow was the worst of them all.
- I tried to have backups like friends/quiet coworkers, working vibes or divide my tasks into small bulks but I always sucked at making progress while having those around.
- Who knew I would fail deadlines too! I hated (still do) setting them myself. Especially while doing creative work, I would hate setting deadlines cause it grew pressure in me yet the opposite was such a relief.
Successful attempts that I loved
- Heard of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?: It’s a motivational theory in psychology presents 5 human needs arranged by the importance of each one. Getting to the point, the theory states simply that if someone’ basic needs were unmet, it might be hard for them to focus on any other need. On a personal level, I love to socialize. And one of the traps I fell into was socializing in time intended for work. That made me complete most of my tasks at home or the next day, and the suffering continues. According to Maslow, I need to do my tasks (basic need) first, then satisfy my need to socialize.
- Pomodoro Technique: Our senior editor, Yasmin Madkour, wrote an article talking about the Pomodoro technique. It’s actually effective and powerful. Twenty-five sharp minutes of doing your work following by a five minutes break. This method will drag you to a zone where you want to do activities with values. I, admittedly, anticipated that I’d fail this technique. My expectations were wrong the second I found myself zoning in and focusing on the task on hand. And as honest as I have been with you, I actually finished this article using the Pomodoro technique.
- The 2 minutes rule Technique: If something will take less than 2 minutes to do, do it now. It may sound basic, but if you put that as a solid ground to stand on, you win against procrastination! It does magic as it actually may be adequate to change your concept in doing things. Step by step. Take your time.
The problem is -almost- no longer a problem
Dear procrastinators, I’m not saying that this is the end of procrastinating. I’m telling you this is an end for navel-gazing, waiting, humming and delaying tasks indefinitely. This is the time you take responsibility. This is the time you do something. I must say that this is not a problem if you did it in a creative, structured and strategic way. Also, you can try all the techniques and come up with a compilation that helps!. Procrastination isn’t a problem if you think so from now on.
Even the greatest minds in history were procrastinators. Which led them to very creative and magnificent work. We’re not alone. Bill Clinton, Leonardo da Vinci, Hamlet, and even the Dalai Lama. They were all procrastinators, and they all managed to remain in our brain with their impact and impressive roles (even in Hamlet’s case). If they did it, we will too.