December 07, 2015Lifestyle & mindset
5 min read

Procrastination: A Guide To Better Understanding

Groundhog Day movie depicts the world of procrastinators

Caught yourself putting off important tasks in favor of cute kitties pictures on the Internet or scrolling down the newsfeed again? Welcome to the i-will-do-it-later’s club, the place where personal development dies! We surfed the Web to find out if being a procrastinator is actually so bad and if it is, how we can cope with it.

Statistics

20% of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Pies Steel, a human resources professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, stated that 95% of population procrastinates at times, with 20% being chronic offenders. 1 out of 5 people procrastinate so badly that it may be jeopardizing their jobs, their credit, their relationships and even their health. According to some researches, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years.

Nature

Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we'll feel tomorrow, or the next day. Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ontario, Canada, says, "When you decide to procrastinate, you relieve some stress which makes you feel good. So when you predict how you're going to feel tomorrow, you base your prediction on your current mood."

According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent writer on the subject, procrastination occurs when there’s “a temporal gap between intended behavior and enacted behavior.” That is, when there’s a significant time period between when people intend to do a job, and when they actually do it.

Mechanics

We all do things that make sense. We all think long-term. So why some of us procrastinate more than others? Procrastination part of them is just stronger than the rational decision part. Like Grima the Wormtongue from the Lord Of The Rings, it brings in the overwhelming need for instant gratification and, suddenly, procrastinators find themselves doing things they weren’t intended to, like scrolling down their feed in social media again and again, checking sock prices on Amazon,opening the fridge every 5 minutes, trying to find that crazy shot among thousands of old photos, fantasizing about building their own app, or reading inspirational quotes. Of course, it has an end. They occasionally throw an eye at the clock, and - uh ah! it’s high time they were doing preparations for the appointment which is to take place in two hours. Some of them start doing what they intended to as fast as they can (making thousands of mistakes out of panicking, of course), others just let it all hang out and may even cancel the appointment.

Symptoms

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List
  • Reading e-mails several times without taking any actions
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately switching to something else
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it's important
  • Regularly saying "Yes" to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list
  • Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand

Creative minds will definitely be able to add something to the list.

Possible reasons

  • Finding a particular job unpleasant and trying to avoid it because of that, both consciously and subconsciously
  • Being disorganized or having poorly structured to-do lists
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the task and incapable of completing it
  • Lacking motivation and stimulus

Understanding what procrastination is made of will help you to develop methods of overcoming it. Remember the symptoms and work with the reasons. If you’re still not sure what to start with check out our guide for procrastination treatment based on approaches suggested by different authors.

Sources:
"Procrastination” on Psychology Today
“Overcoming Procrastination” by Mind Tools
“Why Procrastinators Procrastinate” by Tim Urban

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