Just do it.
Procrastination (from the Latin procrastinare: “pro” meaning forwards, and “crastinus” referring to the future), postponement, or deferral is the action or habit of pushing back activities or situations that need to be dealt with, replacing them with other things that are less important and/or more enjoyable.
This is a behavior disorder of the will, which is caused by associating the pending task with change, pain, or stress. The discomfort or effort we seek to avoid may be psychological (in the form of anxiety or frustration), physical (such as what one experiences during actions requiring hard work or vigorous exercise), or intellectual. Procrastination is commonly caused by the feeling of anxiety we experience in the face of a pending task which we lack the willpower to complete. The task that is postponed may be perceived as overwhelming, challenging, disturbing, dangerous, difficult, tedious, or boring—that is to say, stressful in some way. Consequently, we justify our postponing it to the indefinite future—a decision which often subordinates what is important (but not so urgent) to what is urgent (but not so important).
Procrastination can lead us to take refuge in activities unrelated to our duty. The habit of postponing activities may be connected with a dependency on various external elements, such as navigating on the internet, reading books, doing shopping, eating compulsively, or letting oneself be excessively absorbed by work routine, among other things, which are used as a pretext for avoiding some responsibility, action, or decision.
This problem—which is a psychological health issue—isn’t necessarily linked to depression or low self-esteem. Extreme perfectionism and fear of failure are also factors that can lead to postponing events that require decision-making. There are two kinds of individuals who engage in this behavior:
- Occasional procrastinators, whose evasive action is not repeated habitually; and
- Chronic procrastinators, whose evasive behavior is constant and repeated over time.
The latter are those who are generally considered to suffer from a true behavior disorder, as described above. Nowadays, there are addictive behaviors that contribute to this evasion disorder, such as watching television, using the computer (especially using the internet), using a cell phone, etc.
The foundations of procrastination in psychology and personality
William Knaus, in Do It Now! Break the Procrastination Habit, lists a series of personality traits that are characteristic of people with a tendency to procrastinate:
- Irrational beliefs: Poor self-image makes us see ourselves as inadequate or incompetent.
- Perfectionism and fear of failure: Postponing a task, and justifying the consequences based on a lack of time, is an excuse for avoiding the risk of failure in the case of tasks whose success is not guaranteed.
- Anxiety and over-dramatization: An accumulation of work causes a correlative escalation of anxiety. Difficulty in making decisions and looking for guarantees of success before starting a task can lead to over-dramatization and pessimistic feelings.
- Anger and impatience: Unrealistic and disproportionate expectations and over-dramatization create anger and impatience, which turn into aggressiveness.
- A need to feel loved: The desire to carry out tasks motivated by recompense in the form of love or acceptance from others can make us postpone unrewarding tasks.
- Feeling overloaded: Work accumulates, and you feel incapable of establishing priorities; this causes feelings of anxiety, overload, stress, anguish, indecision, impotence, and failure, creating a vicious circle you can’t escape from.
Steps for avoiding procrastination
1. Try to avoid using negative language to refer to things you have to do.
2. Divide up tasks that are complicated for you. Follow the technique of following small steps to reach your goal.
3. Think about the motivations for doing the task. When we procrastinate, it’s because the activity’s benefits are in the future, and the costs are in the present. If you manage to bring the benefits from the future to the present, you will have taken a great step towards overcoming procrastination.
4. When you do a disagreeable task, give yourself a reward. Appreciate the small, incremental results you achieve in order to motivate yourself to continue on that path.
5. Eliminate distractions when the time comes to carry out a task. You know what they are. You have to decide not to fall into what you know won’t help you, and you need to be concrete regarding what you have to do.
7. Take the first step: “Just do it.” Once you take a step, inertia will make it easier to keep working.
Life teaches us that many of the things that happen in our lives depend a great deal on our firm decision to fight to achieve our objectives. Not everything is in our hands, but let’s not leave for tomorrow what we can do today.
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