Procrastination is the act whereby we put off a task until later. Often the task is put off until we achieve a particular condition. In these instances, you may find yourself saying, “I need to be in the mood to get this done” or “I need to be under pressure to get the best result”. We believe we will only be able to get the job done to the best of our ability once we have achieved the condition we’ve told ourselves we must have.
Have you resolved to lose weight after Christmas but looked out the window only to see a grey, drizzly day outside and told yourself, “I’ll go for a walk when the weather cheers up”. Did you plan to rewrite your CV today for your dream job but put it off until you’ve researched writing the perfect CV?
Does this ring any bells?
Procrastination is a self-soothing mechanism: when we feel uncomfortable about doing something we avoid doing it, which in the short term makes us feel better. However when we procrastinate, the condition we are waiting for can take a long time to materialise and the small task we started off with begins to feel like a chore; our avoidance can make us feel guilty, anxious or even ashamed. In the long term procrastination does anything but make us feel better.
There are a number of excuses we make to avoid a task and the first step towards ensuring procrastination doesn’t get the better of you is to recognise which excuse you find yourself using.
1. The ‘comfort’ excuse: I must be comfortable before I can start.
2. The ‘mood’ excuse: I must be in the right mood before I can start.
3. The ‘competence’ excuse: I must feel competent before I can start.
4. The ‘motivation’ excuse: I must feel motivated before I can start.
5. The ‘immediate understanding’ excuse: I must understand everything completely before I can start.
6. The ‘pressure’ excuse: I must be under pressure before I can start.
7. The ‘preference’ excuse: I would rather do something I feel like doing before I can start.
Having awareness of your procrastination is your first line of defence against it. Be aware of your excuses and recognise that is all they are; they are not valid reasons for why you cannot begin your task. Remember that while your avoidance feels good in the short term, in the long term you are setting yourself up for feelings anxiety or guilt or stress; feelings which are certainly not conducive to your good mental health!
“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”
– Charles Dickens