“Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow!”
Sound familiar? C’mon, be honest, have you ever uttered or thought that? Hey, you’re not alone. You see, it’s the typical rationalization that goes through my mind as I stare at the growing list of stuff I need to do around the house. The same is true when I opened the frig recently and confronted weeks old containers of leftover asparagus, peaches and bread that I should have dumped days ago, all now covered with a dark green disgusting mold.
Now the problem is that those “put off until tomorrows” become my “put off until next weeks” and “put off until next months,” with stuff still not getting done. For me and many others, buildups in guilt are the usual result, let alone potential hard feelings by others who may be impacted by such behavior. For example, if one puts off an apology to someone he unintentionally hurt, overlooked, failed to acknowledge or say thanks to, the damage may be irreparable.
So, what’s behind my interest in the issue of procrastination of all things?
You see, as I thought about a significant agenda item for the next meeting of the “26 Tiny Paintbrushes” writer’s guild, I sought the advice from two locals; “Regina” (a ho-hum look on her face above) and “Chuck,” a guild member who without hesitation suggested that we talk about “procrastination” and how it sometimes impedes writers and others in life. So, as a chronic procrastinator I figured, hey why not!
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal holding onto an uncompleted task.” – William James
Simply defined, procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute. The problem with procrastination is that tasks can pile up – one excuse after another – leaving one feeling overwhelmed, or even guilty. Am I alone with this conundrum? Apparently not.
According to Joseph Ferrari, a DePaul University professor and author of “Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done,” around 20% of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators. My hunch is that it’s much higher.
Say experts, in most cases procrastination is not a sign of a serious problem. It’s a common tendency that most people give in to at some point or another. They say that the reality is that if you wait until you’re in the right frame of mind to do certain tasks (especially undesirable ones), you will probably find that the right time simply never comes, and the task never gets completed.
Now we often come up with an excuse or rationalization to justify our behavior. According to researchers, there are key reasons why people say they procrastinate:
- Not knowing how to do something
- Not caring if it gets done or not
- Not feeling in the mood to do it
- Thinking that you can finish it at the last minute
- Waiting for the right moment
- Needing time to think about the task
- Delaying one task in favor of working on another
Experts define the following types of procrastinators:
- Perfectionist: Puts off tasks out of the fear of not being able to complete them perfectly
- Defier: Doesn’t believe someone should dictate their time schedule
- Worrier: Puts off tasks out of fear of change or leaving the comfort of “the known”
- Crisis-maker: Puts off tasks because they like working under pressure
- Overdoer: Takes on too much and struggles with finding time to start and complete tasks
Honestly, I sometimes procrastinate out of sheer laziness, especially if I’m zeroed in on something else I’m more interested in doing. The necessary tasks I keep putting off are annoyances.
According to psychologist Piers Steel, people who don’t procrastinate tend to be high in the personality trait known as consciousness. They tend to be high in other areas including self-discipline, persistence and personal responsibility.
Now is procrastination necessarily a problem? Is my tendency to procrastinate suggest that I’m mentally ill? Wait, hold on before you high five someone with a yes, yes, yes!
You see, procrastination is only problematic when it becomes chronic and begins to have a serious impact on one’s daily life. It’s then that it becomes a serious issue. In such instances, it’s not just a matter of having poor time management skills, it’s a major part of one’s lifestyle.
How can folks like me stop procrastinating?
Fortunately, there are several different things you can do to fight procrastination and getting things done. Consider these suggested by experts:
- Make a to-do list: To keep on track, place a due date next to each item.
- Take baby steps: Break down the items on your list into small, manageable steps so that your tasks don’t seem so overwhelming.
- Recognize the warning signs: Pay attention to any thoughts of procrastination and do your best to resist the urge. If you begin to think about procrastinating, force yourself to spend a few minutes working on your task.
- Eliminate distraction: Ask yourself what pulls your attention away the most— Instagram, Facebook updates, or the local news—and turn off those distractions.
- Pat yourself on the back: When you finish an item on your to-do list on time, congratulate yourself and reward yourself by indulging in something you find fun.
In the end, before digging yourself into a deep hole of regret, don’t procrastinate; do it ……. now!
© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award and 3rd place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.
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