Putting the “PRO” in Procrastination

Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline.

Even giving you the definition is basically just me procrastinating from writing this post – even though I know that you know what it is and are probably reading this post because you too are procrastinating.

Recently, I feel like my procrastination habits have gone crazy. I procrastinate everything. Common things I find myself doing  during these periods of procrastination include but are not limited to: watching entire seasons of tv shows, watching movies, organising my itunes, cleaning my room, cleaning the house, alphabetising the bookcase, offering to cook meals, online shopping, re-reading favourite novels, having long showers, exercising, tinder, quiz up, pinterest, tumblr, teaching myself to knit… the list could go on and on. I’ve gotten so good at it, sometimes I dont even know that I’m doing it. Sometimes, I tell myself that I’m simply taking a break, 5 mins at most, but that escalates quickly to 15 mins, 30mins, 1 hour, 3 hrs…you get what I mean.

When people ask me why I procrastinate, I usually answer that “I was being lazy” or “I work better under pressure”. Honestly, procrastination is NOT about me being lazy. In fact, when I do procrastinate I often work intensely for long stretches just before our deadlines. Working long and hard is the opposite of lazy, so that can’t be the reason I do it. And I certainly do not work well under pressure. In fact, pressure is the reason that I often don’t perform so well.

So why on earth do I procrastinate?…After procrastinating a little more, I came up with a couple of reasons:

  1. Poor work habits.  I am always way behind and never schedule anything. Or I do but I can never stick to it. I say that work well under pressure – but I could just bad at organising and I end up waiting till the last minute before starting on a task.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed. Often I find that I don’t know where to start, and I don’t know what to do, so it’s tempting to do nothing – as that’s so much easier! Also, sometimes work piles up – refer to reason (1) – and we feel it’s all too much. So procrastinating here is a quick form of relief.

But then I read something by a wise man named David Cain, who wrote a piece called  “Procrastination Is Not Laziness”. In which he says this…

“It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.

You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.

But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.

Particularly prone to serious procrastination problems are children who grew up with unusually high expectations placed on them. Their older siblings may have been high achievers, leaving big shoes to fill, or their parents may have had neurotic and inhuman expectations of their own, or else they exhibited exceptional talents early on, and thereafter “average” performances were met with concern and suspicion from parents and teachers.”

After reading this,I related to this instantaneously. I thought that this totally justifies every excuse I’ve been giving myself from not doing that thing I’m supposed to do.  Most of my childhood and throughout my school life, I have always been an over-performer. I did rather well in school, I played sports, I have some form of social life. But that in essence has become the reason I procrastinate. Ironic isn’t it? Because now, when it really counts, I can’t fail. That won’t be acceptable to those around me.

So now all that is left for me to do is realise that this fear of failure is what’s causing this self-harming behavior. And maybe if I actually make the effort and succeed, then I can prove to myself that this success can continue. But also understand that my success/failure does not define my self-worth.

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