Procrastination. I first heard of this complicated word back in 2004, while chatting on MSN with a friend in New Zealand. I asked her what she was up for and she replied “procrastinating”. I had no idea what that was and immediately searched online for its meaning. To my surprise, there was a word that described the action of postponing tasks such as studying, writing essays, etc. In my mother tongue, we simply use the verb “to roll”, which I’d always used. If there is a specific word for that in the dictionary, then it must be something important, popular or even a disease, or am I wrong?
There are several aspects that could be discussed regarding procrastination, but today I am going to highlight a few thoughts I came up with on my way home.
1) Sense of urgency
Our lives are busy I know, but that is tricky because being busy does not mean everything we do is important. And let’s be honest here, we enjoy doing some things more than others, probably because they are fun or easy. However, I am sure we are all guilty somehow for procrastinating on important things that are not always fun to do.
2) Working under pressure
Yes, many people procrastinate and then get desperate when the deadline is approaching because there is a mental alarm reminding us that things can go really wrong if we don’t do certain things. However, the key is to create an inner sense of responsability towards ourselves. What does that mean? We must put ourselves before anyone else in order to get organized and finish things for our own satisfaction. Working towards this, we will reduce the anxiety and build motivation to finish what we need instead of feeling afraid of the punishment that we usually create before the deadline approaches.
3) Time management
This one is no secret: Procrastination is caused by poor time management. We always believe there is room for another task or to fit an appoinment now and there. We accept invitations, enroll into courses and our responsibilities just keep growing. Sometimes we forget that we are one person trying to fit a 24-hour schedule. Worse: we try to do everything in 24 hours and neglect that we don’t actually have the entire day to finish them (most people need to sleep, right?). The cycle never ends and when we realize, we are overwhelmed and stessed out, resulting in procrastinating even tasks we used to automatically.
4) Illusion of organization
I remember very clearly my first day of class during my Master’s program. One of the professors mentioned about our thesis topics while introducing his class. I looked at my classmate and mumbled: “What? We are graduating in 2 years from today! He must be joking!” You guessed right, although I learned about my thesis and could have started working on it since day 1, I opted to procrastinate until I started writing my thesis a couple months before graduation. I am not proud of doing this because my thesis was poorly written and I had to rewrite it in order to pass. This is a real story and I want you to know the consequence I faced for procrastinating. There is always a reason why, so if the professor asked us to start preparing for the thesis 2 years in advance, it actually meant we required all that time to work on it.
Finally, procrastinating is terrible because it creates a sense of self-indulgency that we don’t need. In our minds, we are suffering from having to do a hard or boring task, so we feel that we deserve some rewarding in the process. “I have a difficult exam tomorrow, so I can’t hang out with friends. But because I stayed home, I deserve to eat an ice cream and watch one hour of series. “. Read that again, does this make any sense? You got it.
Fighting procrastination demands some behavior and habit changes, and I can advance that overcoming it will not be sweet. So here are three simple tips that might help:
1) Decide if a certain task is really necessary and assign time slots to work on it. If the task is not mandatory or it will result in more work than it actually worths, then be firm and give up. This will save you future worries and stress.
2) Define a realistic deadline, based on your personal and work schedule. For instance, if you have a deadline on 26 December and you know that you will celebrate Christmas on the 24th and 25th, then set the deadline for 23 December. It seems obvious but it works heavenly. Also, I love setting reminders (usually 1 month before, then 2 weeks before) in my phone calendar, as well as writing important tasks and deadlines on my diary. Keeping track of all your plans will do miracles, I guarantee.
3) Find your motivation behind any task you feel like procrastinating. Believe it or not, I enjoy washing dishes and I always reserve time to do it, even if I need to write it down and block a slot of my day. Besides the motivation of keeping the house clean, I know it will benefit not only me but those who are involved in the house dynamics. Everything we do is important regardless of its nature, we just need to remind ourselves our purpose.
Disclaimer: I’ve just applied my tips to the process of writing this post. Because I committed to my friends who requested this post that I would work on it today, I’ve set to myself the deadline, found motivation in helping and I am focused to posting it by the end of the day even though I started a nutrition course tonight that finishes at 10:50pm. Well, I started writing before leaving the house, typed a bit during a 15-minute break and continuing now during my Cabify ride home 😉