Procrastination is a slippery adversary, stealthy, incidious, secretive maybe even seductive enemy that creeps up behind you, moves in and remains, unwelcome but tolerated.
WHO HAS TROUBLE WITH PROCRASTINATING? You know – putting things that need to be done – off. Avoiding the annoyance or unpleasantness involved with that thing that needs doing. No? Not you? Not ever? WOW. Impressive. It’s not that I doubt you but … let me ask you a few more questions, OK?
How is that Tax record organising going? Been to the Tax Agent this year? Maybe it is not Tax for you, maybe it is going to the Dentist? Cleaning the Bathroom? Gutters? No? Weight loss err weight management? Well – most of us put things off from time to time. We put them in the too hard basket, because we either have a thought, a feeling or a behavior – happening, that is not helpful in addressing that thing, you know, whatever needs to be done – the old trouble.
WHAT IS PROCRASTINATION – AGAIN?
Procrastination is a common part of human behaviour, so if you are so engaged – you are, ‘normal’ whatever that word means. Maybe people really mean ‘safe’ or ‘accepted by others’, or even ‘acceptable to others’ when they use that word. I am off track, procrastinating about …
Many times people assume procrastination is “laziness” and can criticise themselves mercilessly before anyone else gets a chance to pipe up about how ‘terrible’ they are. Everyday ways to describe Procrastination could be saying things like, “putting off”, “postponing”, “delaying”, “deferring”, and “leaving to the last minute”.
Procrastination happens when you make the executive decision, technically deciding to avoid doing something is still a decision, to not completed a task or goal you have signed on to do – for no reason that makes sense when reason meticulously examines the decision, it is found – wanting. Instead – you take the executive decision to do something of lesser importance. Perhaps an E.G. to elicidate.
So who has braved the hallowed halls of the Uni-versity? Trade School? TAFE? College? Do you recall examination time, commonly a week, day or hour fraught with stress and the belief self worth will be forever defined by the assessors grade. Do you remember how clean that car was just before the exam? How tidy the bedroom? How grateful the cook was for those nights off? How coiffed the hair and polished the nails? – not to mention how buffed? How bronzed? How many trips to 7/11.
This odd commitment to activities that would have no material bearing on the outcome of the said assessment – is what we mean by the adversary, Procrastination. It is, in addition to ‘Meetings’, which are themselves perhaps a form of Procrastination – in my view, the single reason the human race is yet to reach its potential. So putting Procrastination under the microscope is a worth activity in pursuit of the Authentic Life.
WHAT CAUSES PROCRASTINATION?
Psychologists are ‘schooled’ rigorously in the art and science of human learning and it is to this subject we must go, in order to understand Procrastination. If Procrastination has caught us in its slippery slimey grip we have fallen foul of an annoying quirk of the process of learning.
Human learning is pretty simple. We tend to want to repeat activities that make us feel good or bring us something we need and then make us feel good. So feeling good – is why the whole thing keeps going. Equally – or, on the other hand we tend to avoid things that make us feel bad. This is where the experience of being human gets a bit tricksy.
We are no longer organic jungle dwellers, we are now cement jungle dwellers. Our emotions, particularly the experience of negative emotions – designed to assist us adapt in a dynamic complex system such as the Natural World – are not well suited to a cement jungle that follows a more masculine linear organisational structure. Consequence – many of us have to tolerate negative emotional experiences. If this happens too much – we need to visit, the Psych.
Procrastination occurs when we experience a learned negative emotion in response to a task that needs doing, then we essentially avoid doing it.
So – need to study arises, we feel terrified of the exam, so we put off to avoid the negative emotion associated with the exam. We temporarily feel better by avoiding studying or practicing or completing the project. The avoidance makes us feel relief in the short term, so we keep doing it – but in the long term it increases our experience of negative emotions such as anxiety – because essentially we are not dealing with life.
If we do not pull out of this cycle – we either fail the exam and then fail to qualify in an occupation and fail to maintain independence in the cement jungle. Not ideal but hard to halt if you are caught in the Cycle of Procrastination.