I procrastinate, therefore I am a procrastinator. Lately, I’ve been wondering: Does it necessarily have to be a bad thing? I mean, after all, the word itself begins with ‘pro,’ which is usually a good thing, right?
Just for fun, I looked up definitions of the word. Without exception, they were negative and used words like lazy, missed opportunity and my least favorite in the English language: Should. As in, to delay a task that should be done. Ugh.
According to Scientific American, “Procrastination is a well-known and serious behavioral problem involving both practical and psychological implications.” Yikes! It’s worse than I thought!
Still hopeful, I searched for the definition of crastinate. The results were less than scintillating. What I did find was an article about pre-castination, the opposite of procrastination, or the inclination to complete tasks quickly just for the sake of getting it done sooner than required. For example, you might answer an eMail immediately and fail to think about your reply. Later, a better response might occur to you, but it’s too late. (An old adage comes to mind here: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.)
I am a habitual offender. My personal history of procrastination began as a child. My parents used to joke that my mantra, when chastised for not doing something, was “I was gonna.” (New England speak for I was going to.) In college, I once wrote a semester-long independent study term paper, in its entirety, the night before it was due. I was rewarded with a good grade, which only solidified my claim that “I’m good under pressure.”
Everyone procrastinates sometimes. Honestly, what is at the root of our procrastinating and what makes some of us chronic offenders?
- Feeling overwhelmed was a good reason, when I was still working. The ever-growing and changing list of demands would sometimes render me paralyzed. I would take the time to organize my tasks and make a list, scheduling each thing in order of importance. It really helped me to feel in control, even if I wasn’t. It lessened the feeling that I could not possibly get everything done.
- Being a perfectionist leads to putting off a task because you fear doing it badly. Sometimes, you need time to think about or plan something that is important. But you need to be careful not to apply this principle to everything that needs doing.
- Fear. It might be something new that you’ve never tried before. Perhaps it’s something you’ve done previously, but were dissatisfied with your results.
- Emotional issues. Not to get all touchy-feely, but there might be a more deeply hidden reason that you just can’t get started on a task. We all have that inner critic. Listen closely to see if that little voice is self-sabotaging. Then tell her to shut up.
- Distractions. Often, I have to leave home to write. Concentration can be difficult when I’m surrounded by laundry, cleaning, gardening and bills/correspondence. All of which are undesirable, by the way, but suddenly more appealing when I procrastinate. The dog needs to go out, the telephone rings. You get the picture. None of those things exist at Panera or Starbucks.
So, now I understand some of the reasons I procrastinate. Next, I’ll figure out what to do about it. But not right now. Maybe tomorrow. I think the bird feeders are empty…