There are several ways on how to combat procrastination, but none of them will be effective if you don’t understand the essence of this phenomenon and its causes. The fact is that many people think of procrastination as laziness, bad temper, or something similar, resorting to repressive motivation.
As a result, the problem only gets worse.
Procrastination is not laziness, but quite a physiological process in the brain, so the right actions are needed to combat it. In our article, we will tell you where procrastination comes from, whether it is always harmful and what to do if you are faced with this problem.
Definition of procrastination
Many people think that procrastination and laziness are the same things; in fact, it is not so simple. All of us sometimes put off to the last-minute solution to important issues, and the pretext can be anything. This is procrastination or the habit of putting off tasks for later. This tendency can lead to mental problems.
Instead of wasting energy on necessary activities or rest, the procrastinator continues to engage in useless extraneous matters. Avoiding difficult or unpleasant tasks is an appropriate response of the human psyche; but when it is done constantly, this habit leads to unpleasant consequences.
Laziness is, first of all, a consequence of indecision, inertia, lack of initiative. The specifics of laziness is that a person refuses to take responsibility, for example, he will not take on a new project.
While procrastination is a temporary phenomenon, a person’s motivation is lost, but not forever. When the beginning of your work is delayed, or you think for a long time before you do something, it does not mean that you are lazy, you are just a slow starter.
The procrastinator doesn’t give up work altogether, he just starts it later, because initially, he can’t estimate how much time it will take. That is, we see that the procrastinator has a desire to complete the task, but he does not perform it. The slacker in this case will not even try to estimate the amount of work, he will simply refuse to do it. Actually, procrastination is a student’s problem. A lot of them trying to delay the assignment instead of ask for help with essay, for example, and waiting till the deadline.
Laziness is an absolute unwillingness to do something. Research in neurobiology at the Ruhr University Bochum showed that procrastination can be imprinted on the magnetic resonance imaging machine. A person who frequently puts things off has a larger amygdala than people who do everything on time. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for a person’s emotions, including fear. This study was conducted on 264 people; subjects filled out questionnaires and underwent MRI scans.
It was found that people who procrastinate have an impaired connection between the amygdala and dorsal areas of the brain. It is this area that is responsible for analyzing cause-effect relationships and choosing appropriate behavior. As a result, these people have increased anxiety and fear of starting a new business. According to scientists, such physiological nuances are the reason why a person worries about possible negative consequences, he or she is overcome by doubts for a long time.
Causes of procrastination
The occurrence of procrastination is often influenced by certain emotional disorders of a person.
Psychologists believe that anxiety states lead to fear of being misunderstood, or to appear stupid, or being criticized; these fears, in turn, lead to procrastination.
Depression also causes procrastination; people with this disorder lack the motivation and energy to get work done.
A disorder such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) prevents people from concentrating on one task, and the incentive to complete it is lost.
Procrastination can be exacerbated by perfectionism. If a person strives to do any job perfectly, it is only natural that he or she will pull away from difficult tasks that cannot be done perfectly (from his or her point of view). The perfectionist will always consider himself underprepared and competent.
In addition to the above, we can distinguish such causes of the appearance of procrastination as:
- Underestimated self-esteem;
- Inability to plan and prioritize;
- the habit of living “like everyone else” and unwillingness to stand out from the crowd;
- not considering a task important enough to spend time on it;
- fatigue, emotional burnout – the body needs rest, and it signals this way;
- Not understanding the consequences of their inertia;
- fear of change in life.
Types of procrastination
The following types of procrastination are distinguished:
- Household – putting off regular household chores, such as wet cleaning or taking out the garbage.
- Procrastination in decision-making – any decisions are postponed, although the necessary information is already available.
- Neurotic – tasks of vital necessity are put off.
- Academic – any issues related to learning are delayed.
- Compulsive – appears as an established type of behavior.
Scholars Chu and Choi distinguish between two types of procrastinators: passive and active. Passive ones procrastinate doing things even though they don’t want to do them. Active procrastinators deliberately procrastinate and are more efficient at working within very limited timeframes.
Researcher J.R. Ferrari in turn divides passive procrastinators, of whom the majority, into indecisive and avoidant. The indecisive ones are afraid of making a mistake and therefore procrastinate. Avoiders have a fear of criticism from others.
An example of the manifestation of procrastination
Who is the sternest critic and judge is ourselves. We don’t forgive ourselves for mistakes, we don’t allow ourselves average results instead of excellent ones, and we feel guilty about resting, even if it’s short.
Psychologist Neil Fiore of the United States in his book The Now Habit, or The Easy Way to Stop Putting Things Off, gives the following prime example of procrastination.
Example 1. On the ground, there is a board 100 meters long, 30 cm wide, 10 cm thick. It is necessary to walk along with it, and you can do it without hindrance, all the conditions for it are there.
It is a simple task, it is easy to do. You will safely pass on the board, as there are no obstacles and obstacles. Nothing is threatening, there is no procrastination.
Example 2. A board with the same parameters is between two houses at a height of 30 meters. All conditions are the same, only the height is added, and you have to go the same 100 meters. Your skills and abilities have not changed, but it is scary to walk on the board because you can fall.
In this situation, a different perception of reality too much depends on whether you fall down or not. Taking the first step, stepping on the board is very scary. Psychologists say that in this situation you raise the board to a scary height from which you can fall. In other words, you are confused to work and test your abilities. It’s a simple task, but you are making it a matter of life and death yourself.
Example 3. The board is still the same, and the height is the same, but flames are raging behind you. You are faced with a choice: either the threat that already exists (fire) or the probable threat of falling from a height. If you do not like the situation with the fire, you can imagine on the other edge of the board a little boy who needs to be saved. And you are the only person who can save yourself or another.
The third example shows a deadline that causes procrastinators to have to start a task because there is no other way out. In such a situation, there are no more thoughts of doing the job perfectly, a person just does it, and often very creatively and qualitatively.
How to combat procrastination? Neil Fiore says that it is necessary to work on themselves and their habits. It’s like an insurance policy in the case of a plank situation. It is possible to walk down it without a feeling of wild fear of falling, it will help self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, and self-esteem.
The benefits of procrastination
There is no doubt that procrastination is a harmful and even dangerous phenomenon, but there are also benefits from it. Let’s look at some examples.
In life, there are different circumstances. An autocratic boss, toxic colleagues, tasks that contradict logic and common sense, stupid questions from the management… In such an environment it is better to sit quietly and not to loiter in front of the boss’s eyes. For a procrastinator, such an atmosphere is much more comfortable than for an activist, because he has a lot of excuses for all occasions.
It may be necessary to fix the iron or take the cat to the vet, or help grandmother in the country, but instead of these essential things you dismantle the closet (go to the gym, meet with an old friend). That is, not very pleasant things you replace the more pleasant and more important at the moment.
From this point of view, procrastination can be called an efficient person’s habit. Such people can put off things that are not of prime importance and do something really important at the moment. You can see plenty of examples where brilliant projects have appeared in the world just because their author did not get involved in cleaning/ laundry/cooking or even studying at Harvard (like Bill Gates, for example).
Experiments show that creative tasks are more effective if a person takes a short break before doing them, rather than rushing off to do them immediately. But too long a pause will worsen the result.
Benefits are useful, but problems arise much more often because of procrastination, so it is necessary to think about how to combat it.
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