By Simran Kabotra.
Procrastination: “The act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.”
We all know what this is. We all know how it feels. We all know how much it distracts us. It certainly is a bad habit we are all guilty of, no matter how studious or organised we are. You have a deadline within the next three weeks but you allow yourself to take it easy “because you have time”. A week before the due date, you assure yourself that the essay can be completed within two or three days instead, thus procrastinating some more.
Besides, looking at YouTube videos of how to make a stress ball seems more relevant and so you convince yourself that you need to go through the stress of making a stress ball! You don’t posses any of the materials but you watch it nonetheless as preparation for when you do make it.
One day. Maybe.
You then go on a whole YouTube spree listening to music from your childhood, stalking your secondary school ‘friends’ on Facebook. How about watching this documentary on how crisps are made? How many packets of crisps do the people of the UK eat? What is the most commonly eate-
You look at the time. You have twenty four hours remaining to write 3,000 words and you have not begun to plan anything. Panic, anxiety and self-loathing ensues and you type faster than you have ever typed in your life with the help of your trusted friend – caffeine. You eventually submit the assignment after a gruelling night of sleep deprivation, yet you know the work is substandard at best.
However, the next time an assignment is due, the guilt and regret you previously felt does not compel you to begin your work immediately.
Thus, the catastrophic cycle continues.
How Procrastination Works
Psychologists have theorised about many different ways in which procrastination works. Some have declared that procrastination is an avoidance behaviour or coping mechanism when we feel dread and anxiety if an important task gets too much for us. To handle this anxiety or fear, procrastinators will carry out a task that is more pleasurable to make them feel temporarily better. There are various types of procrastinators; some search for cat GIFs while others will accomplish things, such as rearranging the house or cleaning their rooms.
Psychologists also believe the main problem with procrastinators is their temptation to give in to instant gratification, arousing instant relief (called hedomic pleasure), instead of focusing on the long-term target.
Researchers have also theorised a concept between the present self and the future self. We believe the person we are in the future is the same person we are presently, therefore we barely have any empathy or concern for the future self. We then focus on the present self because we are more focused on how we feel right now, in this moment. Psychologist Hal Hershfield at UCLA further illustrates:
“When making long-term decisions, [people] tend to fundamentally feel a lack of emotional connection to their future selves. So even though I know on some fundamental level in a year’s time, I’ll still be me, in some ways I treat that future self as if he’s a fundamentally different person… as if he’s not going to benefit or suffer from the consequences of my actions today.”
There are numerous amounts of studies and concepts that help understand procrastination better since it is considered to be a condition that is innate to us individually and not just a matter of managing time efficiently. Telling a procrastinator to “just stop procrastinating and do your work” is as useful as telling an individual suffering from depression to “just cheer up”.
However, there are also ways to overcome this detrimental condition. A selection of these will be discussed in my next post.
Dictionary.com. Procrastination. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/procrastination (accessed February 09, 2017).
Hal Hershfield UCLA:
Ana Swanson. The real reasons you procrastinate — and how to stop. 27 April 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/27/why-you-cant-help-read-this-article-about-procrastination-instead-of-doing-your-job/?utm_term=.e5196a23ba45 (accessed February 09, 2017).