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Updated on August 31, 2017

What do you understand by the term procrastination? Have you ever really focused on it, just to get to understand a thing or two about it?

Let’s take a dive into gaining more understanding on this subject.

According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent writer on the subject, procrastination occurs when there’s “a temporal gap between intended behavior and enacted behavior.” That is, when there’s a significant time period between when people intend to do a job, and when they actually do it.

Procrastination is something we all do, or should I say most of us. Others consciously while others sub consciously.

It’s about feeling good “now” by delaying or postponing action, that time when you put something off for later. We could as well say that it is the creation of the gap between intention and action, or in simplest terms, doing things at the last possible minute.

Life is one long chain of procrastination, we put things off because we truly are sometimes busy, but at times it’s because we promise ourselves that we shall find time for them, in a sort of self-deceiving manner.

The word procrastination comes from the Latin words Pro meaning “Put forward” and Crastinus to mean “for tomorrow”. The unwanted skill of putting off an activity until later, knowing very well that “later/Tomorrow” is a mystical land where 98% of human tasks and productivity are stored virtually.

A good example is when you have an assignment to submit on say Friday and you schedule it for the Thursday night because it will only take you an hour. That there is a skill for planning and not necessarily procrastination, but when Thursday night comes and you want to watch a bit of some TV first, catch up on a match, movie or surf the net, check on your Instagram or Facebook accounts, Now that there is procrastinating, simply because you actioned creating a gap between intention and action.

We could say all procrastination is delay, but we cannot say all delay is procrastination.

On one hand you know what you should be doing but experience weakness of will to action.

This is sometimes attributed to failure of the executive function, the skill set that allows us to plan, prioritize and carry out tasks.

For better understanding, I advise classification of procrastination into the below two classes,

  1. Activities that have deadlines

When there are deadlines involved, the effects of procrastination are contained for a short time because the “Panic monster” gets shows up to get it done.

  1. Activities that are in a situation that do not have a deadline

Things outside your our career like taking care of your bed, house, seeing your family or working out; you have to be a self-starter on this one.

We shall not discus deeper into these classes in this week’s article but shall focus on pointers to practice so that we gain mastery on control of procrastination.

Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating:

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks in your To Do List.
  • Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it's important.
  • Regularly saying "Yes" to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • When you are waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.

If you're honest with yourself, you probably know when you're procrastinating. But to be sure, you can take a self-test from the online page; (About 5-10 min)

To embark on taking control

  1. Action! Action! Action! This is a cure for procrastination, initiating and executing the steps one needs to take to get to their goal.
  2. Plan and budget on your resources such as time.
  3. Identification and listing of activities as well as ways of taking action to achieve them.
  4. Develop a mental discipline, necessary to work on something you wish to develop.
  5. Value affirmation; find the value of the task to be accomplished and the benefits it shall offer
  6. Instead of resisting instructions, allow yourself to experience and feel it, tell yourself it’s not as bad as you really think, or it’s not as hard to work out as you really think, visualize yourself doing the activity and feel excited about your effort.
  7. Instead of telling yourself that you should or you must do it, tell yourself that you don’t need to do it but can actually do it, so whenever you procrastinate, tell yourself that you don’t have to do it but can do it.
  8. Tell yourself this is a perfect time to get something done
  9. Manage your goals as well as your emotions, if you can manage your emotions, you can manage your procrastination, the higher your emotional intelligence the lower your procrastination rate; Perceive emotions using understanding.
  10. Allow yourself to “baby step” through whatever activity you wish to do, start small, If we could take the example of you wanting to write a book, allow yourself to write a single topic at a time, and allow the wheel of habit to roll with the action of beginning to take steps.
  11. To deal with your procrastination, start today by scheduling it into your time plan.

3 Steps to Defeat Procrastination

  1. Make commitment easier. Design a strategy to change your behavior. Specifically, reduce the obstacles, or effort, needed to start.
  2. Make starting easier. Generally, it’s not doing the work that’s hard, it’s starting the work. Significantly, once we begin, it’s less painful to do the work. To put it differently, make it as easy as possible to get started.
  3. Make your goal specific and doable. The first thing to remember, specific goals positively impact everything, whether exercise habits or brushing your teeth. Accordingly, stating an exercise goal this way, “I will exercise for 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME],” has been shown to make you 2x to 3x more likely to succeed.

These general tips will help motivate you to get moving:

  • Make up your own rewards. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish tasks!
  • Ask someone else to keep a tab on you. Peer pressure works and is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
  • Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task.
  • Work out the cost of your time.

If you're putting off starting a project because you find it overwhelming, you need to take a different approach. Here are some tips:

  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
  • Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren't the logical first actions. You'll feel that you're aligning to achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won't be so overwhelming after all.

If you’re doing it because you find the task unpleasant:

  • Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. So give it a try! You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought!
  • Hold the unpleasant consequences of not doing the work.
  • Reward yourself for doing the task.

I further leave you with the quotes and phrases below, subtle but quite important in cementing understanding into of this topic.

It’s important to understand that procrastination does not affect just only you.

“If a job is worth doing, it will still be worth doing tomorrow”.

“If you consider it important, do it yesterday”.

“You snooze you loose!”

Do not put your work off till tomorrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his brain; nor one who puts off his work; industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off his work is always at hand grip with ruin” – Hesiod

Frank Odhiambo – Mind grid Perspectives

© 2017 Frank Odhiambo


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