Procrastination Definition and Causes
Isn’t that a perfect description of procrastination?
I can tell you that, as a parent, nothing drove me crazy like the procrastination of my son when he was supposed to do something, and I feel safe in stating that I’m sure my parents felt the same way about me when I was a child.
To a certain extent we expect a certain amount of feet-dragging from our kids. A proper work ethic and responsibility do not come naturally to children; those are things that hopefully come with time and some gentle training by parents and teachers. I confess that there are still times when I still put off till tomorrow what should be done today, and that is after decades of conditioning by parents, teachers, and employers.
But what of those people who seem to raise procrastination to the level of an art form? What shall we do with them? Off with their heads? Shun them? Try to adjust their psyches so they can actually get something done?
I know adults who are in a perpetual state of neutral. Their torque converter ain’t converting if you get my drift. They have big plans; man alive, are their plans huge! However, when it comes to implementing those plans, or even organizing a plan of attack, they settle back, have a cold one, and take another look at those plans to see if maybe they should tweak them a bit.
Before they know it half their lifetime has been spent tweaking and the other half mending their britches because they have been sitting on their ass for so long.
Causes of Procrastination
I have no psychology degree, so the causes of procrastination, as I see them, may or may not be exact or complete. However, the causes I am aware of, and that I have observed, are as follows:
· Anxiety of complicated tasks
· Fear of imperfection
· Lack of focus
· Poor organization skills
· Lack of energy
Let’s us take a look at each of these and hopefully gain a better understanding of them.
Anxiety of Complicated Tasks
This has been, in the past, my number one cause of procrastination. When faced with a list of things to do, I will inevitably leave the most difficult task for last. It makes no difference if the most difficult also is the one that should be the priority; I will leave it for last simply because it is difficult and I have anxiety over it.
I am better at this than I once was, but it still exists. Show me a list of ten things to do, and the most difficult will be the tenth item that I complete. I have friends who are the exact opposite, and they like to get the most difficult item out of the way so it is all downhill from there. Not me! I like to struggle uphill as often as possible.
Fear of Imperfection
I have had students who suffered from this when doing their assignments. If they couldn’t be perfect they literally did not even do the assignment. Their success in my class depended largely on the number of difficult assignments I gave them.
It is a miserable way to go through life, seeking perfection and being incapacitated when perfection is not attained.
A blizzard of ideas, a plethora of options, and this person ends up doing nothing because they can’t decide on the path to take. One wonders what this person would do if confronted with Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.
Paralysis-by-indecision is of course fueled, in part, by fear of making the wrong decision, and this writer has certainly known people who fit into this category. Driven by low self-esteem and insecurity, this person literally cannot leave the starting gate and choose a direction.
Lack of Focus
I have known people with ADD and ADHD who could not complete a task because their focus was spread so thinly between several competing thoughts. I have had students who fit into this category quite nicely. They would turn in five incomplete assignments during the week. They started each assignment in a timely fashion, but somewhere during the week they got distracted and headed off to do something else, never to return to the incomplete assignment.
Poor Organizational Skills
Try to picture my friend Tim. That is not his name, but just go with it for the purpose of this discussion. If Tim is faced with a task, he begins admirably. Let’s say he needs to change the furnace filter.
Tim will approach the furnace, kneel down, and then realize he doesn’t know what he is doing. Off he goes to the filing cabinet to get instructions. He comes back, kneels down, and then realizes he didn’t grab his tools. Off to the garage, grabs the tools, opens up the instructions, and then realizes that he hasn’t purchased a new filter. Off he goes to the store and….well, you get the picture.
Lack of Energy
Whether it be for a medical reason, or poor nutrition, or whatever, this person simply does not have the energy it takes to complete a task. They may lack the physical energy, the mental energy, or the emotional energy, but whatever it is, they can’t muster up the desire or oomph to get the job done.
Yes, there are lazy people in this world. Sadly, they keep putting off chores of any kind because they are just too darn lazy to do them. I might point out that this just was not allowed in the household I grew up in. Laziness was not in my father’s vocabulary, so consequently it is not in mine.
When we have eliminated all of the above reasons, and none of them apply, we are left with the ugliness of laziness.
Are You A Procrastinator?
And That Leaves Us Where?
Well, as you might expect, I have several things to say. Let’s start with the fact that the average lifespan of a male in the United States is 75.6 years; for a female, 80.8 years. This writer has lived 64 years, one month, and fourteen days to date. I have a little less than twelve years remaining if I am average.
I do not have time to procrastinate.
My father died of a heart attack when he was forty-nine years old.
He did not have time to procrastinate.
Let us set aside those who have a medical condition that could lead to procrastination. Those of you with ADD, ADHD, or paralyzing fear are excused from the following discussion. You are not, however, excused from doing something about procrastination. Seek medical advice and learn to deal with whatever it is that is hindering you.
Now, for the rest of you out there, you procrastinators who back off at the first sign of anxiety or difficulty; those of you who cower when your imperfection rears its ugly head; and those of you who are just too darn lazy to get anything done.
You are running out of time!
What is it that you procrastinate on? Finding a better job? Writing that novel you have been putting off? Going on a cruise that you have dreamed of for years? Starting a new career? Standing up for yourself and your rights? Breaking off a damaging relationship? Making your mark on life?
Or is it something more mundane? Maybe you always procrastinate on chores? Maybe you drag your feet when it comes time to pay bills?
Whatever it is, it is time to move forward. Whatever it is, it is time to toss aside the excuses and the anxiety and the laziness, and move forward.
I love the dreamers of the world. I love their soaring goals and their ethereal purpose. However, dreaming to me seems like a meaningless activity if there is no action. I have a friend (we will call her Brie) who dreamed of starting over in life as a writer. She tossed it around for quite some time, and finally decided to just do it. She is now exceedingly happy, a happiness she would have never known if she had not ended her procrastination. I also have another friend who has talked of being a teacher for twenty years. She is still not a teacher! There is always some reason why she isn’t able to take that next step.
I find that sad!
Something to think about
One Last Thought
My goal in writing this article is not to preach. My goal is not to make you feel bad about your procrastination. My goal is to simply point out what should be obvious: time is running out!
If you think you are guaranteed tomorrow, then let me smoke whatever it is you are smoking. There are no guarantees, and there are no curtain calls in life. This is it! If you are wasting time you are wasting the most valuable resource that you have. It is certainly the most precious because it keeps diminishing but keeps growing in importance.
Waste time no more! Procrastinate no more! Hop on board life and ride that sucker until your riding days are over. When that last day comes, you will have an eternity to procrastinate.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)