The art of procrastination: Why we put things off

At one stage or another we are all guilty of procrastination, I know I am. Perhaps you are procrastinating right now by reading this blog.

For me procrastination is putting off those tasks that I just don’t enjoy doing as much. Nearly half (43%) of you said that you too are procrastinating because the “Task is unpleasant or something that I don’t like”. Whilst another 43% are procrastinating because there are “Too many tasks on the to-do list, I don’t even know where to start.” The rest are procrastinating because “I don’t have enough time or energy to do it perfectly and I don’t want to do it badly.”

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” – Olin Miller

The easiest choice would be just to get started and do those less appealing tasks first, so why is it that we continue to put those tasks off?

Timothy A. Pychyl posted an article in Psychology Today about procrastination summarised:

‘… if we have internalised unrealistic standards, are plagued with self-doubt and prone to self-criticism, we’re most likely to avoid our work to avoid what we believe is inevitable failure. And, while this short-term avoidance may provide some immediate mood repair, in the longer term, we pay the price with the distress that task avoidance and last minute efforts bring.’

And let’s face it, how many times have we put something off, only to then be thinking about it and letting it ‘stew’ in the back of our minds until we actually do complete it? And the more we worry about trying to do something perfectly, the less time we have to actually complete it.

Whether you are a perfectionist or not, or whether you put off items for only a certain period of time, the long-term results will be increased stress, missing deadlines, and most importantly not having time to do the things we actually enjoy.

The more I think about a task as unpleasant or impossible to start, the reality is I will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. We create more stress by struggling to balance other deadlines and not knowing where to start…perhaps what we really need to do is Just Start!

I am making a choice from now on to do the important tasks of the day first so that I can plan the rest of the day in a more realistic fashion.

Make that dreaded phone call, send that response email to a complaint, do those tedious tasks or not so ‘thrilling’ filing jobs and don’t look back! Don’t let the fear of doing/completing the task prevent you from achieving results. As they say, ‘The greatest thing to fear is fear itself.’

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank