“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
Pablo Picasso used to say that. The problem is that whenever you are supposed to do something, the only thing you are willing to die for is doing anything other than the one thing you actually need to do.
For instance, you have this amazing idea for what you think might become a bestseller and you sit down in front of your laptop in order to write. You can almost hear the fans begging for your autograph and your making-ideas-happen advice when, all of a sudden, you see the dust on your laptop keyboard. You can’t possibly concentrate with that kind of fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on your keyboard, so you start wiping it away and, you know, since you already have a fancy looking feather duster in your hand, you might as well clean the whole room. Then, the kitchen. And, since you’re in the kitchen, you make yourself a nice sandwich, although you’re not really hungry.
A whole list of reasons why procrastinating is ok
Sympathizers of procrastination often say it doesn’t matter when a task gets done, as long as it’s eventually finished. Some even believe they work best under pressure. That’s the only two explanations I could find because these pleople probably found some dust while writing the list. If you’re having guilt goosebumps while reading this, the question you really need to ask yourself is: will it take an act of God to get you to sit down and write or complete your task, whatever that is? No, I’m joking. The real question is quite predictable, considering the title of this article: Why do we procrastinate? Why, God, why?
The answer is so simple it hurts. It is said that you procrastinate when a part of you believes that achieving your goal or finishing your project will cause some sort of perceived, imaginary pain in the future. Don’t say I didn’t warn you it involved pain. So we are talking about a protection mechanism to keep you safe from your fears. Pretty weird, huh? It’s actually not that bad if you think about the hairy frog, a Central African species (which, despite its name, isn’t hairy at all), that cracks its own bones as a defense mechanism. Seriously, it pushes its metatarsals through its skin to form sharp claws. Now, having said all that, let’s take a look at the most common methods of procrastination that we fall prey to:
1. Surfing Facebook
I bet even the hairy frog can be found if you search it in this online social networking service! Is it ok to call it that? Or might “an ultra powerful magnet that sucks you in even if you try to set your limits before starting” be more appropriate in the procrastination world? What does Facebook have to do with fears and all that talk from the above, you may ask.
If you often get lost in Facebook or any other social network sites instead of getting your work done, it’s most likely because, on some level, you have a fear of being seen. Now let me grab a pair of thick glasses and start talking like a therapist. Ok, so on Facebook, you are a voyeur. This means that you spend your time looking at others rather than finishing your work. Isn’t it possible that you’re using Facebook to protect yourself from finishing your work because after you finish it, the world will see it? And maybe criticize it? That is a scary thought, isn’t it?
Scary thought monster be like…
2. Waiting for something for…ever
Have you used the phrase “I’m just waiting for the right opportunity”? I know I have. Starting a venture you have been dreaming of is quite exciting, but somehow we simply avoid starting it, for no apparent reason. Of course it’s not an obvious reason. Few things are clear when it comes to seeing the inner truth.
Support is a wonderful thing and necessary in many cases. In most cases, support comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you expect to receive it in at least one form. “That doesn’t make me emotionally or financially dependent, you half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerfherder”, you might say. I know, we need support to thrive, but if you are not getting the job done because you are waiting for the perfect opportunity to fall into the chair next to you, or you are overly dependent on the idea of waiting for something external to yourself to “save” you, you might be dealing with a deep-rooted fear of failure. Does “I am not good enough on my own” sound familiar? Stop fearing that you’ll fail if you try something on your own. People fail all the time (it’s just that when they’re not on their own, it’s easier to blame the others).
3. Being a perfectionist
Perfection is like an eel: slippery, so you might be wasting your time and energy trying to catch it. Admit it. How many times have you edited something you wrote until it was perfectly… dead? Sure, being a perfectionist and having a keen eye for details help us become better. However, being a perfectionist might not be perfect.
What’s in fact a simple task may get blown out of proportion, to the extent it becomes subconsciously intimidating. This makes you procrastinate on it, waiting for the ever “perfect” moment before you get to it, so think you have a right to know that your perfectionism is a protection mechanism that is sabotaging your work. You’re afraid that other people will judge and criticize you just like you criticize yourself. Voilà! As it is a self-imposed pressure, you are able to stop it yourself. Start by asking yourself questions such as:
- Are my thoughts factual?
- Am I jumping to negative conclusions like a possesed bunny?
- Is this situation as bad as I’m making it out to be?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- How likely is that to happen?
Since you got to the last sentence, I’m guessing you didn’t decide to read this article later, so I really hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget: “You may delay, but time will not”.