procrastinate (v.) from Latin procrastinatus, “to put off till tomorrow, defer, delay”
Is procrastination a choice? A decision? Opinion varies about this. It certainly is a habit, a mind-set, and one which we know works against our own best interests. Piers Steel, who is a researcher and speaker on the science of motivation and procrastination, defines procrastination as:
Willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off.
Steel has his own site, Procrastination and Science, which outlays ideas of interest in this field. There, you can: Measure My Procrastination! He’s also written a book, The Procrastination Equation – How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.
Dr Katherine Brooks, who is the director of Liberal Arts Career Service at the University of Texas at Austin and author of: You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career, believes that:
This habit can seriously hurt you in a work setting. If you’re one of those folks who believes that you do your best work at the last minute and put off projects or assignments until the day (or hour) before they’re due, you may not be aware of the impact your habit is having on your co-workers.
A single bad habit is not likely to get you fired immediately, but the cumulative effect of the bad habit over time can. People might notice one bad habit, and it preps them to notice other faults or problems.
Be aware of what’s going on.
Dr Phil, a well-known ‘pop’ psychologist and media figure, would admonish: You have to name it, to claim it. In many ways this is true; especially in the case of procrastination. If you’re not aware of what’s in operation, what motivates you to put matters off, despite this being not in your best interests, then you have small chance of making change. Why do we procrastinate?
Steel believes at the heart of procrastination is impulsiveness. … impulsive people find it difficult to plan work ahead of time and even after they start, they are easily distracted. Procrastination inevitably follows.
While other studies may complex matters, while Neuro-Science may have further explanation, what Steel observes from his research does ring a chord. We may excuse ourselves; rationalize. We may even be oblivious. However impulsiveness certainly does impact on – time management – focus – commitment; the overall attitude to and methodology of task management.
Ironically, most of us know what measures to take:
- clarify what task is most important
- clear away everything but this more important task
- clarify motivations for this task
- break it down into something smaller and easier steps if facing difficulty
Sounds so simple, yet, so elusive at times.
Defusing procrastination through mindfulness
There’s small chance of clarifying matters unless you recognize, take-in-hand, that’s the case. It’s less likely that you will set before yourself the Most Important Task, or clear away distractions, or even break down into small steps a task you’re dreading, until, you bring yourself more fully into-the-moment. Too often we forget to be aware?
Being mindful in the moment, then setting yourself reminders, is one method that works for some. Others like to add on a reward system. To be mindful in-the-moment for some means eliminating all distractions. Maybe it’s about defusing the feelings about the dreaded-task? No matter what, and, there’s a myriad of ways, it all comes back to being mindful.
Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.
You can change the course of your habits through:
- Letting go
Don’t lose sight of those habits which work for you. Foster and build upon these.
In the next part of this series the need to communicate well is considered.