What Is Procrastination?
“Have you started on this week’s assignment yet?” you ask.
“Nah, I’ll do it tomorrow,” your friend replies nonchalantly.
“Didn’t you say that a few days ago?”
I bet this situation sounds familiar. I also bet you can guess the meaning of procrastination from this short conversation. According to U-Dictionary’s definition, procrastination is the art of delaying an action until a later time regardless of its consequences.
A person who does the procrastination is called a procrastinator which is also a noun. In the conversation above, your friend is the procrastinator. As a student, I was a massive procrastinator. Assignment? What assignment?
Procrastination can also be defined as a lack of self-control. When I knew I was supposed to be working on an assignment, I allowed myself to get distracted by the smallest things such as a noise in the kitchen when I already knew someone was cooking. My desire to not work on the assignment clearly out-rivaled my concern for the deadline.
Is procrastination associated with laziness then? According to MindTools, it isn’t. Procrastination is an active process. Laziness, on the other hand, is “an unwillingness to act.”
Why Do We Procrastinate?
“This is going to take me all night!” your friend complains.
“I told you so,” you reply. “Good luck!”
I hear too many stories from friends and acquaintances that they pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline. I am guilty of this myself.
From the conversation above, it’s clear that your friend is frustrated due to his or her past actions. If he or she knew they would be in a frustrating situation, why would they choose to still procrastinate? This leads to the discussion of our present self and future self.
According to JamesClear, there are two parts of the self: your Future self and Present self. Setting a goal (e.g. learning a new language) is a plan for your future self. When you make a plan for your future self, you can clearly envision the value in taking action. However, only our present self can take action.
When we make a current decision, we are thinking of our present self instead of our future self. Unfortunately, researchers discovered that our present self-values “instant gratification” not “long-term payoff.” Therefore, while our future-self wants to become bilingual or multilingual, our present-self wants to spend our free time watching a movie. The consequences of not learning a new language such as increased job offers or promotions are years away.
Procrastinating On Procrastination
As our future self and present-self are constantly in conflict with each other, how can we stop procrastinating? Or at least procrastinate on procrastination?
Make Rewards Immediate
For example, by finishing this chapter of a book for English class, you get to watch an episode of your favorite TV show. According to JamesClear, this is known as “temptation bundling.” This term suggests that you “bundle a behavior” good for you in both the long-run and short-run.
In the above example, you’re close to finishing or are about to finish your book for class. In exchange, you can watch that show you’ve been putting off for a while. Another example of temptation bundling is listening to your favorite podcast while doing chores.
Break A Larger Task Into Smaller Tasks
Similar to the example above, you were breaking a large task (reading an entire English book) into smaller tasks (reading a chapter a day). However, this one breaks it down even further. How? Let’s look at the example of Anthony Trollope.
Anthony Trollope is a famous writer who published 47 novels, 18 non-fiction works, 12 short stories, 2 plays, and various letters and articles. How the heck did he do it?
Rather than measuring his progress by the number of chapters or books, he set a goal of achieving 250 words every 15 minutes. He continued this pattern every day for three hours. The immediate satisfaction he received pushed him to accomplish the daunting task of book writing.
Anthony Trollope’s example showed that he not only broke the task down into smaller bits but he was also consistent. Being consistent gives birth to habits–good or bad. Therefore, by continuously procrastinating, it’s easier to fall into the trap of continuously leaving things until the very last minute.
While your body will likely become accustomed to the adrenaline, it’s best to develop good habits to boost productivity for those daunting future tasks.
Name Some Goals!
What methods will you implement to help you achieve your goals? What goals do you want to achieve? Let us know!