Published on July 7th, 2013 | by Dan Walsh4
Stop Procrastinating and Read This Right Now
There was a time after college when I was an incorrigible procrastinator. I would put things off until the last possible moment or make the task much larger than it actually was. A 20 minute chore would take me half a day to complete because I’d spend hours dragging my feet. Easy, small, big, little, it didn’t matter. Eventually I would end up with a mountain of tasks that seemed impossible because I spent so much time avoiding them, and because I turned them into high stress situations by waiting so long.
It took a few years and a lot of self-reflection to cultivate better habits. Most of my progress was made by recognizing bad habits and forcing myself to correct them, but I never really understood the emotional motivations that triggered my procrastination in the first place. After reading Procrastination is Not Laziness, by David Cain, it made a lot more sense.
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
Ironically, I mostly procrastinated on pet projects that I was actually excited about. Because these projects were manifestations of my goals and my dreams, failing at them really would have been a huge blow to my self esteem. I wasn’t failing a spelling test, I was failing at my life.
A person who does not have this neurosis might wish they didn’t make a mistake, whereas the neurotic procrastinator perceives the error as being a reflection of their character. In other words, most people suffer mainly the practical consequences of mistakes (such as finishing with a lower grade, or having to redo something) with only minor self-esteem implications, while neurotic procrastinators perceive every mistake they make as being a flaw in them.
I think I developed the habit in regards to my own projects, and then it eventually consumed other areas of my life.
Because it is rewarding on the short term, procrastination eventually takes on the form of an addiction to the temporary relief from these deep-rooted fears. Procrastinators get an extremely gratifying “hit” whenever they decide to let themselves off the hook for the rest of the day, only to wake up to a more tightly squeezed day with even less confidence.
We can’t fit everything into a single day, so the nature of time is that things get put off. I don’t know when this behaviour becomes procrastination, and I don’t know when it devolves into a full-fledged neurosis. What I do know is that it is always worth understanding why we do what we do so we can become better. I feel like I finally have a good grip on why I used to procrastinate, and I think his post is a great read for anyone who’s been putting something off. Even if it’s only been a day or two.
Read: Procrastination is not Laziness, by David Cain
Image by ctwang726