14 September 2017

Ethiopia: You May Procrastinate but Do It Now, Not Tomorrow!

opinion

Procrastination is my sin,

It brings me nothing but sorrow.

I know that I should stop it,

In fact, I will - tomorrow.

(Poem by unidentified writer)

The unidentified procrastinator apparently knows that he/she is actually suffering from failure to meet deadlines. It is also exciting enough to know that the person believes the situation has to stop. Yet, ironically, he/she procrastinate to halt his/her procrastination. As you might find this funny, you might also find yourself caught in it. But don't worry, you are not alone in this.

On similar instance, hilarious as it may seem, it has been a while since I decided to write an article on this matter, but it did take me sometime to begin the actual writing. After a series of postponement for weeks, it finally happened. This being true to many of us, it should be considered a serious problem if we are totally loosing control of the situation.

Procrastination, as a tendency to put things forward until tomorrow, or some unspecified time in the future, is usually done voluntarily and appears to be normal; yet it is rarely judged to be a positive thing. Sometimes people procrastinate by postponing an intended course of action even if they know the situation would be worse due to the delay.

Some have believed that it is a sign of time management problem, where as, it is rather more of an emotion management problem, that resulted in inefficiency in time utilization.

Surveys suggest that 80 percent of the global population procrastinate while the rest 20 percent are to be labeled as procrastinators. That means, if you are a real procrastinator, you are among the 20 percent who need a serious therapy because it has turned out to be a chronic problem that might affect your life.

The reasons people procrastinate are not scientifically well understood as experts in psychology and mental health have not reached an agreed conclusion. Some researchers have viewed procrastination largely as a failure of self-regulation like other bad behaviors that have to do with a lack of self-control, such as overeating, a gambling problem or extravagance. Others say it is not a matter of being lazy or failing to manege time, as many smart overachievers who procrastinate often can attest. These ones believe that it may actually be linked to "how our brain works and to deeper perceptions of time and the self".

Yet from a general observation, people who procrastinate tend to reason out their inclination of putting things off to future time on different grounds. Some people can not be aroused to accomplish a certain task until the deadline approaches. For these kind of people, specially people we know back in college are mostly known for their common behavior in their inability to commence their studies ahead of examinations. We all have gone through that, but many students gain motivation for studies when only a couple of days are left before the exam, even some students continue to procrastinate knowing that they have to sit for exam the next day.

However, not all procrastinators are in it to find motivation, some procrastinate to avoid the unpleasant feeling they encounter on doing certain tasks they think they are uncomfortable to do so. These ones are not waiting the right time to find the necessary motivation, they are simply getting rid off the tasks they are supposed to do as they don't feel like doing them.

In the meantime, there are people who tend to put things off to the future to make sure they are making the right decision. These people do not like to regret as a result of faults in their own decisions, so they prefer to wait until the last ticks of seconds before passing decisions or accomplishing certain tasks.

Once the reality of a deadline comes in again, procrastinators feel more extreme shame and guilt knowing that failure is imminent. Researchers believed that, for an extreme procrastinator, those negative feelings can be just another reason to put the task off, with the behavior turning into a vicious, self-defeating cycle.

Hence, it is clear that the situation, however common and familiar to our daily routine, could also be damaging and devastating. According to a researcher at Princeton University chronic procrastinators tend to have low self-esteem and focus on the past. It may also lead to lower grades and performances causing higher levels of stress and illness.

Nevertheless, there are also proponents who argue the other way round. For these , procrastinators are great visionaries. They believe they can achieve extraordinary things. Some use it as a means to manage time, because they perform best under pressure.

A handful of recommendations have been forwarded to help us overcome procrastination. The most interesting advise I found quite relevant and helpful is the one that is directed to the mindset of people. A researcher recommends that one needs to recognize that he/she don't necessarily have to be in the mood to do a certain task, "just ignore how you feel and get started", the researcher proclaims. It is a suggestion that instead of focusing on feelings, we have to think about what the next action is, and we should start doing it now.

I found a dialogue on a popular television show 'The Simpsons' as a pretty good illustration of the different ways we think about our present and future selves. In this episode, the wife talks to her husband for not spending enough time with their kids. "Some day, these kids will be out of the house, and you'll regret not spending more time with them," she says.

And her husband, Homer, a humorous and sarcastic character in the show says "That's a problem for future Homer. Man, I don't envy that guy". The way Homer depicts how far we go to avoid doing things is quite epic.

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