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Procrastination, the thief of time

Many of us are incorrigible procrastinators. We keep on procrastinating on tasks that should be done today for tomorrow or some unspecified day in the future. There is no cause for excitement or surprise because a 2015 study published in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy found that about 50% of people consider themselves ‘mild’ or ‘average’ when it comes to procrastinating. About 20% view themselves as chronic procrastinators. That means they procrastinate in many different areas of their lives including work, relationships, finances, health or education.

How does procrastination fit into time management? Those who are good at time management know exactly what they should do at a particular point of time. They want to avoid disastrous results coming in the wake of postponing tasks that should be one at a particular time. However, psychologists believe that procrastination is not really a time management issue, but has something to do with emotions. We tend to postpone tasks when we find them boring or difficult to perform. It could be that you do not want to start a job today because you are not sure if you would be able to do it well.

Most of the time we tend to postpone tasks for short-term benefits. For instance, you begin to think something is going to be a hard job or you do not know how to do it properly. However, most procrastinators forget the long-term benefits. Those who are compelled to complete a course of studies during a specified period cannot afford to postpone assignments or reading textbooks. If they do so, they will not be able to reap the long-term benefits of passing a particular examination.

Unpleasant experience

According to Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist based in Lake Forest, Illinois, “Even though you’re procrastinating and you’re trying to avoid whatever unpleasant experience you think you’re going to have, by avoiding it you still have that hanging on you, so it’s still having a negative impact on you even if you’re not doing it.”

Although procrastination is not a psychiatric problem, it can lead to surging stress levels, health issues and poor performance at school and work. What is more, those who postpone their studies will have a serious problem when they have to sit for an examination. Procrastination can impact you emotionally, physically, relationship-wise and obviously work-wise.

You might wonder whether you could overcome your habits of procrastination. Psychologists say it is possible to do so. They have suggested many ways in which you can overcome your habit provided you do not postpone doing so.

Positive approach

The first step is to adopt a positive approach. It is pointless blaming yourself for being a procrastinator. If you label yourself as a procrastinator, you will remain so for the rest of your life. Therefore, even if you had been a procrastinator in the past, you should forgive yourself for having been one. This can be done easily if you think of past failures. Instead of feeling guilty, you can focus on the future programme with a positive outlook. In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences it was disclosed how a group of students who forgave themselves for procrastinating had reached their target.

It is always good to ask yourself why you are putting off tasks. It may be due to fear of failure. Or the task may be more difficult than you had anticipated. When you address the root of the problem, you will get an insight into the whole issue. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, came up with a two-minute rule which many procrastinators have adopted with good results. According to him, if a task will take just less than two minutes, do it then and there. Completing simple tasks speedily will improve your productivity and self-confidence. On the other hand, when you do simple tasks immediately, you do not have to prepare a “to-do” or a priority list.

Whether you are productive or not depends on two factors. The first is whether you are confident of completing the task successfully. Secondly, you should believe it is worthwhile doing the task. Focussing on the reason for doing a particular task will help you complete it in no time.

Destiny

When you are in control of your destiny, anything can be done easily. Psychologists say that when you assume someone else would help you reach your goal you are less motivated. For instance, if you happen to be the son or daughter of powerful or wealthy parents, you will often have no motivation to study hard, pass examinations and achieve goals.

One easy method of doing a difficult task is to break it into chunks. Small pieces are easy to manage. As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time!”

If you are continually putting off tasks, schedule them on your calendar. Take a firm stand that your appointments are non-negotiable. Then you will reach your goal in no time. Be inspired by Edward Young’s poem:

Procrastination is the thief of time:

Year after year it steals, till all are fled,

And to the mercies of a moment leaves

The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Always remember that tomorrow is the day when idlers work and fools reform, and mortal men lay hold on heaven!

karunaratners@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 11:03:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/procrastination-the-thief-of-time/article25526521.ece

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