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The art of procrastination

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

“ - I have to write the article this week, yes or yes. Ah, but I still have time. After all, I still have a week. Well, I'm just going to listen to this podcast, the new album of my favorite artists, and read a chapter from my book to then start to write. Ah, it's so late already, I'll take care of it tomorrow.

(following day)

- Ok, now I'll write my article . Ah, but I need to put some music on first. Let me look for the perfect song. (three hours later) Well, now I can't write the article anymore, I have to go to sleep. Because, after all, I need to rest for tomorrow to have the energy to do the research for my article.

(a week later)

:- Ahhh, how is it that a week has passed and I still haven't read anything to write my article, let alone start writing? I have to send it tomorrow to be published! I'll have to stay up the rest of the night doing research. And for sure everyone will realize it was written at once, people won't like it or won't understand it and they'll realize I'm a fake!"

Has anyone identified themselves with the situation described above? Well, let me tell you: a psychologist also procrastinates. I also adopt behaviors that are not so healthy. I too have fears and anxieties. And the hardest thing is to admit it publicly. What will my patients think? Will they look at me differently? Well, it can happen, but the truth is that I believe that sharing is where I grow, when I become aware of my less rational behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts. First, sharing my experience helps me – helps me rationalize my thinking, challenge my behavior, change my habit. Second, it helps others understand that there are more people acting in the same irrational way, driven by beliefs that may be less healthy. And realize that we are not alone in what I like to call (ironically) – the art of procrastinating. And all the masters of procrastination that are on this side know how difficult it is to find the best activity to escape a few our obligations, which at that moment seem so difficult, laborious, or too demanding for us.

"-I have to call that friend I promised to call a month ago, but first I have to clean up my house."

- “I really have to study for the final exam next week, but first I'm going to bake a cake so that I have a reward for studying”.

So I ask you, "but wouldn't it be easier to do it right away and not worry about it anymore?" Well, it would be. The matter would be resolved and we could do anything without the feeling of guilt. But it's easier said than done, especially for us die-hard procrastinators.

After all, what is procrastination? Is it laziness? Fear? Escape? Devaluation?

And how can we improve this behavior? After all, no one wants to live with this feeling of guilt forever. Maybe I'd rather listen to my podcast, read my book and go for a walk, without having this voice in the background saying to me "Shouldn't you be at home reading material for this week's article?"

Procrastinating means putting something off for tomorrow; postponement; delay. Procrastinating is not postponing something without knowing its consequences or because we think it will be better that way. Procrastination refers to the unnecessary and irrational delay in a task or decision-making accompanied by psychological discomfort and negative emotions such as guilt and dissatisfaction.

This is a common behavior that causes significant damage to people's quality of life and is considered relatively difficult to change because it provides temporary comfort in demanding, uncertain and responsibilities-filled moments. It is, therefore, an avoidance strategy in the face of aversive tasks.

And what reasons can lead us to adopt this strategy? There may be people's excessive preoccupation with their own ability to do things correctly; irrational fear of failure, others delay tasks because they don't want to do them; and then there are those who procrastinate because they aren't organized or just don't know where to start.

We can conclude that perfectionism, fear, guilt, and avoidance are the keywords for this constant postponement behavior.

So how can we change this? How can we face our irrational fear of failure and criticism?

We have to start by changing our perspective. Realizing that what should motivate us is enthusiasm and not the fear of failure or the sense of duty. Recognize your efforts, even if you weren't the best. Readjust your sense of unconditional self-esteem. Our value does not depend on our success or how perfect the article we write is. Embedding the maximum – making mistakes is an opportunity to learn and grow. And last but not the easiest, stop trying to control all your emotions. Show yourself as vulnerable. Don be afraid to show yourself. Have the courage to be vulnerable to those closest to us, so they can show us how important and brave we are even when all we want is to run away or spend the next few hours looking for the perfect music that will motivate us to face the our obligations.

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