Procrastination – How To Deal With The Silent Life Destroyer

Photo by LadyDayDream

Procrastination is a problem that afflicts many people. But what causes you to avoid completing tasks that you really need to do? What are the solutions for this annoying and frustrating problem?

While there may be many causes of procrastination, there are probably two major contributors that stand out as being the main ones. Those factors are perfectionism and impulsivity.

For perfectionism, procrastination tends to happen because the perfectionist has a fear that the completed task will never live up to their ideal standards of how it should be done. So they never even start.​

Impulsivity, on the other hand, is an obstacle to getting things done because the person constantly has too many tasks going on simultaneously. And so they find it difficult to focus on any one thing for any period of time. They may also create new tasks as they go along to avoid doing any unpleasant work.​

Too Perfect? Too Impulsive?​

So how do these concepts of perfectionism and impulsivity explain the workings of procrastination?​

When we look more closely at the subject, it becomes clear that there is more going on than first meets the eye. This is because, while perfectionism does cause procrastination to some extent, not everybody is a perfectionist and yet they still procrastinate.​

Similarly with impulsivity, while it can also cause procrastination, it does not adequately explain how people can put off doing things for many months. To achieve that level of procrastination takes quite some work and this amount of focused effort seems to contradict the idea of impulsivity.​

All of this appears to suggest that there is more to the story of procrastination than there first appears to be.​

When you look more closely, procrastination starts to reveal itself as having many facets, causes and behaviors related to it. Though we use the word procrastination as a general term, the truth seems to be that there are different kinds of procrastination.​

It would be nice to be able to say that procrastination is caused by just one single issue and by dealing with that matter, the problem is solved. However, in reality, it just isn’t that easy.

Humans: Bad Long Term Planners?​

It actually seems to be that human beings are, generally speaking, not very good at creating long-term plans for anything. If you think about our ancient ancestors, there was probably little need to make any kind of plan beyond the immediate future, whether that was to deal with some physical threat or some wanted gratification. Our evolution as humans may well have made us good at focusing in the present, but bad at planning for the long-term future.​

This concept certainly backs up the idea of impulsivity being one of the causes of procrastination. However, again, to spoil our theory, we find that there are people who are good at long-term planning, so this cannot be a general rule for human beings.​

Instead, it may be better to identify two distinct forms of procrastination, simple and chronic.​

Simple procrastination happens when you have something to do that just doesn’t interest you at all, or which you find unpleasant or inconvenient. This kind of procrastination seems to be well explained by the concepts of perfectionism, impulsivity, and the inability to plan long-term, that we have spoken about already.​

Chronic Procrastination​

Chronic procrastination, on the other hand, is a different beast. What causes you to keep putting off filing your tax returns for months? What causes you to avoid completing a simple home improvement project for most of the year?​

Putting off tasks for months, even years can lead to personal ruin. Those who suffer from it seem powerless to do anything about it. They feel stressed endlessly, and no matter what they do, they just cannot appear to rid themselves of the inability to get these tasks done.​

It seems reasonable to suppose that this form of procrastination is driven by deep-rooted fears within the individual. There was something about the task that is being procrastinated upon that triggers a deep-seated feeling of threat in the sufferer. Their mind thinks that its survival is at stake if it had to tackle these kinds of tasks. Yes, logically this makes no sense whatsoever but, quite often, instinctive and mechancial drives that are deep within us do not make much logical sense.​

People who are suffering from this kind of procrastination feel powerless or helpless to make any meaningful progress with what they are doing. It is like they feel they cannot do anything at all to deal with the deep-seated fears that the task triggers. They feel paralyzed at a deep level, and sometimes they cannot even get themselves to acknowledge that they even have a problem.​

What Can Be Done?​

So what other cures for procrastination? What can be done about dealing with simple and chronic procrastination?​

If it is true that human beings are poor long-term planners, as we have said above, then the first conclusion we must reach is there is probably not much we can do to cure the problem at all. We probably have to admit that the best we can do is make the problem of procrastination slightly less bad. We can just learn to deal with it and live with it, but that is it.​

One way of "living with it" that many people turn towards is that of organizational systems. This includes everything from methodologies such as David Allen’s GTD approach, to time management planning software and apps. These "hacks" work for many people but ultimately, they are only fixes for short-term simple procrastination. The fear-driven long-term chronic procrastination is too complex for a time management system to deal with.​

Another approach would be one of using so-called negative motivation, which can also be thought of as self-punishment. An example of this might be a promise to send some money to someone you dislike if you fail to complete a certain task by a certain time. This kind of approach can certainly work in the short term but it is certainly not much fun.​

Is there instead a way to use the opposite, positive motivation to get things done?​

Positive Solutions​

One approach might be to simply force yourself to start a task even if it’s something you don’t really want to do. By just focusing on starting, you can often build up the momentum to keep going. Studies have shown that it is easier to continue working on something once it is already underway.​

Other approaches might include training your focus and improving your attention span using methods like the Pomodoro Technique. Over time, this approach can build excellent working habits and improve your concentration levels.​

For chronic procrastinators, there’s the option of trying meditation. A person that meditates regularly often gets freedom from being attached to negative thoughts and emotions. This means that, over time, they can escape the triggers that lead to the fear-based chronic procrastination. Eventually, their survival instincts may not be triggered by what they need to do, and so they could end up tackling the task without perceiving a deep inner threat to their life.​

As we have seen, there are not really any fast and easy cures for procrastination. You only need to look around at the vast array of information available for dealing with procrastination. Moreover, then notice that despite all that information, how many people still seem to be suffering from it.​

The idea of a quick fix is a tempting one but not a realistic one. In this article, we have looked at some of the causes of procrastination, the types procrastination and some cures for it. We hope you found the information useful.​

Procrastination – How To Deal With The Silent Life Destroyer was last modified: June 9th, 2017 by Mark White