Why do we Procrastinate?
Having just completed a major exam block, I can with great pride share with you all that my desk has gone absolutely crazy. Loose sheets of papers, stacks of folders and books as well as Post-its that I'm never going to read ever again stuck everywhere... Yep, it's about time for a makeover. My current motivations, however, are such that I'm writing this post right now instead of cleaning my room. And It's not that I don’t like cleaning my room. I find it quite therapeutic actually (yep, you're not the first person to call me weird). It's not that I'm not motivated to clean my room.
Fun fact. During that major exam block, I found myself cleaning my room because doing so would 'allow' me to study. I had essentially tricked myself into cleaning my room because in some way, it would supposedly benefit my productivity, hence, by cleaning my room and wasting time on a task that doesn't directly correlate with the success of my studies, that's what I found myself doing. I mean, the notion that it's easier to study with a clean desk... it's not wrong. It is pretty hard to study with a messy desk. In hindsight, however, I think the wiser decision more appropriate to my situation would have been to spend a minute making space on my desk, followed by actual study, instead of preparing my desk for 'study' I was going to do some time in the near future. Just maybe...
This process I was engaging in is, as you all probably guessed by now, is procrastination. My school marks sure could benefit from a little boost, especially with these exams being worth 40% of my yearly course mark. There sure was an incentive to do well. In fact, I've got parents to please. I've got university courses that you can't just cruise your way into... those essays aren't going to write themselves. Knowing all this, what was it I decided to do, again?
Oh makes, sense! Resort to cleaning my desk! Leave study to the very last minute. And in that little amount of time actually spent study, go on my phone, allocating half the time to watch tips and tricks on how to study effectively, and the other half to complain about how hard life was on Facebook.
The ideal student
The Mysterious Nature of Procrastination
Procrastination isn't just limited to studies, or cleaning the cleaning of mess that we made. It can include postponing that high school reunion that's been in the planning stage for 6 months. Or maybe an overdue haircut.
Whatever it may be, why do we do it? (or not do it)
Not knowing where to begin
This was a big one for me. Having left most of my coursework untouched, the situation was far from idea. It would take me years to catch up on the work that I had missed throughout the year just to be on par with my classmates. In fact, in a school system highly based on ranks as opposed to marks, doing great wasn't good enough. It was about being in the top percentile, being better than the person next to me, being above average. Doing well just wasn't good enough.
Ever find yourself so 'screwed' for something that you can't even comprehend how to start fixing up the mess you created? You don't know even know what you don't know. What you do know is the magnitude, that whatever you don't know, it's a lot of stuff? Combine this with a man of my willpower and you're not getting any work done by the looks of it.
Write out a list of things that need to be done to achieve your goal. For me, what I should have done was written a list of past papers I would complete, all the topics that I needed to revise, and all the mistakes and gaps in my knowledge that I needed to fix up. I should have then delegated them throughout the weeks that I had coming up to those exams, leaving sufficient breaks; essential for someone that gets bored as quickly as me.
Duh... Next! But hear me out. The truth is, everybody is lazy. Some people are just less lazy than others. But the key here is planning. Planning is crucial, because it allows you to focus. Focus On ONE task. As man, I will admit that I am hopeless at multitasking, although that isn't what I like to tell people. Most of the time, the kind of multitasking I speak of involves opening up my exercise books, and whipping my phone out of my pocket. Trust me, that's far from the definition of multitasking. That is called wasting time... and multitasking does not work. 'Multitasking', I would argue, is synonymous to wasting time. This is especially since I am yet to find a person that can truly multitask, however, I'm willing to stand corrected. Please do let me know if you know of somebody with this incredible skill. The point is: as most of us cannot truly multitask, we end up NOT having fun on our phone due to the stress of the work that we need to complete and NOT getting much work done as a byproduct of our screens.
That's just dumb.
All of you reading this have brains intelligent enough to reason your way into thinking stupid things. I'm sure most of you have, in the past, thought that it's okay to avoid the task at hand. This is exactly why you find a lot of intelligent people with the craziest views whether it be flat earth, faked moon landings (or do they know something I don't?). In my view, somebody is intelligent if they're able to take all the information they've been exposed to and come up with an informed, educated conclusion based on that data. And it's okay if my conclusion is different to yours. It's totally fine if we disagree. It's about the skill of interpreting the information and generating your own personal 'thesis statement' on the issue.
But here's the issue. Some people are so 'intelligent' that their ability to reason their way through the craziest, most absurd ideas. With the internet, you have a lot of bogus statistics and sources as well, and you essentially trick yourself into confirming your hypothesis based on untrue data, even though you've reasoned your way through it. And the logical progressions are completely valid. This is known as the confirmation bias.
As a perfectionist, I would often tell myself (yes, I talk to myself) that you can't mess up a task that you don't start. Logically, it's a sound statement to make. You don't start a task, how can you mess up? It's legitimately not possible... but it sounded good in my head. It's amazing how silly your thoughts can sound once you've said them out loud. Or typed them out. I've experienced so many instances of people giving me weird looks from something I've said, simply because I perceived it to be more eloquent and rationally thought out than in actuality. Back to the example. The key 'hole' in my logic was not in the statement itself but in my narrowmindedness. I did not even consider the fact that I could be missing opportunities from not starting something. I did not realise that by not taking a risk, by not investing my time into an opportunity, there is no potential. I had essentially tricked myself into living and breathing a philosophy that logically made sense, but start digging deeper than face value and you uncover how foolish what you lived by truly was.
One of my worst habits is the act of binge-watching videos online about a task that I'm about to commence. For example, if you're writing your resume, there of course is value in searching online for tips and tricks for how to write a 'Killer CV". The important distinction is knowing that eventually, you have to move on, and get stuck into actually performing the task yourself, as opposed to listening to people's experiences.
It's an imperfection in the perfectionist perspective.
My logic was that I could absorb the knowledge from those who had gone through what I was about to go through, saving me both time or potentially 'messing up', hence satisfying my perfectionist's brain.
I'll admit it, I'm afraid of failure. But true failure lies in inaction.
What Can I Learn From This Post
Admit that you're avoiding action.
Acknowledge that there's an opportunity and that YOU have a responsibility; to chase after it with your laser-like focus.
We might all be lazy.
We might not know where to begin our tasks.
In fact, we might all be perfectionists.
Personally, I am so scared of failure, but the one-stop-shop to becoming a failure is not taking action.
The road to failure is procrastination.
I think I'm going to go clean my room now.
Images Sourced From Pixabay