Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator. – Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D.
We all do it, although we don’t like to admit it. Something needs doing and somehow, we just can’t do what we know needs to be done. We keep putting off writing that letter we’ve been meaning to write, or we can’t finish the big project we started, or we’re unable to pick up the phone and make that doctor’s appointment. We keep finding ways to avoid the inevitable by turning our attention to something else that is more enjoyable.
To a certain extent, procrastination is considered normal in our society; otherwise, the IRS would call April 15th a “goal line” instead of a “deadline.”
We like to think that procrastinating is harmless, but it’s not. Charles Dickens appropriately called it, “the thief of time.” The more the clock ticks on, the more anxious we become, and the more time is wasted.
Current research shows that with a deadline off in the distance, procrastinators typically report significantly less stress and physical illness than non-procrastinators. This is reversed however, when the deadline approaches.
In general, people learn from their mistakes and try not to repeat them. For the chronic procrastinator, it’s a problem that has become a lifestyle and they have difficulty with normal functioning. They don’t pay their bills on time. They miss out on important opportunities. They leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute. They continuously disappoint themselves and everyone else around them.
So, why do we continue to procrastinate when we know it’s going to hurt us in the end?
The Dark Side of Dawdling
There are lots of ways to avoid success in life and procrastination is perhaps one of the best. Procrastinators learn to foil themselves by concentrating on short-term rewards at the risk of failing to meet their commitments and responsibilities.
While there are many theories as to why people procrastinate, the results are usually the same—a seemingly endless cycle of avoidance, anxiety and shame. Here are five of the most common reasons given to explain procrastination. Is there one here that speaks to you?
Perfectionism: The perfectionist avoids doing anything that can’t be done perfectly. They become overwhelmed and paralyzed by the unreachable standards.
Fear of failing: These people doubt themselves and their ability to complete the task. They think of all the ways it could go wrong; and how they would expose themselves by putting forth the effort and being judged inadequate.
Fear of succeeding: They imagine that this could lead to more responsibilities and higher expectations from others, which could be overwhelming.
Fear of discomfort: Some folks are intolerant of discomfort so they disengage from the task by procrastinating whenever they feel physically or psychologically uncomfortable.
Workaholism: At the other end of the spectrum, Workaholics drive themselves ruthlessly. They are obsessed with their work performance, fearing that if they stop working, they will not be able to start again. They find themselves overcome by all they must do to achieve success and they never get started.
The Good News
Procrastinators have good intentions, they just don’t act on them. The more they wait, the more stress they feel. Are you tired of creating self-inflicted wounds by trying to relieve stress? It doesn’t have to stay that way.
There are strategies available to help you stop procrastinating and lead a more productive life? Take time now to reflect on your own style of procrastinating and read Stop Procrastinating – Here’s How!
Wishing you the best always,
Dr. Dale Simpson (The Every Day Psychologist)
Dale Simpson, PhD, is the father of five children. As a practicing psychologist for more than 37 years, he has counseled children, teens, adults and couples and currently practices in Venice, Florida. Dr. Simpson was a cofounder and publisher of an educational magazine, wrote the Inside the Family column for the magazine, served as a featured speaker at numerous parenting and homeschool conferences, and is the publisher of Learning for Life Press.