Mastering the Art of Procrastination

The art of procrastination is fascinating to observe. It is truly an art; a skill developed overtime. It comes with the assumption that tomorrow will be better. That somehow a new day comes with more motivation and drive. Sadly, in these unprecedented times, tomorrow is rather uncertain.

Someone close to my heart was a master procrastinator when he was alive. Whenever we met, he had a new revolutionary business plan. He had a great mind, and excellent insight on business and life. Growing up I admired this about him. I remember being 10 years old, sitting with him on a balcony and listening to his elaborate business plans. He was incredibly passionate and would talk for hours about tomorrow. 10 years later, he did none of the things he spoke about. He had a pattern of starting and stopping midway in search of another idea. Tomorrow was a figment of his imagination. As a result, he never achieved what he could have. This man, close to my heart, passed away. My heart aches to think of the things he could have done, the books he could have published, and the impact he could have made. For him, tomorrow never came. I loved that man. I always will, and it is with deep regret that I think back on all those years that I could have been writing his thoughts down and sharing them with the world. Unfortunately, all I have now are the memories.

When I think about procrastination and how subtly detrimental it is to a person’s capabilities, it makes my heart ache. This should not be mistaken with laziness, procrastination is an active process of choosing to do something other than the task you’re supposed to be doing. When I talk about this, I am not referring to soaking the pan in the sink and saying you’ll wash it the next day. I mean putting off that book you said you’d write ten years ago. Or allowing fear to stop you from starting that business you’ve always passionately talked about. John Maxwell states,

“What I’ve learned about procrastination is very simple…it never works and there is never a convenient moment…and there is a tendency to continue to put [things] off. Highly successful people have disciplined themselves and they’ve conquered the habit of procrastination and they know the power of initiating.”

Time waits for no one. That is an obvious fact, but let it sink in. It’s July, 2020. Have you done what you said you would? How long are you going to daydream and fantasize about the future you want? Open your eyes, and think about how you can make that fantasy a reality. Dr. Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary states, “[Procrastination] is self harm.” People are aware that procrastination is a bad idea, yet they do it anyway. This results in negative emotions like shame and disappointment in oneself. Dr. Fuchsia Sirois, professor of Psychology at the University of Sheffield states, “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative emotions around a task.” An important element that has helped me is remembering to complete important tasks especially when I don’t feel like it. That way, there is a level of consistency that is not dependent on my mood swings. And as a 21 year old female, believe me, I have lots of mood swings.

In honor of the man that I loved, I have done my best to motivate those with great potential to stop procrastinating. It gives me headaches because it has taught me that procrastinators are experts at lying to themselves. A lie like, ’I work best under pressure’ is commonplace. To be a master procrastinator, one has to be excellent at actively seeking out distractions. According to Dr. Ferrari, there are three kinds of procrastinators: thrill-seekers, avoiders, and decisional procrastinators. Thrill seekers enjoy the euphoric rush of working last minute and beating the clock. Avoiders procrastinate because of their innate fear of failure and fear of other people’s perceptions of them. Decisional procrastinators are generally indecisive. Dr Ferrari states, “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.” This was very well put because it displays how chronic procrastination is much deeper than failure in planning. You just have to be determined to stop. It is a truly personal decision especially for those who have hopes of being successful in their fields. One of my favorite authors, John Maxwell states, “Do it now, let that be your mantra.”

Twenty percent of people consider themselves to be chronic procrastinators. This is reflected in those who have low productivity at work, can’t hold down a job or keep up with paying their bills. This is not as trivial as we make it seem because it can cause bigger problems in society. Procrastinators truly fascinate me in how nonchalant they can be with their plans and goals. I’ve watched friends deliberately put things off and then proceed to panic because they have to face the consequences of their actions. They become disappointed with themselves or worse, they blame the system, the government or whatever else makes them feel less responsible for their lack of progress. I’ve watched people do the same things year after year because they kept putting things off. Five-ten years later, they complain that life is unfair. They are bitter that life and experiences are passing them by. These are just examples of my first-hand experiences with people in my life. Hopefully, we will all look within ourselves, recognize our own potential and do what needs to be done, today.