Procrastination – Problem or Symptom?

Author: Annemarie Eder

We all know it: Our to-do-list is long and the deadlines are approaching, yet we somehow cannot seem to stop procrastinating and get to work. The question is: Why? Why do so many people struggle with getting their things done, using their time wisely instead of wasting it doing other, less important things?
I find myself procrastinating a lot. Whether my thesis deadline is approaching, or there is an exam coming up that I need to study for, or I need to apply for jobs. I have been there. Instead of sitting down and getting to it, I remembered that the dishwasher has to be unloaded, or the living room needs a clean. By the time I did all those things it was afternoon and I thought “Oh well, today I would only have 2 hours left anyways, so I better not start today anymore and I for sure will get to it tomorrow.” Oh, how many times I repeatedly lied to myself. I often used to beat myself up for being “lazy” and procrastinating all day and someday I wondered why I actually am “like this”.

Through educating myself and getting to know myself more and more I realized something: Me procrastinating for weeks on end does not mean I just don’t have motivation or discipline, but me procrastinating is the symptom of an underlying problem.

Once I came to that conclusion, this fact about myself did not leave my head anymore. I knew I had to get to the bottom of this to finally being able to overcome my pattern of procrastination.
I believe there are different aspects and triggers for procrastination. Here is what I found:
• No identification with your task: This means you do not believe in what you are doing. You actually do not want to finish these studies. You actually do not want to work in this field anymore.
• Uncertain future: You do not know what to expect once you are finished. Sometimes there is so much uncertainty when finishing a task or entering a new job, that you might as well delay it as long as you can, so you do not have to confront yourself with the next step after you finished the task. For us humans, it is too often too easy to stay within your known misery than to get out and be brave to step into total uncertain terrain.
• Fear of the outcome: What if you finish your studies? Then what? This goes hand in hand with the fear of uncertainty. Sometimes you are afraid of the grade you get once you try to take this exam. You fear that you might fail and then end up facing unwanted consequences.
• Fear of failure: No matter how hard you work on some project, sometimes you fail. So many of us are afraid of failing that we rather not try and stall the project as long as possible, in order not to be unsuccessful at this attempt. However, this also means you keep yourself from the opportunity of learning from your failures and being able to succeed the second time around.
When we realise that this is true – and I’m not saying this is easy – we will understand why it is so difficult for us to work on our to-do-list.

These are just some underlying aspects that might lead to procrastination. Does knowing all these things make me a no-procrastination-hero? No, definitely not. I myself know all these things and can observe myself quite well, implementing all this knowledge, however, is a different story. I do believe though, that knowing your procrastinating habits and the reasons why you procrastinate is the first step into changing your behaviour. Awareness is key for implementing change in your life.
Now, we would like to know why you procrastinate. Are there other deep-rooted issues holding you back from ticking off the boxes on your to-do-list? Tell us and share your opinion below!

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