I Woke Up This Morning


Sep 8, 2014 5 minute read

So you’re a procrastinator. Nice to meet you, so am I, and so is probably everyone wanting to reach for anything in this life (be it the sky, or the jar of peanut butter).

Let’s ask Wikipedia what procrastination is, besides a strangely complicated sounding word:

Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before the deadline.

That doesn’t sound too bad: doing less urgent tasks before urgent ones? As long as the urgent ones get done in time, who cares? Doing more pleasurable tasks in place of less pleasurable ones? I’m in. Putting off tasks to a later time, doing them “last minute” before the deadline? Again, who cares?

Let’s look at that last one in more detail: you are putting off tasks to the “last minute” before the deadline. I doubt that this behavior is problematic in most cases: most people overestimate the time it takes to get something done. Remember Parkinson’s Law:

work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

The more time you have to get anything done, the more time you’ll need to do so. Does that mean it is good to put off tasks to the last minute? Maybe. Who knows. I don’t like to put off stuff. Instead, I prefer to throw you back any work for some artificial deadline you imposed on me as fast as I can. There it can linger in your procrastinating pit of death. But as long as the job gets done and you feel that it is off a quality that allows you to look at yourself afterward in the mirror still, again, who cares.

Of course it’s not that simple. Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson added in the article Doing the things we do: A grounded theory of academic procrastination 3 additional criteria to determine your behavior as procrastination: it has to be counterproductive, needless, and delaying (does anyone wonder why these things always come in 3? Why aren’t there just 2 criteria, or maybe even 4 or who knows 9?)

Let’s go over those 3:

I feel we are still not closer to the core of this issue (which makes me wonder at this point “are we procrastinating?”).

Until I found this snippet:

I ended up reading one of the more highly-acclaimed books on procrastination, Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit. Reading the section on the psychological causes of procrastination really hit home.

It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.

If I read that correctly it means that you’re scared on working on the things you are supposed to work on (cause your boss said so, or even, you yourself said so) because you want to protect your own sense of self-worth. You’re linking your performance to who you are. I have 2 totally unscientific things to say about that:

  1. Your performance is not who you are. It’s definitely a part of you, no denying that. It’s you who delivered that terribly looking Powerpoint presentation, or it is me who wrote yet again another blog article without readers. The Powerpoint presentation is your performance, and it is you who needs to take responsibility for it. Yes, you are being judged on your crappy work, yes, you are being judged on your amazing work. However, that’s just a minor part of you (very little of us would describe the Powerpoint presentation as a crucial part of who we are). As a consequence (let me get my logician out), it should also matter very little to you what people think of your presentation. And always consider this: they might be right. You might actually deeply suck at making presentation so either try to get better or face that you you are not the chosen one with natural Powerpoint gifts, despite everything your mommy and daddy told you.

  2. Be happy that it is your performance that is being judged. At some companies, people could not care less about your performance. They actually care about who you are. They do judge you and not your work. If you’re procrastinating in a company like that: (1) it’s useless, they are not judging your work, they are judging you (2) quit your job, you do not want to work there.

Did we give you ways to deal with your procrastination? No (if I did, I’m sorry, that was not my intent). Are we even more confused about the term? I know I am. Final thoughts: you and I actually might be lazy. But hey, at least I wrote an article to avoid working on my procrastination, what did you do?