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Does Procrastination Focus on Well-being or Self-sabotage?

A man still relaxing even his deadline is nearing. / Photo by: Ion Chiosea via 123RF

 

Procrastination is man’s worst enemy, even though it may feel somewhat rewarding at times. This human behavior is believed by some to be natural and reasonable. The author of "Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me," Andrew Santella, talked about the art of procrastination in a recent interview published in The Sunday Post. His latest book is a result of his long research about his procrastinating behavior and the prominent individuals that have practiced it. According to Santella, one explanation for this behavior is when individuals fear failure. For example, he delays his work because he does not want to see it fail. However, the irony about this is that the more people procrastinate, the bigger of chances their work gets to fail.

There are various reasons why people procrastinate such as lack of self-belief, self-sabotage or perfectionism. Laziness, on the other hand, is not included. Santella explained the difference between laziness and procrastination, wherein the latter is a behavior in which people are very busy doing things they should not prioritize or do first. As mentioned in the article, Santella also believes in “self-handicapping” as one of the reasons behind procrastination, wherein an individual makes his or her own barriers to success to protect themselves from critics. Internet, social media or gadgets, as he explained, are merely causes of distraction. Even if people do not have access to these applications, they would still find ways to distract themselves, therefore causing procrastination.

 

There are earlier records of procrastination, dating back from 800 BC and 44 BC. A Greek poet once warned his farmers saying not to “put your work off till tomorrow and the day after.” Meanwhile, in 44 BC, procrastination was a sign of poor character as the Roman consul created a tirade against this human behavior. Prominent individuals have also practiced procrastination, such as Charles Darwin. Once this scientist realized the idea of natural selection, he set it aside first and researched on the effect of earthworms on soil.

Is Procrastination Considered as Defeat?

A man working on a disorganized place. / Photo by: Elnur Amikishiyev via 123RF

 

Meanwhile, professor of psychological and brain sciences from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Susan Whitbourne, discussed procrastination under a new light. According to her article published in Psychology Today, one of the earliest studies regarding procrastination was conducted by the great psychodynamic theorist, Sigmund Freud. This famous theorist believed that procrastination is a result of “poor toilet training.“ However, most theorists after Freud believed that this human behavior is a sign of a “self-defeating behavior.” For example, when a person is procrastinating, he or she is aware that this will lead to failure. Yet, instead of changing the behavior, he or she continues to procrastinate as they believe humans are fatally flawed and imperfect.

Psychologists Axel Grund and Stefan Fries from the University of Bieleland, Germany conducted a study regarding the connection between the idea of failure and the intention of not being on time. These psychologists believe that in order to understand procrastination, they must first obtain its values. They believe that individuals who practice procrastination may have “post-modern values such as well-being and tolerance.” Moreover, they consider procrastination as a situational behavior and not a self-destructing behavior. To prove their hypothesis, Grund and Fries directed a research composed of 223 undergraduates. As they have thought, procrastination among these participants is equal to personal enjoyment and self-care. In a second study, the researchers focused on the theory that procrastinators were most likely to do tasks that were important or vital to them than those assigned to them. The results supported their theory, as more participants completed tasks that were under their control and interests.

In their final study, Grund and Fries focused on the idea that a Protestant work ethic influenced society’s opinion of procrastination. They gave a situation wherein a student was supposed to study for an exam over the weekend, yet he spent it with friends instead. The participants were asked whether they considered this as a lack of discipline or completely situational. Results showed that participants with conservative values were most likely to consider procrastination as a sign of moral failure.

Moreover, if one was to force a procrastinator to do the job, it would only backfire. According to Grund and Fries, it is better for individuals to participate in a “motivational competence” wherein they determine their own goals and at their own time. To do this, Lifehacker columnist Nick Douglas suggested a simple meditation task for uplifting motivation. First, the individual must sit in a comfortable position and imagine doing the job or task. They must also imagine each step in the process, repeating from beginning to end. Not only that, people can also another focusing technique wherein they must pull themselves back once they start spacing out or when the mind wanders. As stated by Douglas, separating a task by each step would eventually make the job easier to start.

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