THE STAR/DPA – “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” a well-known proverb said.
“Not so fast!” a procrastinator might counter, and cite another well-known proverb: “All things come to those who wait.” And if you wait long enough, maybe, just maybe, the unwelcome task will go away on its own.
Psychologist Florian Becker, a specialist in business psychology, describes procrastination as “irrationally putting off or refraining from an activity with no regard for the negative consequences to be expected”.
It’s not done out of ignorance or laziness. Procrastinators simply can’t rouse themselves to do what they’re supposed to do, or would rather do something else.
People fortunate enough to have a lot of latitude at their place of work or study are especially prone to procrastination, said a psychologist, business coach and author Anna Hocker. Business executives are susceptible just as students are.
What they need is good self-control, she said, and “if it’s lacking or not well developed, there’s a greater risk of procrastination”.
Occasional procrastination generally isn’t a problem, according to Hocker. But your inner alarm bells should ring if you’re often angry with yourself because of what you’ve left undone, or can rarely enjoy your free time with peace of mind since you’re constantly thinking about it.
“Procrastination is a problem when it becomes chronic, excessive and keeps having an adverse effect on your sense of well-being and contentment,” Hocker said.
Many deep-dyed dodgers even compromise their chances of achieving important personal goals.
As soon as procrastinators face a task and feel pressure, they subconsciously seek an escape route. “They either suppress the feeling through diversion or look for another task: One that gives them a quicker sense of achievement,” Becker said.
So they might clear up their desk, immerse themselves in a computer game or go chat on social media.
This has nothing to do with laziness, but with a lack of impulse control and succumbing immediately to every stimulus.
“What’s pernicious about this is your brain learns that when you feel pressure, it helps (to dodge it),” Becker said. “And if the pressure rises further, then you’ve got to watch more Netflix or play more computer games.”
HOW TO BREAK THE VICIOUS CYCLE?
“It may sound trivial, but the answer is to start, simply to start. Because that’s precisely the problem,” Becker said.
Even if it’s just spending five minutes studying for the university exam coming up or compiling the latest company sales figures your boss is waiting for. What’s important is to get started.
It helps to keep potential distractions at bay as far as possible, of course. And not least, it’s a matter of practice: The more often you’re able to begin activities you’ve been putting off, the longer you’ll eventually be able to stick with them.
It’s important not to be guided by false beliefs, for example, that a project is so critical that you’ve got to be in the perfect frame of mind to tackle it. Or that you can only work when under pressure.
This sort of thinking keeps you from approaching tasks lightheartedly, Hocker said, who recommends setting priorities: What’s essential, and what would merely be “nice to have”.
“Also ask yourself whether you really want to carry out a certain task at all, and if so, why,” she said. “If you deem it to be unimportant, strike it from your to-do list right away. Then you won’t have a guilty conscience.”