Procrastination – The Inner Hindrance

Procrastination has been one of the key challenges that we have been facing throughout/once in our lifetime. It has been the prominent reason behind the rare productivity that we get from ourselves as the desired output. Ok then let’s start with the basics getting nailed. What is procrastination??

According to the modern definition, Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a set of tasks. It basically is the inner force which prevents us from following through what we had set out to do.

Although we have gone through this process many times we don’t have many reasons to justify our procrastination. Thus this is where science comes into the discussion. Behavioural psychology research has revealed a phenomenon called “time inconsistency”. Which helps explain why procrastination seems to pull us out despite our good intentions. Time inconsistency is the human tendency by which we value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

There are many illustrations through which the reasons for the same have been identified in the human race, one being imagining yourself as two beings- Present and Future self. The present self sets goals for the future which means that you are envisioning what your life would be in the future while the present self sets out for action. The problem here is that researchers have found that it’s quite easy for our brain to value actions with long term benefits which obviously is the core of future self but when it comes to making decisions about actions we hesitate a bit generally due to the long tenure of the program. Thus the study proves that the present self then no longer thinks of the future due to his liking of instant gratification and hence not about long term pay-off.

                    Hence we see that present and future self are often at odds with each other. Often we wanna see our future self be quite a health freak like slim and trim ones but the present self instead of taking some actions like exercising or dieting convinces our brain to do the other stuff around. It thinks of exercise as a long drawn struggle which will not let it enjoy in today’s happening life where we could whatever we feel like. This thinking is because of the fact that the latter thinks that the increased risk of diabetes or any health disease is years away and enjoying in the present moment is true bliss. Similarly, often people acknowledge the fact that saving in the early ’20s and ’30s would give a benefit of happy retirement life. Again the brain thinks in the other way like forcing the present self to think that it is more valuable to buy a new pair of shoes now than saving away your salary for the 70-year-old you. It tries to justify itself by making us feel that adulthood is all about enjoyment and old age is all about misery on the contrary. This makes us feel that spending money on ourselves today would prove to be more valuable.

Thus the overall essence of the above discussion is that we believe that most of the choices undertaken today will not be rewarded immediately which hinders the productivity within us. We in this modern corporate world have the ideology that if we put some genuine effort into the work then we should be given pay-checks now which doesn’t happen ideally. Thus this makes us more stubborn towards our plans or tasks. One of the most common examples of this is while going to bed u might be motivated to change things in your life tomorrow but when the moment u wake up the next day, things are back to your lazy and stubborn old patterns.

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Thus instead of relying on long-term consequences, we should find a way to move to future rewards or punishments in the present moment. One such example in our college life is the submission of reports. Often we neglect a few efforts that could be put in beforehand and put off the work until the deadline is near. The time when the deadline arrives we hurry up and complete it in anxiety and fear of failing. Hence the pain of procrastination finally gets escalated and thus you cross the “Action Line”. As soon as you cross the above barrier the pain subsides to a little. In fact, quoting one of the famous personalities Eliezer Yudkowsky’s  that “ Being in the middle of procrastination is often more painful than being in the middle of doing the work ” which is shown in the beside graph. In Fact, the anxiety, guilt and the shame you feel while procrastinating is usually worse than the effort and energy you have put in the work. The real reason thus we get is that we don’t initiate the topic and thus lag behind in terms of productivity. Instead of complaining in the future about not giving your best shot, we should start the task and believe that momentum and motivation shall come after we begin. Till now i have talked about external deadlines, there are also ones which we set for ourselves. There also we sometimes procrastinate but the best part is that we can resolve that phenomenon quite easily by having some rewards for ourselves after completion of every task we had set targets for. In this way, we could work out the positivity between work and pleasure as we procrastinate only because we categorise work as pain and nothing else.

Now i would be talking about some strategies that could prove to be quite helpful in eradicating this behaviour from our system. 

  • Try making goals that are attainable and also which could be rewarded within a short period of time. A concept named as “temptation bundling” is quite useful in this case. Temptation bundling means saying that you should do things you love while doing things you procrastinate on. So basically it means like listening to podcast or audiobooks while exercising or like watching your favourite shows while doing household chores.
  • You should make the cost of procrastination more immediate. For example, if u are exercising alone, skipping one day of exercise wouldn’t affect your health to that extent. The cost of procrastinating on exercise only becomes painful after weeks and months of lazy behaviour. However, if u start working out with your friend that one workout session missed would make u a jerk in front of your friend so that feeling would motivate you to continue.
  • Also, one great measure to accomplish procrastination is through the divide and conquer method by which your tasks could seem more achievable. You could set some small targets for a short term basis which would then strengthen the momentum forward and thus break the friction of starting behaviour.
  • Whenever you complete some difficult task, treat yourself, make yourself feel good. This way, in your brain, you make a positive connection between work and pleasure. One of the reasons why we procrastinate is because we look at work as pain and nothing else. You need to learn to see the benefits of labour. By rewarding yourself for it, those benefits will become apparent.

Hence these are some great measures to help your day develop quickly an attitude of productivity and effectiveness. Overall we get to know that the biggest hurdle to finishing most of the tasks is starting them(Getting off the couch can be tough, but once you actually start running it is much easier to finish your workout). Regardless of what above methods you use, the bottom line is this: Do the most important thing first each day and let the momentum of the first task carry you into the next one.

Content Credits: Harshit Raj

Reference: Image_1, Image_2

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