Updated: Jan 3
I am sorry I did not come up with that catchy title. I actually saw this on a t-shirt some time ago. I must admit that I am a bit of a procrastinator; actually, more than I would like to be, and it seems to be getting worse the older I get. I am confident that most of you reading my blog are not procrastinators (right!). Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy.
Procrastinate: to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant, boring or uncomfortable
Prokrastinieren: bedeutet “aufschieben”, “vertagen” und meint das unnötige und hinderliche Verschieben von wichtigen Aufgaben oder Vorhaben auf einen späteren Zeitpunkt.
I have been thinking about this whole procrastination thing in my life and wanted to know what I could do about it. To better understand procrastination, I thought I should examine what type of activities and tasks that people are delaying or putting off until later. It is my assumption that understanding what the trigger is for procrastination would help me to come up with a solution.
As I began to look at this, it dawned on me that procrastination started very early in our lives. Even as children, we embark on the path to procrastination and it continues to grow with time.
Waiting to go to the bathroom until you are doing the pee-pee dance, which soon turns into pee-pee pants.
Not cleaning your bedroom; even after being told to do so at least 10 times by your parents, which leads to you getting a “time out”. (back in my childhood days this whole “Time Out” punishment thing did not exist. When I was young it was called being "grounded" (which is when privileges are taken away or you are put in something similar to solitary confinement, not being able to go anywhere or do anything) or a punishment that might include some pain to the buttocks area.
Waiting to the last minute to leave the house to catch the school bus; which leads to having to wake up your Mom so she can chauffeur you to school in her pajamas and housecoat, with curlers in her hair, in a fit of rage. Of course, your buddies are waiting for you as your Mom pulls the car into the school and they get to see your Mom in all her glorious morning beauty.
Waiting until the last possible moment to do a homework assignment that is due the next day. You need your Dad's help, which you announce this right at the time the big game is on television. Probably not a happy time for anyone.
As time progresses and we move into our teen and college years, we start getting pretty good at this procrastination thing.
Young Adult Procrastination:
When you start driving, you put off filling up the car with gasoline until you have to make the call of shame to have your Dad bring you some gas. This always comes with a nice lecture about responsibility and stupidity.
You put off asking the girl of your dreams to the prom, only to find out that someone else already asked her a week earlier and you have to go to the prom with your ugly cousin.
You put off studying for your university exams and have to stay up all night to prepare. Completing ensuring that your brain is mush from lack of sleep and excessive amounts of caffeine when you take the test.
As adults, we have now reached the Olympic level of procrastination. We are the best in the world at putting things off until tomorrow. A lot of these tasks we put off are often quite simple.
Adult Procrastination: (little things)
Putting off doing the laundry until you are forced to do the sniff test on a shirt that you have to salvage from Mount Dirty Clothes to re-wear. (do not do this with underwear, you can simply turn them inside out and carry on)
Waiting to take the garbage out of the kitchen until its contents of your waste bin turns into a science project gone wrong.
Waiting to get a haircut until you are on the edge of bringing back the mullet. (for those of us with hair)
But since we are now pro’s at procrastination, we begin to start applying it to the big things. Let me remind you, the bigger the tasks that we procrastinate on, the bigger the procrastination ramifications (great rhyme).
Adult Procrastination: (bigger things)
Paying your bills at the last minute you possibly can before the due date. We do this, so that we can hold on to your hard-earned cash as long as possible and of course the payment arrives late and you get hit with a big late payment fee.
Putting off getting the oil changed in your car, even though your warning light has be on for weeks. Then your engine starts knocking, just moments before the engine seizes. (not a nice sound)
Filing your income tax at the last minute; you owe the government some tax money and you are not going to give them their money one day earlier than required by law, as if your countries economy rested on your shoulders. You are going to show them!!! Take that!!!!
Waiting until you are nearing the age of retirement to start a retirement savings account. "Hey, I needed that money when I was young"! No worries, my kids will take care of me when I am older. Yeah right, the first chance they get they will be putting me in a nursing home (paid by Medicare).
As I examined the various areas of procrastination (which I only shared a few examples from possibly thousands) I came to one clear conclusion. Most of the things that we procrastinate on, fall into the categories of being unpleasant or uncomfortable to us or is something we just don't want to do and is absolutely no fun and often times a real pain in the butt.
Then I asked myself, why do we procrastinate? Especially since most all the things that we put off doing or delay, are things we will have to deal with at some point. Ben Franklin (one of Americans founding fathers) offered these words wisdom, “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today”. Come Ben is that all you got? Really!!
So why do we procrastinate? I think there are a few reasons. One is because it is a learned behavior and we have become good at. Secondly, I think it just a bit our common human behavior, (I call this my stress avoidance system) to avoid or delay things that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and do not feel good. Even things of necessity like going to the Dentist.
I was talking about this with my friend Tim (the Brit) about procrastination and he offered his view on this topic. He stated that he felt that one of the key influences to procrastination is the ever-growing external demands on our schedules, our lives and our time. Therefore, we are forced to procrastinate on things based on the prioritization of the demands on our lives. (Thanks, Tim. I see this as a future blog entry called “Prioritization Driven Procrastination”). There you have it, me and my buddy solving the problems of the world. Now that’s a bit scary thought.
As I get older and have come to appreciate the phrase “life’s too short”, I really try to get up every morning with the goal of having the best day possible, seeking to minimize my stress and to sprinkle in a bit of fun in along the way. Therefore, I often avoid those things that may impact me from having a good day.
Here is the solution that I came up with to help me deal with my procrastination problem. I have come to accept that in life there are going to be a lot of good days and we are going to have our share of bad days. NEWSFLASH!!!! And even if we striving for the best in life ever; not every day is going to be fun-filled, happy and stress-free.
So, my plan moving forward is that I going to take care of the tasks and things that I have been procrastinating on ............ on my bad days (Procrastination Resolution Days). My simple rationalization is that since it’s already a bad day, I may as well deal with some of these unpleasant things on a day that is crappy and get them off the list. This also ensures that these unpleasant things do not pop up on my good days. And guess what? From time to time the things we dreaded and procrastinated on, might end up not being as bad as we had imagined.
I was going to post this tomorrow, but I thought I would post it today. See, I am already making progress.