|No matter how committed or well-organized you are, you may have experienced a time when you've wasted hours on trivial things / Photo by: Yulia Grogoryeva via 123RF|
No matter how committed or well-organized you are, you may have experienced a time when you've wasted hours on trivial things, such as online shopping, updating your social media status, or watching TV, when you are supposed to spend those important hours on school- or work-related projects. Procrastination also happens when we postpone important decisions until the last minute.
While it is commonly viewed as a time-management problem, therapist Kathleen Smith recently shed light on how procrastination is a relationship problem. She cited the story of Martha, one of her clients who has trouble meeting her deadlines because of procrastination. Martha is a pop-culture reporter who worked remotely. In one of their sessions, she admitted that she would delay an article or an interview until such a time that she would be convinced that there was not enough time to complete the task. She would often ask for extensions of deadlines.
Interconnectedness and Procrastination
Smith said that just like Martha, most of our job is relational. Having anxiety with relationships, such as with a family member, colleagues, or in the larger world, could lead to procrastination. This is because the person ends up worrying about how other people will respond to the output or they tend to slack off if others can do the job on their behalf. They will distance from others who are expecting them to perform well or they begin to pretend that they are more capable. So, instead of forming ideas for their work, they focus more on getting approval from other people.
Smith, who authored the book "Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down," went on to say that rather than focusing on how they should function with others, they label their productivity issues as a flaw of their personality. This leaves them feeling stuck and ashamed.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker David Noble, who specializes in couples, family, and adolescent therapy, also explained that humans are relational beings. We tend to thrive in places where we feel a connection to others and there is a sense of purpose.
|Smith said that just like Martha, most of our job is relational. Having anxiety with relationships, such as with a family member, colleagues, or in the larger world, could lead to procrastination / Photo by: Aleksandr Davydov via 123RF|
The Tendency to Procrastinate
Smith also explained that individuals who are reactive to criticism or praise are more “other-focused” that they would use their energy trying to look good for others, so much so that not much is left to get the work done. They are also inclined to procrastinate, believing that they may be disappointing other people. For example, they think that their friend is upset with them so they will delay calling or talking to them. If they imagine that their boss will be impatient with them, they may lie about how quickly they can finish the job.
|Smith also explained that individuals who are reactive to criticism or praise are more “other-focused” that they would use their energy trying to look good for others, so much so that not much is left to get the work done / Photo by: theartofphoto via 123RF|
How to Mitigate Worries
The therapist suggests that, to mitigate their worries, people who procrastinate should inch closer to people who they are worried about disappointing and not avoid them. Moving closer will let them realize that these humans are not really critics or fans, but human beings. Initiate conversations with these people, Smith said.
Making space for curiosity about the project or work that needs to be accomplished is another strategy. This helps fuel the brain and gives them more time to get the work done.
Business and marketing site Brandon Gaille shares that procrastination affects more than 20% of the population. One out of five people procrastinate “so badly” that it may be jeopardizing their relationships, credit, jobs, or their health.
In a survey of students, 57% of them admitted that they feel a mix of liking and disliking procrastination because it gives them the rush to finish the task but also makes them feel stressed. Among the participants, 43% admitted procrastinating because they have been doing it for so long and it has become second nature to them.
In another study involving 374 undergraduates, it was found that students who put things off more often were more likely to drink more, sleep less, and eat poorly compared to students who do their tasks or homework promptly.
Meanwhile, mental health resource Verywell Mind details the following things that lead to academic procrastination: underestimating how long it takes for the activities to complete, mistakenly assuming that they have to be in the right frame of mind to start working on the project, overestimating how motivated they will be in the future, and overestimating how much time is left to do the work.
Database company Statista’s Research Department also surveyed 1,002 respondents from February 13 to 14, 2019 to determine the type of areas of life in which French people procrastinate. The result shows that 60% tend to postpone sports and physical activities.
So, the next time you’re faced with work or projects that you want to delay, consider the words of Noble and Smith. Don’t worry too much about being ridiculed or disapproved. That way, you can overcome your initial laziness by acting diligently and not waiting until your deadline.