I have a confession: I’m a procrastinator. I’m hoping that in my area of expertise I’ll be able to save others from the consequences that I’ve come to know very well. I’ll keep this short — odds are that YOU, yes you, the very person reading this article, are probably procrastinating right now. You convince yourself that you are taking a well earned break from the mounting pile of essays and deadlines that are currently weighing you down. But we all know that you are in denial, you convince yourself that an extra five or ten minutes browsing won’t hurt and then before you know it, hours have vanished into thin air! We know that procrastination is bad for our academic and professional lives, but how come we fail to realise that it is also terrible for our personal lives and relationships too?
Perhaps we postpone addressing important aspects of our lives, like relationships (platonic, romantic and familial), because we subconsciously procrastinate. I’m sure we all remember not wanting to force ourselves to feel uncomfortable, to hurt someone else, but most of all, we procrastinate ending it because we don’t feel up to it, or think it will eventually get better. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe that all of us have subconsciously done it at least once. This kind of real self-reflection is probably what is missing during the process of procrastination itself, for how often has procrastination actually proven beneficial for you? This same behaviour is the reason why people fail to lose weight, get work done, or put off doing anything else.
Even years after moving out of our family homes, it is still difficult to parent ourselves. This is fair enough, ‘adulting’ is pretty difficult. That is, making ourselves do the things we really don’t want to do. It seems obvious, but in fact there really is no real way to prepare for it. The only cure to this kind of behaviour seems to be to rip off the band-aid.
Many humanistic psychologists have developed theories to capture our motivations and behaviours, but also normal struggles, like feeling stuck and not knowing why. One of the most popular is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, stating that we first look to satisfy our physiological needs, then our safety needs (e.x. health, wellness), our social needs, and then our esteem needs (e.x. respect, achievement, recognition, self-esteem). Only when these are all satisfied, we can strive for self-actualization — engaging in personal development, and reaching our full potential.
We should look for that which we find meaningful, rather than for instant gratification (which is what our generation has been commonly criticized for) or just doing something because we think that it is what we are supposed to do. We are losing our intrinsic motivation! Much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we need to go through processes and take steps in life to get to where we want. Ripping off the band-aid to expose our open wounds and allow us to start progressing towards this, taking baby steps towards fulfillment and hopefully discovering happiness as a by-product, will only come to us by tossing procrastination out the window.
Study cited: Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4), 370- 396.