What is procrastination? Are you procrastinating?

One of the commonest problems worrying knowledge/information workers is the tendency to put things off until the last moment – or to beyond the last moment. Of course it is not only knowledge workers who have trouble with this habit; but it is in this area where the issue is most prevalent. Probably every one of us has tried to avoid some unpalatable task at some time – it is a natural human reaction. However, knowledge workers are most vulnerable to procrastination because of the volume of work and the lack of structure to their day.

9 Worst reasons why people procrastinate

Why has procrastination become a more common problem?

Procrastination has always existed. There have always been people who put off the work that knew needed to be done. However, the problem has become more common in recent years, as the economy has shifted from manual labour to knowledge work.

Our parents’ generation worked more manual jobs; often factory jobs. When they went to work, their day was already designed for them. They had to do task A, followed by task B and so on. In some instances, they worked on a conveyor belt whereby they only did task A and the person beside them did task B. Even the pace of their work was controlled by the pace of the conveyor belt.

For the modern knowledge worker, things are very different. We simply have a large quantity of work to perform but no prescribed order or pace at which to perform this work. In fact, before we can start out work, we must first design our work i.e. prioritise, set deadlines etc. With so much to think about, is it any wonder that procrastination has become more common.

How common is procrastination?

Procrastination is putting something off until later, either due to carelessness or habitual laziness. It’s putting off till tomorrow what you just as easily could have finished up today.  A procrastinator postpones or needlessly delays accomplishing something –just because.

Everyone does it, including you. You have things to do important things or mundane things, and you put off doing them until the last minute. It can even become a joking matter, where people compete with stories about how much work they have put off and, how long they have been putting it off for. Of course, just because it is common; it doesn’t mean it is right.

Am I really procrastinating?

Just because you do not rush straight into a task which you know needs to be done; that does not automatically mean that you are procrastinating. There are other potential reasons:

1. Is it your working style?

We all have our own preferred way of working. If letting the tension build up a bit before you get started works well for you, then there is no reason you should change.  A little tension/pressure can serve as fantastic motivation. The key thing here is that you must still feel like you are in control. If you don’t, then you will begin to experience stress which is never a good thing.

If you get increasingly behind with your work and end up feeling bad about yourself and your job, then you most likely are procrastinating and you may well benefit from seeking some help with dealing with the problem.

If you are struggling to cope, this great resource will help you to tackle stress

2. Are you just disorganised?

When we are younger, we are taught that it is important to be busy. Our parents come home from work and tell you how hard they worked that day. They measure the quality of their day by the number of hours they worked. Sadly, this is putting the cart before the horse.

Any fool can be busy but very few people ever achieve their goals. There is no point in working a long hard day if you are not making progress with your goals. Before you work hard, you have to take the time to define what you should be working on. Being busy doing the wrong things can be a sign of procrastination but only if you actually know that you are not working on the things you should be working on. There are many cases where people are just disorganised and do not realise that the tasks they are working on are not the best use of their time.

You can always learn to get more organised.

3. Are you just lazy?

It may very well be that you are just lazy and don’t want to do anything. Many people would argue that laziness is a form of procrastination. I would argue that they are closely related but not quite the same thing. I think that laziness is an attitude problem of its own whereby you need to examine your underlying motivations, confidence and all round enthusiasm for life.

If procrastination is a problem for you, then the following guide will help you to stop procrastinating.

Procrastination is one of the most common problems facing the modern worker. As we become overwhelmed by the quantity of work and number of options available to us; we can get so caught up in the decision about what to do that we fail to actually take action. It can be easier to just choose the easiest task to get done but easy is rarely the most effective choice. Not all time management problems are procrastination so it is imperative that you take the time to identify the correct problem before you start to implement the solutions.