The Art of Procrastination
It is three in the morning, and a haggard man puts the finishing touches on a presentation that he has had a month to complete. A bright young boy scurries around the backyard collecting bugs for his big science project due the next morning. A grown woman packs at two in the morning for her six-thirty business trip. A man disappoints his wife with a gift of socks for Christmas, which was all he could find on Christmas Eve. What is wrong with these people? Why do normal, intelligent people fritter their time away; and wait till the last possible moment to do the necessary? In a word, procrastination.
This phenomenon defies logic. Every other ugly duty is "gotten over with." We gulp down our proverbial green beans, always saving the best for last. Retirement comes after work, M&Ms after nasty medicine, and a soak in the tub after you scour it. It follows that every other distasteful job would be treated the same way. Aunt Nelda's birthday present, the big research paper, a visit to the dentist and the cat's bath should be gotten over with like our green beans and medicine For many people, however, they aren't.
Procrastination is not just a bad habit; it is a condition of mind that has some serious causes and consequences. Far too often substandard work is the result of putting things off until the last moment. When we procrastinate, we don't actually enjoy the time we waste. Instead, we add to our stress level by letting a project worry us for an extended period of time. To understand this paradoxical and self-defeating approach to challenging situations, we must assess what the process of procrastination involves. This common practice of wasting time has both physiological and mental causes and effects.
The art of procrastinating has been developed by humans as a method of coping. It is said that when faced with an overwhelming situation, we either have to laugh or cry. Many of us, on the other hand, just procrastinate. Daunting tasks tax all our faculties and need to be put aside if we are to complete our other duties. Some problems can be too challenging or too far out of our range of experience. If we started early and devoted ourselves to writing that speech, studying for that exam, or firing that friend, we would have time for little else. The bills wouldn't get paid, the kids wouldn't get fed, and the goldfish would go belly up. When asked to choose between carrying out our necessary everyday roles and performing an overwhelming task, the choice is easy: we do the small stuff.
When consequences are lose-lose, we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. The choice between two situations that both have potentially negative consequences is called an avoidance-avoidance choice by psychologists. According to Rod Plotnic, "as the time to decide in an avoidance-avoidance situation grows near, we often change our minds many times. ...