“I’ll leave it until tomorrow.” That decision is called procrastination, which is a phenomenon that’s more common than you might think.
Your day is just beginning. You try to start your pending tasks, but your mind is already bombarding you with doubts: “Where do I start? Can I do it in a couple of hours? Maybe I can start it a bit later.” We explain what procrastination is.
The way we put things off is common in society and is called procrastination.
We do it in different situations depending a lot on how we relate to the task and the perception we have of it, says Leopoldo Vázquez Meneses, psychologist and counselor at the Counseling Department of Tecnológico de Monterrey.
The word comes from the Latin procrastinare, which is made up of the prefix ‘pro’, meaning ‘forward’, and the adverb ‘crastinus’, meaning ‘of tomorrow’.
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Over time, it has transformed and now means: ‘the habit of postponing activities or responsibilities for simpler or more satisfactory ones.’
It’s an activity that at first seems to help manage our mood.
However, the consequences vary from poor academic performance, lack of long-term knowledge retention, family problems, health problems, or dismissal from the workplace.
But we need to know why we continue doing something that is clearly so detrimental to our lives.
The answer lies in how we see this problem. Laureano David Angarita, a clinical psychologist and specialist in procrastination at the Konrad Lorenz University Foundation in Colombia, says that “it’s a complex problem, misunderstood as laziness, lack of character, of energy, and of vitality, and confused with several personality or behavioral characteristics.”
According to a group of researchers at Rey Juan Carlos University in Spain, who conducted a study with the aim of reducing academic procrastination:
“When people procrastinate, they come into conflict between what they should do and what they want to do, locking themselves into the approach-avoidance dilemma and labeling the action as unattractive or the reward as too far off. That’s why procrastinators generally put off the tasks they are aversive to and choose those that seem pleasant to them and that provide short-term rewards.”
The approach-avoidance dilemma has been confused with laziness, lack of character, and even mysterious curses.
“Procrastination is only the psychological manifestation of what’s in our emotional brain, something we find difficult to express in words. It’s trying to tell us: ‘I don’t feel motivated by this task. I don’t feel committed. I’m tired. I’m bored. I’m blocked,’” explains Maximiliano Hapes, General Director of Education BIZ, a business training center in Argentina, and writer of the book on procrastination “Ponerse en marcha” (Get Going).
To this end, Laureano David Angarita explains that procrastinators are aware of postponing or not carrying out their activities.
In fact, there is a Research Group on Procrastination, at Carleton University in Ottawa, where experts from all over the world have been getting together for over 20 years.
Some of the topics they study include: the moment at which someone tackles an activity, the types of thoughts involved, the decisions made, and guilt.
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According to researchers from Rey Juan Carlos University, procrastination also affects an individual’s level of self-sufficiency.
“This fact pulls the procrastinator into a vicious circle, since a drop in self-sufficiency increases the chances of procrastination.”
This is the vicious circle:
However, the problem doesn’t end there.
It’s a vicious circle that doesn’t end with the justification. On the contrary, this last stage is the one that starts the procrastination again, thus creating an even greater problem: it exacerbates stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and guilt.
According to Laureano David Angarita, three of the main causes or reasons why people procrastinate are:
Finding a common factor is somewhat complicated, but according to procrastination researchers, these general points can be identified from studies done on thousands of people:
The specialists clarify that it’s possible to understand people’s procrastination problems by using some strategies: