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Why Do We Procrastinate?

Dr. Anshul Mishra Never Let The “What If" get in the way of what you do! “I think therefore I am”. I’m on my journey.

Being the pro in procrastination? Why do you really do it?

Is it a déjà vu that haunts us all? A very long to-do list in our brain that plagues our senses to the extent that we seem to be in the grip of a high gravity vortex that forces us to imagine an escape plan from this disaster and even the simplest task becomes overwhelming. Seems familiar right? Even as I compose this article, I’m bewildered by the points to be made and expressed, leaving me to defer this article and deal with it later. Completing things when you battle with errands and thoughts can be both exhausting and debilitating.


Historically, It has been regarded as humans' greatest survival instinct. The great philosophers had high regard for procrastination. The wisest leaders contemplated the whole time and would basically sit around and do something only when they had an extraordinary rationale backing it. While procrastination may seem to many like a flaw, it evolved in natural selection for a reason.
The genes of contemplation are glove in hand with genes of impulsivity. Our ancestors who procrastinated had a better surviving rate as they avoided conflict and spent more time perfecting their tools and doing something with those when absolutely necessary. Hence, these survival instincts were passed on to the offsprings and became highly evolved by natural selection.

Maybe procrastination is not bad at all but it’s this sense of overwhelm that feeds one of the common patterns that they struggle with: the perfectionism-procrastination-paralysis cycle. It's our brain that is not buying our plan. For many, the idea of accomplishing a task in a less-than-perfect way may be grounds enough to say, “Forget it!” It may be a well laid out plan with a small flaw that may jeopardize the mission, so our brain stalls it further until perfection. It may also be viewed by some as a mental escape from the hard realities of life which are often inescapable and undermines one's self-worth leading to an unending downward spiral.

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Regardless of whether that compulsiveness comes from dread of judgment or decisions you have of yourself, the nervousness likes to persuade you that you can’t do everything and that too impeccably, so does that mean you should do nothing by any stretch of the imagination? Researchers currently distinguish it into two separate classifications: Active and passive procrastination. Active procrastination implies you realize that you are unduly delaying handing in the project or completing the deadlines but you are doing something more valuable instead. Passive procrastination is just idling around and not doing anything productive and that is a sign of concern. While active procrastination may have some advantages like it may boost your creativity, and sometimes may even lead to prioritization. There are no possible benefits from passive procrastination.

So how to stop passive procrastination from getting the better of us. The initial step to breaking that cycle is to perceive that often times, performing tasks is a slow process, and a defective one at that — and that is ordinary and absolutely alright. It won’t happen all at once. It’s okay to start with baby steps and take your time. It’s alright to require some time and energy investment. It’s alright to commit errors (you can always fix them later!). All in all, it’s alright to be human.

Secondly, try to keep your tasks bite-sized. The smaller the task the faster the output hence less energy investment and higher returns on task accomplishment. While the world is drawn to SMART devices, be the one to form SMART goals i.e. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)

Thirdly, Track your time. “A stitch in time saves nine”. Don't let the dilly-dallying get to you. Keeping a track of time helps understand the task requirements and helps set up realistic goals. It also prevents fatigue from overwork. Time management is the key to all locks.

Lastly, Surround yourself with positive support. Superman had Lois Lane, Ironman had Pepper Potts. So, if the comic world’s strongest and richest need one, why don't you? Staying with a positive company helps develop confidence and self-worth. While negatives in your life will try to pull you down, the positives will always uplift you towards the brighter sides of life.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Dr Anshul Mishra

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