What is Procrastination?

what is procrastination

Procrastination is very very high amongst my own personal list of “self management skills”

Why? Quite simply put, those skilled in the” art of procrastination”  (and it’s not a good thing) have the potential to ruin their lives by not taking actions which they need to take.

That is a pretty bold and forthright statement, which you may or may not accept, so let’s explore a little bit more about what procrastination is, whether you procrastinate (and most people do to a greater or lesser extent) and then what you can do about it …

Let’s start with looking at “what is procrastination?”

What is Procrastination?

First of all lets look at the description of procrastination offered by Wikipedia.

Here is (the first part) of the wiki definition:

In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time

You can read the full wikipedia definition of procrastination here

I would put it more simply – it is “the art of putting things off”

I would also point you at a really interesting article from the New Yorker which explains some more about procrastination and what might cause it  - read it in full here

The above article (interestingly) mentions that – the term “procrastination” is derived from a Latin word meaning “to put off for tomorrow” – and in that context it is exactly what it says on the tin – putting off things to tomorrow that seem too difficult to do today!

I personally am (or have been) a terrible procrastinator, and believe me (from personal experience) , procrastination has the potential to ruin your life.  Really serious procrastinators will keep putting things off until the very thing that they keep putting off causes them a serious problem.

Anyway I am going to rewind a little bit and try and answer the question of “what is procrastination?” a little better.

To me, procrastination falls into two distinct areas

  • Those that procrastinate by putting things off – usually to the next day.  An example of this would be a tricky phone call, or dealing with a letter, or doing a job around the house.  Trouble is with this sort of procrastination is that it is likely that exactly the same process will happen the next day as well, then the next day, then the next day.
  • Those that procrastinate by not being able to make a decision. Decision making is one of the core skills we need – people who can’t make decisions have difficulty moving things forward and end up being “stuck”.  Lack of decision making can be as small as what you are going to have for tea, right up to the big decisions such as house purchases or life decisions.

Whilst these are two very distinct versions of procrastination they basically amount to the same thing – procrastinators will not take action, and the very act of not taking action can lead to further problems in life such as

  • Poor Time Management and wasted time in prevaricating, worrying, mulling over a decision to be made
  • Increased Stress Levels – and the stress that non-action can cause either “in the moment” or further on down the line when the non-action causes a real problem
  • Feelings of Low Self esteem – feeling wretched about not taking action
  • Low Self confidence – often procrastination arises from a lack of self confidence, and is in many ways is  a vicious circle, not dealing with things because of a lack of self confidence can further lead to issues around self confidence.
  • Missing Opportunities – job opportunities, social opportunities, opportunities to save money….

Can you see why I would rate dealing with procrastination as my absolutely key self management skill?

I firmly believe that if you were able to deal with your procrastination you would

  • Be much more organized
  • Free up time
  • Increase your self esteem and self confidence
  • Give you a sense of achievement
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Improve your image to the outside world as a “can-do” sort of person
  • Take opportunities when they occur and not miss out due to inaction

And the good news is that there are things you can do and actions you can take that will deal with your procrastination issues … all you need is:

  • a few tools and techniques
  • some willpower
  • and the desire to succeed

So without further ado head over to my next article “Ways to Stop Procrastinating”

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Andy Thompson is the author and main editor of self management skills. You can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or GooglePlus

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“What is Procrastination?” – procrastination is definitely something we can take action on and do something about!