Procrastination or the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome: what it is and how to prevent it

There are people who leave everything for tomorrow. But what are the consequences of this attitude?

There is a common phenomenon that, despite being easily recognizable, is difficult to explain. It is about procrastination, a curious word that however only refers to the habit of postponing without valid justification activities or obligations that have to be taken care of.

One of the characteristics of this type of postponement, moreover, is the fact that we intend to carry out the task sooner or later since somehow we know that its completion is something we have to go through.

Procrastination or the "I'll do it tomorrow" syndrome: what it is and how to prevent it

What is Procrastination?

However, it is not simply the typical behavior that we can associate with a mischievous or hedonistic person. In a survey of 1,347 adults of various nationalities, a quarter of them shows a strongly fixed tendency to postpone tasks, regardless of their gender or culture.

Another study indicates that each employee spends around one hour and twenty minutes a day postponing their main task, with the consequent opportunity cost for the organization. In addition, about 32% of college students may have serious problems with procrastination, according to the Patterns of Academic Procrastination study. On the other hand, the psychologist Piers Steel argues in his publication The Procrastination Equation that, wherever it is present, this trend goes against one’s well-being in a broad sense: it contributes to worse health and lower wages.

In addition, it can lead to compulsive or very intense attitudes that serve to evade the main responsibility: eating a lot, playing video games, etc.

A problem without a simple solution

However, since procrastination can be so troublesome… why do we keep allowing it to happen? In fact, it is difficult to justify the postponement of a necessary task, as long as we recognize it as such. We experience the strange notion of having entered the constant cycle of the “better tomorrow”, justifying this decision once it has already been made by an instance superior to our consciousness.

In this way, a deeply irrational and automatic mechanism is rationalized by covering it with a la carte words and justifications. What is the key that triggers this automatic mechanism of eternal delays? Own Piers Steel could have been found.

According to their research, there is a clear relationship between the tendency to delay tasks and impulsivity. In these studies, the presence or absence of the capacity for self-regulation, that is, the ability to control oneself in favor of future rewards, explained 70% of the cases of procrastination.

There was a direct relationship between levels of impulsivity and a tendency to postpone tasks. In more recent research, Steel has found a rationale for the hypothesis that the same genetic basis exists between impulsivity and this annoying tendency. If impulsivity involves difficulties in avoiding behaviors that are not appropriate, procrastination implies difficulties in triggering behaviors that are appropriate: they are practically part of the same phenomenon; a failure to follow the behavior system that leads to long-term goals.

What to do to fix it?

Based on this explanation of the mechanics of deferring tasks, we can apply the same types of corrective procedures that we use with impulsivity cases. In this case, the solution is to create work strategies that transform diffuse, general, and distant goals in time into small, very specific objectives that have to be met immediately.

In summary, we must break down goals that are not limited and with little capacity to attract ourselves in the face of other distracting stimuli, in very well-determined activities that urgently demand our attention and that take us, one by one, from the here and now to the achievement of the goal. end goal.

1. Small commitments

For example, in the case of having to write a 20-page paper, a good way to do this is to commit to writing a page before seven in the afternoon. If we see that it is difficult for us to fulfill these small commitments, we will make them even smaller and more concrete, so that we see their resolution as something perfectly possible, for example, we can write 15 lines before two hours have passed. The question is to bring time closer and at the same time make less uncomfortable, the pressure that we would suffer more and more as the days go by if we did not get down to work.

2. Avoid elements that can distract you

Another good tactic that can be combined with the first one is to impose difficulties on ourselves when it comes to accessing distractions: turning off the television that is playing in the background, putting away the smartphone, etc. We can, first of all, weigh what elements are those that can take us away from the goal and do something to avoid being tempted too much. In a reasonable and moderate way, this also applies to the people around us.

In short, we have to ensure that reason takes the reins over our short-term preferences by drawing a very clear roadmap. Create a kind of cognitive rails that will help us achieve what we set out to do.

Procrastination or the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome: what it is and how to prevent it

Categories: Psychological