I bet you know exactly how it goes. It takes a while to get started, to turn the computer on and to start working on that project. You are ready to start and suddenly you are cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, checking updates on any social media, completing a BuzzFeed quiz, or looking for images to illustrate your project. Any other activity is more important and more interesting than doing this project in first place. You know you need to start, and still everything else is more appealing than actually getting started.
For the past month or so I needed to write two articles, including this one, to post on our class’ Medium blog, however I couldn’t bring myself to start. I knew the topics I wanted to write about, I had read a few articles on each subject, and still I couldn’t start. This led me to think: why do we procrastinate?
According to the dictionary, procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. It doesn’t mean it won’t get done; it’s just going to be done with a lot of adrenalin and a rush to finish it on time. Eventually, what you have to do does in fact get done, like this blog post for example. There are more than a few articles explaining why we procrastinate. They say that we do it for the rush, or that we do it because we know it’s going to get done anyway or even that we procrastinate because we don’t know how to start. Although these seem legitimate reasons, I wasn’t really satisfy with any of them. I believe there’s more to it.
In a totally non-scientific way, writing from my personal experience only, I tried to question myself about why I do procrastinate. I believe that it has to do with the overload of information that we get daily and how I don’t know how to deal with it. I procrastinate not because the subject that I am writing about is tedious, but because there is a problem with my ability to focus. I start working on it but I get distract very easily. It’s hard for me to do anything in one take if it involves sitting in front of a computer. Sometimes it takes me a few days to finish writing a paper or do a presentation that I could have finished in a couple hours if only I had the ability to focus and not check social media every 10 minutes. The stimulus from the internet is just too appealing to ignore. There’s so much going on that is hard to spend time on one exclusive task.
To diminish the guilt of not doing what is urgent, I tend to choose to occupy my time with other tasks that I will eventually need to do, although not that urgently. A clear example of that is: I will need to do laundry sometime this week but it doesn’t need to be now, or I will at some point need pictures to illustrate this post (though how will I know exactly which image fits best if the blog post is not written yet?). This definitely won’t stop me from looking for images anyway.
This is what I like to call productive procrastination; I feel like I am working even when I am avoiding what is more important. I will write a paragraph or start researching about a theme and then switch to something else that I will eventually have to do even if it’s not exactly urgent. This will end up checking some items off my to-do list but not necessarily the most important to-do I have, like writing this blog post. While I can’t find a cure to my procrastination and lack of focus, doing this helps me to feel less guilty for postponing my responsibilities. As you can see, things do get done, like this blog post that is due tomorrow.