The Art of Procrastination

There is an art to procrastinating. To waiting until the last minute. Until something is at risk of being late. There is an art to avoiding a task until it simply cannot be ignored any longer.

Distraction helps. It introduces conflicting interests. But it is only a small piece of the puzzle.

There’s also the feeling of being overwhelmed. Conflicting responsibilities help, too. Anxiety is the big one, though. Anxiety is the big driving factor in the world of procrastination. At least in my world. And it is only often when the anxiety of missing a deadline, or when the task simply cannot wait any longer, of when the there is enough pressure that the pain that is being avoided wanes compared to the pain that will be experienced by putting off the task any longer.

Some think it is simply laziness, that we procrastinators simply do not work hard, do not wish to work at all — that we are simply… lazy.

Laziness is a simple dismissal of the problem of procrastination. As mentioned above, the real problem is that of anxiety. See, we procrastinators also tend to have issues such as self doubt or perfectionism. Some might call it that pesky issue of motivation. All of them in some manner or form converge on this issue. And I’d be remiss to not accept that sometimes, it is laziness, but to attribute that as anything but a rare contributor is giving it too much credit.

The real problem with procrastination is this anxiety that is constipating forward momentum. It’s that we allow ourselves to take the simpler path, a direction easier to manage in the near-term. We choose to do something else, something that takes less anxiety of effort, instead of the primary task.

You might call this a failure of motivation, but motivation is only a component of tasking. Of doing things. The procrastinator is certainly motivated; if motivation was only enough to push the pendulum enough to get it moving. There’s a resistance on the other side, keeping the pendulum in place.

Overcoming procrastination is anything except easy. There’s a mental effort that is necessary, a training of the mind and body alike, to propel it forward against the desire to put things off. Where one thinks the mind might rebel, the body protests; where one thinks it is the body, the mind will dash away. It is best to presume then that both should be watched, cajoled into a state where neither can effectively negate the goals, though they will place in their best efforts.

Of the many ways to derail the chances to stop procrastination, distraction and choice may become key. How does one know they are putting things off when they are so distracted by the shiny in front of them that they find it impossible to know what is going on? Those with the traits associated with the non-disorder ADHD more readily succumb to this happening. The mind is so loaded with shiny objects buzzing this way and that it fades in its ability to focus. Much like a weightlifter might come to the point that the weight has been lifted so many times that the muscles lose the ability to lift it any further.

What artistry our being has in its ability to dodge. It looks much like Muhammad Ali did in his prime, dancing around the ring as we look like amateur fools trying to dodge and strike.

Yet we must power — I must power on — as this long-learned habit continued to be ingrained in my psyche. Its artistry in the ways it can and does take hold made easy in the decades of practice in relinquishing to it. There is too much time given to allowing time to press on until the very last moment possible, where the tasks only have shavings of particulates in time to be completed before a deadline drops.

Time only wanes; it never waxes.

Maybe today I might be able to fight against this artistry keeping me from the day at hand, this art of procrastination. If I keep focused on what is needed to be done, I can make progress. Then again, there’s always tomorrow. Right?


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