Procrastination, the thief of time | Sunday Observer

Procrastination, the thief of time

...Don’t put it off
...Don’t put it off

Most of us are incorrigible procrastinators. That is we keep on delaying tasks that should be done today for tomorrow or some unspecified day. There is no cause for excitement or surprise because a 2015 study published in “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy” found that about 50 per cent of people consider themselves ‘mild’ or ‘average’ when it comes to procrastinating tasks. About 20 per cent of people view themselves as chronic procrastinators. That means they procrastinate tasks in many different areas of their lives including work, relationships, finances, health or education.

How does procrastination fit into time management? Those who are good at time management know exactly what they should do at a particular time. They want to avoid disastrous results coming in the wake of postponing tasks that should be one at a particular time. However, psychologists believe, procrastination is not a time management issue, but it has something to do with emotions. We tend to postpone tasks when we find them boring or difficult to perform. It could be that you do not want to start a job today because you are not sure whether you could do it well.

Most of the time, we tend to postpone tasks for short-term benefits. For instance, you begin to think that it is going to be a hard job or you do not know how to do it properly. However, most procrastinators forget the long-term benefits. Those who are compelled to complete a course of study during a specified period cannot afford to postpone assignments or reading textbooks. If they do so, they will not be able to reap the long-term benefits of passing a particular examination.

Unpleasant experience

According to Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist based in Lake Forest, Illinois, “Even though you’re procrastinating and you’re trying to avoid whatever unpleasant experience, you think you’re going to have, by avoiding it you still have that (task) hanging on you, so it’s still having a negative impact on you even if you’re not doing it.”

Although procrastination is not a psychiatric problem, it can lead to surging stress levels, health issues and poor performance at school and work. What is more, those who postpone their studies will have a serious problem when they have to sit an examination. Procrastination can impact you emotionally, physically, relationship-wise and obviously work-wise. You might wonder whether you could overcome your procrastinator habits. Psychologists say it is possible to do so. They have suggested many ways in which you can overcome your habit provided you do not postpone doing so.

Positive approach

The first step is to adopt a positive approach. It is pointless blaming yourself for being a procrastinator. If you label yourself as a procrastinator, you will remain so for the rest of your life. Therefore, even if you had been a procrastinator in the past, you should forgive yourself for being a procrastinator. This can be done easily if you think of the past failures. Instead of feeling guilty, you can focus on the future program with a positive outlook. In a study published in the journal “Personality and Individual Differences” it was disclosed how a group of students who forgave themselves for procrastinating reached their target.

It is always good to ask yourself why you are putting off a particular task. It may be due to fear of failure or the task may be more difficult than you had anticipated.


When you address the root of the problem, you will get an insight into the whole problem.

David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done” came up with a two-minute rule which many procrastinators adopted with good results. According to him, if a task takes less than two minutes, do it then and there. Completing simple tasks speedily will improve your productivity and self-confidence.

On the other hand, when you do simple tasks immediately, you do not have to prepare a “to-do” or a priority list.

Whether you are productive or not depends on two factors. The first is whether you are confident of completing the task successfully. Secondly, you should believe that the task is worth doing. Focusing on the reason for doing a particular task will help you to complete it in no time.

When you are in control of your destiny, anything can be done easily. Psychologists say when you assume that someone else would help you to reach your goal you are less motivated. For instance, if you happen to be the son or daughter of a powerful man, you will have no motivation to study, pass examinations and achieve your goal. An easy method of doing a difficult task is to break it into chunks. Small pieces are easy to manage. As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time!”

If you are continually putting off tasks, schedule them on your calendar. Take a firm stand that your appointments are non-negotiable. Then you will reach your goal in no time. Be inspired by Edward Young’s poem:

Procrastination is the thief of time:

Year after year it steals, till all are fled,

And to the mercies of a moment leaves,

The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Always remember that tomorrow is the day when idlers work and fools reform, and mortal men lay hold of heaven!

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