“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”
– Napoleon Hill
How many years in a row has your New Year’s resolution been to get in shape?
To start eating healthy?
To learn a new craft?
To work on something you’ve always wanted to do?
And how many times have you started working on that thing and then tapered off only a few weeks later?
If the answer is even “once,” then chances are you are a procrastinator.
The New Year’s resolution is a wonderful idea thought up by those who are unable to start or finish working on something they’ve always wanted to do. It is something that we use to make ourselves feel better about the fact that we put off working on this thing the previous year, but that we’ll definitely get around to working on it in the following year.
We, as people, love to look toward the future as this shining realm of endless opportunity and excitement; yet, because we see the future as such we are always looking toward it hopefully and rarely putting in the work now in order to make that future a reality.
What we fail to realize a lot of the time when thinking of our bright futures is that our futures are a direct reflection of our actions in the present.
Views on Procrastination
An article in The New Yorker sheds light on several views of procrastination by philosophers dating back to Socrates.
Socrates believed that procrastination was an impossibility to the educated because no one would knowingly do something that is bad for them, therefore they must be uneducated in that something.
Loewenstein and economist John Rae similarly believe procrastination to be a result of one’s inability to see the fruits of his efforts in the future versus the immediate reward of something in the present.
Social scientist Jon Elster sees procrastination as a lack of proper planning in something he calls “the planning fallacy.” In other words, when we procrastinate we view the plans we’ve made in our heads as perfect and that they will go off without a hitch – the reality being that we can almost never account for what may happen in the future, so we put off because we are unprepared for what life is going to throw at us.
Several philosophers (Thomas Schelling, Otto von Bismarck, and Don Ross) view procrastination as a constant battle between several different “inner-selves;” meaning that we are contending with the self that wants to get on the internet, the self that wants to write that paper, the self that wants to learn the guitar, the self that wants to go to Hawaii, and so on.
Mark D. White views procrastination as “a failure of will,” believing that weak will in driving oneself is the reason for putting things off.
Fixing the Problem
So then how do those of us who procrastinate fix the problem?
Mastering our thoughts is what is required.
Many philosophers believe the solution lies in our minds rather than in our outside actions, believing that we must understand that the temptation of wants over needs always exists in everyone, not just those who procrastinate. We need to be making deals with the want parts of us so that we can accomplish the needs first.
In other words, “although the television-watching is interested only in watching TV, it’s interested in watching TV not just now but also in the future. This means it can be bargained with: working now will let you watch more television down the road.”
Mark D. White’s point of view would have us fix the problem of procrastination by strengthening our will to do things rather than by tricking ourselves and making deals with ourselves.
All of these solutions require us to spend time in our heads thinking about ways around putting things off.
So spend time recognizing your habits and thought processes, then change them by using this new knowledge to convince yourself to do new things now.
The book The Willpower Instinct has many wonderful, easy ways to get yourself started on increasing your willpower.
One way, which you can do anywhere at any time, is to control your breathing.
Studies show that slowing your breathing down to 4 to 6 inhalations and exhalations a minute brings you into a form of meditation. According to Kelly McGonigal, the author of the book, meditation increases the size of your prefrontal cortex and the body undergoes a whole physiological response, increasing willpower. Do this around 5 times a day.
This is just a small step that you can take with you anywhere and start incorporating into your life today.
Try it! You’ll like it!
As we read and learn more at Unconditional Responsibility we will share more with you to help you control your thoughts.