For as long as I have known it, I have been a procrastinator. I have procrastinated everything right from studying for my exams, to going for my morning walks, to typing out this post. And for the longest time I have ever known, this attitude has brought about my “lazy lady” title. Everyone, right from my mother to my husband tell me that I am “downright lazy.” I carry this notorious tag around, except that to me, being “lazy” has always felt more like a war wound rather than something I should feel ashamed about. Well, at least most of the times.
The one time when I really hate my “lazy” attitude is when I am unable to do what I want to do, like typing out these words, for instance.
While the words kept playing themselves inside my head, I continued to postpone getting my fingers to play around the words. I was getting frustrated with myself. And that is why I decided to dig deeper into the “lazy” bug.
What is “lazy” really?
Most people call “lazy” as being a state of mind, something that we have absolute control over. That, it is only a matter of talking yourself out of the craziness of laziness. I agree with the whole talking to yourself bit. But only after understanding the why you are “lazy” in the first place part.
This brings us to the question of…
Why do we procrastinate?
Why do we eat, really? Your first thought would be, uh, what’s the connection?
But first, let us take a look at the answer to the first question. We eat because we feel like it. That is what hunger is – it is a feeling that is caused by a chemical reaction taking place within the body. Every living being feels this hunger. And yet, your hunger is different from mine.
Neither do we eat the same measure, nor do we eat at the same time. Likewise with every feeling, including depression. What is a cause for sadness to you, could lead me into depression. The measure of feeling is directly proportional to the measure of chemical reactions taking place within the individual body. In short, what works for you will not work for me, and vice-versa.
And that is the connection.
We procrastinate because we feel like putting off doing the activity that we need to do.
How does research explain procrastination?
It has something to do with the individual brain design and it’s response to stress. A procrastinator’s brain displays a higher stress rate, and considers even the smallest of activities to be stressful. For instance, sometimes I put off cooking because the activity feels like a chore, a humongous burden on my tiny, fragile shoulders. This in turn, translates into stress, albeit at a very low level. This kind of stress is like the heart-attack that we never consciously feel. And yet, it happens.
Both my best friend and my sister-in-law also view cooking as a chore. Except that they don’t procrastinate this tedious job. They just do it.
So what is the difference between you and them?
The difference between me and them has to do with the measure of feeling the chore. My brain hyperboles the idea of cooking to the extent that it seems as if I am warring a monster every day. Obviously I wouldn’t want to get into the war-zone everyday, would I?! Automatically, I dread the thought of cooking, and every other domestic activity, all because my brain hyperboles my responsibilities.
Can’t you turn off this hyperbole?
Um…I don’t want to turn it off.
You see, I am a storyteller. And if there is one thing in common with every storyteller, it is the idea of creating a drama around their scene. in short, I cannot write my stories if I don’t hyperbole.
So your procrastinator attitude is…
…a fallout of my hyperbole brain which, while building me into a storyteller, also transforms this entire storytelling process into a challenge because the hyperbole makes me procrastinate. How weird is that?! This is also why I don’t hate my “lazy-bug” title, but am quite frustrated with myself when I put off doing the things I want to do. The very thing that breaks me, also makes me.
But not every storyteller is a procrastinator
Both JK Rowling and I are storytellers. But we tell different stories. It is simply because we feel the same thing, in different measures and different ways. It is like how nature rains differently in different places. The measure of rain depends on the weight of the cloud. The weight of stress inside a serial procrastinator’s head is pretty heavy.
And it hurts them
There are two reasons for this. The brain is a slave to habit. Procrastination is a habit, and everyone knows that habits once formed are pretty hard to break. It is procrastination as a habit that hurts us. Not procrastination itself. The second reason is the myth around procrastination – that procrastinating is wrong.
Isn’t procrastination wrong?
I cannot handle stress. Everyone who knows me well also know that stress is a complete no-no in my field. My brain refuses to function well in a stressful situation. I have also found that the more I try to push it into working through stressful situations, the more it pushes back against me, draining me completely.
I have published three novellas and have completed my fourth one over the last three years. Many people in my place would have done so much more. When I tried to ape them, I realized that I had made my biggest mistake. The minute I began to push myself, trying to set and meet deadlines, I realized I was trespassing my fatigue levels and the stress was over-flowing, affecting my work adversely.
Now, I have come to the acceptance that procrastination is simply my hyperbole brain’s design. So, instead of fighting it, and stressing out the already severely stressed organ within me, I talk to the procrastinator inside to find out why she is the way she is.
I am guessing we have come to the topic on how to manage procrastination
Procrastination is a character trait. It is how the brain keeps certain characters (like me) alive, because we are prone to high-levels of energy drains during stressful periods. But unfortunately, stuff needs to be done. It is the way of the world.
So how do we deal with the procrastinator that we are?
- No one wins a war. Don’t fight out your procrastination. Make peace with it instead. Listen to it, and then get it to listen to you. In clearer words, understand the cause for your procrastinator attitude. Is it because of a medical condition? Is it the result of a habit? Why don’t you want to do the things that you have to do? Is there a underlying health issue?
- Be non-judgmental. When we are non-judgmental, we begin to look at the bigger picture. Don’t tell yourself that you are wrong to procrastinate. Just become aware of how this attitude is helping you and hurting you.
- Once you have the points before you, figure out ways and means to manage the unhelpful procrastinator. I tell myself that my writing is a mystery to me. I don’t know what I am going to type out in the next line. I have to wait and watch the words. And this “interesting” angle gets my brain up and about when I am writing my fiction and non-fiction work. The point is to get the brain to listen to you well enough to over-ride the call of the procrastinator.
- Procrastinate. It is in your nature to procrastinate. So do it. Except become more aware of the areas where your procrastination is downright unhelpful, and distressing. From personal experience, my greatest suggestion is to choose the fewest of tasks that you wish to do, and try to delegate the rest. And more than anything, do not take on other people’s responsibilities.
Here’s to understating your design, and procrastinating right!