Procrastination is a term you’ve likely heard being used often, especially in the context of work or study patterns. But what does it actually mean? The essence of procrastination lies in its Latin root: ‘procrastinare’, which means ‘to put off till tomorrow’.
In its simplest definition, procrastination means the act of delaying or postponing tasks or actions to a later time. It’s essentially about avoiding doing something that needs to be done, often because it’s difficult or unpleasant. However, not all delay is considered procrastination; it becomes procrastination when the delay is detrimental and leads to harmfully delaying inevitable tasks.
People usually procrastinate not as a result of time mismanagement or laziness, but because they’re unable to manage their emotions. Certain tasks might trigger feelings of self-doubt, fear, insecurity, or underestimation – leading people to procrastinate as a coping mechanism against these negative emotions.
It’s important to understand that everyone procrastinates to some degrees. However, when procrastination begins affecting your productivity, performance, or mental health, it may indicate a larger concern called chronic procrastination. Chronic procrastinators delay tasks habitually or unnecessarily, even when they understand the negative consequences.
Understanding its types might also help you grasp the concept of procrastination better. There are three main types:
1. Classic Procrastination: This is when an individual puts off tasks until the very last moment. This is due to underlying reasons such as fear of failure, fear of success, or indecision.
2. Active Procrastination: People who engage in active procrastination purposely delay tasks, believing that they work better under pressure. Contrary to classic procrastinators, active procrastinators have a control over their delay strategy and deliver tasks within a deadline, despite the delay.
3. Passive Procrastination: Passive procrastination is not a deliberate act. People who are passive procrastinators generally have a hard time making decisions or acting promptly. They miss deadlines due to their inability to act in a timely manner.
While procrastination might temporarily provide relief from a stressful task, it’s generally regarded as unhelpful. Procrastination can lead to poor work performance, increased stress, lower life satisfaction, and even negative health impacts. As a result, numerous strategies have been developed to help people overcome their tendencies to procrastinate. These include time-management skills, eliminating distractions, breaking tasks into smaller segments, and implementing a reward/punishment system.
Understanding what procrastination means is the first step towards recognizing and addressing this behavior if it starts to become problematic in your life. In essence, procrastination is the thief of time and the direct enemy of productivity. Appreciating its presence and influence on your life is necessary for taking control over it, and developing healthier habits that encourage productivity over delay.