Procrastination: the habit of putting things off Procrastination: the habit of putting things off

Being able to concentrate on a single activity is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Prioritizing and planning are ways to promote a balanced and healthy life.

Medical Advisor Viviana Carrasquilla Urshela
Psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

The word, “procrastinate” is a verb that best defines modern society. To many, the word is new and unfamiliar. Procrastinating describes the overall attitude of putting off responsibilities in order to have instant gratification and occurs at the end of the deadline. So, what do people do when they procrastinate? They open up their Internet browser, navigate YouTube (a unique, ever-expanding virtual website) or Facebook and other social networks, and send e-mails that are not important at the time. That is what procrastination looks like.

Merriam-Webster’s definition is precise and to the point: “to put off intentionally and habitually.” It mentions nothing more because it is not necessary. But the following could be added: to lose time knowing that a project or report must be finished.

Psychologist Viviana Carrasquilla Urshela defines it as behaving in a way that puts off activities that are considered important, preventing the activity from being completed and replacing it with other unnecessary activities. “This ends in frustration and a sense of failure. It generates a vicious cycle and causes low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. It can affect your health.”

We all know how it feels to reach the end of your day and not have completed what you should have, and you have to rush to finish what you are just barely beginning. You become anxious and are filled with regret.

Procrastination is not something new, this behavior has existed for a longtime. With the industrial revolution, and with the advances of modern society, industry has developed and has brought on the need productivity as well as its effects. A name has been given to this experience, therefore allowing it to be identified. When it becomes a problem, it affects our productivity, which is very important,” Carrasquilla explains. She adds that several studies have proven that this practice is more common in men than in women and that it tends to go away as we age. As we move forward, however, this pressure to be productive can make new generations procrastinate even more.

Some sociologists have already analyzed how this generation takes refuge in immediacy; they don’t want to wait, “… and because of this, they seek immediate positive reinforcement, something that brings them satisfaction right away. Procrastination arises when there are important activities that offer long-term gratification, which is why small and unnecessary activities are performed that take away the concentration needed to do the activity that is actually important.”

In psychology, this practice is studied from a psychodynamic approach (the fear of failure and of not being successful, and is related to dysfunctional relationships with authority figures), a motivational approach (not being interested in the task at hand), a cognitive approach (repetitive and negative thoughts that occur while you are doing the activity) and from a behavioral approach (behavior that leads us to not completing a task).

We have all caught ourselves setting goals that get lost in the temptations of the Internet or in the last big soccer game of some international team. Carrasquilla recommends working on your self-esteem, feeling confident about the activity, convincing yourself that you can finish it successfully, establishing a pleasant routine that is full of smaller activities that serve as positive reinforcements, and to focus solely on an activity and totally disconnect once you decide to start an important task. As we know, in order to do this, a lot of self-control is needed.

13% of the population is susceptible to being a chronic procrastinator, according to a report from the Complutense University of Madrid.