Having a complete self-awareness is a rare phenomenon. We are not fully conscious of things nor do we always have the clarity of reasons behind self-behaviour. We subscribe to an idea or a way of thinking and then cling on to it as if our life depended on it. Dogma enters our life as a habit or a belief. But we are usually unaware that we are being dogmatic. We become dogmatic to avoid change. Our insouciant behaviour keeps us safe in our comfort zones so that we never feel the need for introspection. Unbeknown to us, we fear introspection. We live in denial with a natural inclination toward dogma.
Eventually, our denial and fear begin to change our behaviours slowly. Ultimately, fear leads us towards procrastination. For some of us, these fears were instilled during childhood. We never learned to grow out of our past. It is only when procrastination is out of control during adulthood that we look back at its origins and try to discover the root causes. Although the roots might originate from childhood, most procrastinators seek help and advice during adulthood. According to Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen, authors of, Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2008), most people stop procrastinating much later in life, in their 40s and 50s, perhaps because they realise they do not have much time left in life.
When we are young we do not value time. We feel convinced that time is infinite and it is free. The reality is, time is finite and we do not have ‘free time’. By playing the delaying game which most procrastinators do, we avoid participating or engaging in an activity for various reasons. And some people procrastinate as if this is the sole purpose of their life. Chronic procrastination means we are too afraid to work on what we may perceive to be our purpose in life, as procrastination protects us from taking any risks that might result in failure.
Procrastination can be due to many different reasons. “We can think about procrastination as an attempt not just to avoid particular tasks but to avoid the feelings that are somehow associated with those tasks”. Hence, procrastination becomes an emotional part of the self, which is why procrastinators become stubbornly resistant to change. Thus, it does not come as a surprise when Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen tell us that procrastination induces low self-esteem. Low self-esteem and procrastination go hand in hand.
Procrastinators come in all shapes and sizes. Some hesitate to participate due to fear of failure while others are afraid of being successful. “People who are afraid of failure choose not to compete because they are afraid of losing or being exposed as weak or inadequate. People who are afraid of success, however, choose not to compete because they are afraid of winning. They procrastinate to hide their ambition, because they think there’s something wrong with being competitive in the first place.” Hence, “battling in secret seems a much safer course of action—or inaction.”
“When you are preoccupied with procrastination, you can’t really think clearly about important issues. You’re busy presenting an image to the world, maybe even lying about how you spend your time, hiding the truth of what you go through. Procrastination breeds feelings of fraudulence, a precarious way to live. We encourage you to reduce your reliance on procrastination, so that you can lead a more authentic life.”
I must say Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen’s work is profound and helpful for professionals as well as novices in the field. The book is easy to read with helpful information for anyone with procrastination issues. The book offers lots of helpful tips on how to manage procrastination. However, it is worth remembering that, “success does not come all at once.” And the authors recommend taking small steps that are measurable and observable.
Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen have clearly tried to outlay possibly every conceivable type of procrastination in the book, this makes it easy for all readers to relate to a scenario and see if they have skeletons in the closet. I confess, to my astonishment I too discovered some matters while reading the book that needed attention.
I strongly recommend this remarkable book to anyone struggling with procrastination. I paused reading when I came across this statement “if you can only be satisfied with perfection, you are doomed to be disappointed.” The solutions they provide are attainable and realistic with step by step guidance. It is recommended that the readers try not to make elusive goals or take on too big a task all at once or try fighting every battle that comes their way. One should be selective when choosing what is important to them.
As Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen say, “if you are compelled to fight every battle that comes along, you are not truly free or powerful. To be truly free, you must be able to choose which battles to fight and which to cede. Herein lies authentic power and the sense of being your own person.” Procrastination is a battle for more than just control, that it is a battle for self-worth and self-respect. It is self-worth and self-respect that allows us to safely explore the knowledge of self so that we can gain greater self-awareness.