At the very outset, I should not hesitate from mentioning that in this blog, in order to validate any of my experiences in general I would not be taking aid of any scientific data in the modern sense of the term. This is primarily for the reason that even though modern science resolutely claims the authenticity for its data and has been perennially against generalizations, resorting to generalization is the weapon of last resort even in its own hands, if not in all then, atleast, in most cases. We can understand this in the following way. If a population is the sample space for any scientific experiment to be conducted, it becomes not only mandatory but also inevitable for the carrier of the experiment to generally take a small part of the sample for the experiment and resort to a general conclusion based on similar observations. Theoretically, that defeats the very purpose of exactness for which the experiment had been carried out as a large portion of the sample space was not even considered for the experiment. Practically, it is simply impossible to acquire data of the entire population living within a defined set of boundaries.
The subject of this blog, as is very much visible, is related particularly to human behaviour. The entire drilling of the process of scientific analysis of human behaviour was started significantly by an Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who may be termed as the godfather of modern psychology, in his reputed work A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques used to study the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental disorders. Using these techniques, Freud tried exactly to find out the cure of mental maladies patients are usually affected with. The futility of this technique was put before by one of his ardent followers Carl Gustav Jung in his notable work Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Jung was introduced to the work of Freud by his mentor Eugen Bleuler at Burghölzli Hospital, Zürich where Jung was working as an intern. He was critical of the psychoanalytical technique of Freud because it focussed more on the one side of the story – the cure of the disease. The focus on the cause of the disease was negligible which led Jung to conclude that preventing a disease is even more important than curing it and this can be done only when the required amount of focus is given to the cause part of the disease as well. This will also significantly reduce the number of patients and therefore, handling them would be a lot easier task. So, while Jung, in particular, was critical of Freud, in general, he was attacking the blind introduction of the modern scientific approach to every discipline just to fall in line with others without giving even a single thought over its real necessity.
In this blog, what I try to claim is the fact that most of our problems which modern science claims to solve after doing hundreds of complicated and complex experiments, can simply be solved with our own common sense and normal understanding of the issue. The hegemony of modern science is so grave that it simply becomes impossible for us to accept things if they are not backed up by any scientific data and told solely on the basis of the normal (or even transcendental) experience of someone. Some post-modern thinkers (whom I appreciate but also disagree with) have answered the arrogance of modern science (some even call it the ignorance of modern science) beautifully. Markedly, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge by Jean-François Lyotard and Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard are worth giving a look.
Now, let us come to the very subject of the blog – procrastination. First things first, why I chose to write on procrastination. I have been procrastinating to study for a month nearly if I’m recalling it correctly. I have even procrastinated to write a blog knowing the fact that it has been months since I wrote last. I will consider this topic in a very general way considering myself and most others to be normal. Though some events of procrastinations have induced me to write this blog, it is not for the first time I have encountered this in my life. So, whatever I am going to write about it is, nonetheless, based on my long-term experience of it. My write-up would be certain but would inexorably be having an element of subjectivity involved. So, by no means am I trying to indoctrinate anybody with what I write. Others may disagree at whichever point they like to. Being a pseudo-follower of Voltaire, ‘I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’, I want others also to disagree with me but with grace and not malice.
So, for all those, who still haven’t googled or don’t know what precisely procrastination is (which I know most of you must be knowing beforehand), here we go. How many times do we postpone or stop doing things when we are in the beginning or middle of it, or perhaps, approaching its end? Do you fall under the category of those people who plan up very well for things but ultimately when it is the time for execution or performance, they give up either outrightly or in the progression of it? If yes, then you are not the only one. In fact, most of us are like that only. Believe me, it is not an excuse which I am making up for my own weaknesses. It’s very normal. Procrastination, put simply, is an action of delaying or postponing something. Simply, there can be two reasons for that – internal or external. External reasons may include any unwanted external event which may let you postpone your plan of action. Let’s say, you are planning to go out with your best friend and you unexpectedly find that your vehicle has got a tyre punctured. Now, you have two options – one, if there is a possibility, you can get your tyre repaired and then move out subsequently (only if your best friend doesn’t want to get late) and two, postpone the plan altogether because the puncturing of your vehicle’s tyre has punctured your mood also. One thing can be noticed here – even if the primary cause of procrastination is external (puncturing of the tyre in the above scenario), it is the very internal functioning of one’s mood towards a minima trajectory that ultimately leads you to it. The final reason, therefore, is internal and to be more accurate, mental. I don’t think there is even a single person who hasn’t encountered this situation in his life. Only a congenital yogi, which I think is a rare piece, can be barred from such a distinction.
Why do we procrastinate? There can be many factors which I would be discussing very simply. Before we discuss, let us try to answer some simple questions – why do we work or act? For most of us, the answer would be – to achieve our goals. Here comes another question – how many of us do really achieve the desired targets (referring specifically to the long-term targets)? The answer would be – only a few of us. Why is it so? Lack of planning is a major underlying cause. Here we come to the first cause of procrastination – lack of planning. Wise people say, ‘if you are failing to plan then you are planning to fail.’ We fail primarily because we don’t plan out our journey towards our goal. Even if we plan, our plan is impracticable and therefore, undoable over a longer period of time. This is because we either don’t plan, or plan improperly, or perhaps, plan in so much enthusiasm and we get so much over-ambitious that we tend to ignore the practical aspect of it. When it comes to the execution of the plan, we give up at the very beginning or midway as procrastination kicks in which is very obvious given the unfitting nature of the plan. Having a proper practicable plan should be our first lesson in order to fight procrastination. When we have a practicable plan, we are single-headed focused on our goal and it is very likely that we will achieve our targets in the stipulated time period.
Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.
― Charles Dickens (in David Copperfield)
Another reason why we procrastinate is the kicking in of monotony over a longer period when we do a particular nature of work recurringly. Kicking in of monotony is the natural by-product of working single-mindedly towards a particular goal. Now, for most of us, having a proper practicable plan to allow us to focus sharply on our target and kicking in of monotony may seem a simultaneous process, and therefore, conflicting in our way to get rid of procrastination. How to resolve this contradiction? Here comes the role of hobbies in one’s life. We must always take some time out from our cyclical schedule to focus on something which our mind finds pleasant, otherwise. A hobby is like cleaning up the recycle bin of your brain. Apart from that, proper focus on exercise, sleep, water, food, and digestion must be given.
Complacency is another big factor as to why we procrastinate. When we really miscalculate or undermine the gravity of the target posed in front of us, we tend to procrastinate from our schedule and pile up things for tomorrow. This undercurrent of complacency is heavily visible in today’s young generation. The prime reason for that is the lack of responsibility and maturity which they are supposed to have with respect to their age. The chalta hai and jugaad attitude, especially in the Indian scenario, has really brought the younger generation back to square zero. One should forcibly try to become responsible and mature in relation to our age. This can be ingrained by practice.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
― Abraham Lincoln
Now, even if all the factors mentioned above are missing and still one procrastinates, everything else gets boiled down to one inner thing – inertia. Oh please, don’t think I’m going to lecture you on the moment of force or torque. I have read those topics in Physics long back and don’t even remember a bit of it. Still, what I remember is the overall sense it tries to convey. The basic principle behind inertia what we have learned in our high school was – if a body is in a state of rest, it will remain in the state of rest and if a body is in a state of motion, it will remain in the state of motion until an external force is applied to it. Let’s take an example to understand how this works in case of procrastination. Suppose after doing your routine work, you come and sit down at your study table to pursue a particular course which is a part of your well-chalked-out plan. But suddenly you find that you are not able to concentrate and somewhat procrastinate. You have all the pre-requisites to carry on your work. You have had a plan and you are executing that properly. There is no monotony involved as you have just sat down at the workplace which means your mind is fresh. You are not even complacent as you are sincere enough to take out time and pursue your plan. Then why procrastination kicks in. This is because of inertia. As one has not gathered the pace and momentum to carry out his plan, his mind and body are naturally in a state of rest to perform the task. This state of rest can be altered only by applying an external force, which in this case is both external as well as internal. Externally, to kick out procrastination, one has to persist for a stipulated amount of time, which may vary across various nature of works and also for different people; and internally, one has to trick our mind to perform that work for that stipulated amount of time no matter how much resistance you feel. Once you have reached the threshold level, your mind and body automatically do the rest of the job. So, persistence here is the key.
I hope, despite being very general in my approach, I have been able to convey what I have wanted to. Procrastination can never prevent you from doing your tasks if you are mentally sturdy and physically robust. Abstain from wasting time on trivial hopeless things. One’s lazy attitude will get his tasks piled up which one has to complete anyway no matter what. There is more possibility of doing tasks with perfection when there aren’t many. The satisfaction we have, then, is also soothing and peaceful. Piled-up tasks are completed just for the sake of being getting completed and once you’re done with them, it is the sense of guilt that eventually outlasts the sense of satisfaction. Remember,
It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
― Leonardo da Vinci