The art of procrastination: Procrastination

How do we get out of the cycle of constantly putting off decisions and tasks?

Procrastination or: The inner pig.

Procrastination is the scientific name for the behaviour of a person who does not complete important decisions and activities promptly, but postpones them until the future. In common parlance, you often hear: "I can't overcome my inner bastard. We all like to do this from time to time - a classic example is our own tax return.

In professional life, procrastination becomes problematic when it has a lasting impact on important processes.

The psychological causes for this behaviour are manifold: mostly it is about fears, unrealistic assessments and demands, low frustration tolerance and problems with self-discipline. The focus is on questions about the significance, consequences, responsibility and importance of a decision. The fear of making a wrong decision, of failing, of experiencing rejection or criticism, of starting something whose extent and significance cannot be assessed, or of having to do even more work in case of success. But negative feelings, such as external determination, meaninglessness of the task, reluctance or lack of desire and drive also play an important role here.

In this context, the importance of one's own value system, beliefs and self-perception should not be underestimated. Those who tend to be perfectionists, for example, have extremely high expectations of themselves and their results. However, this also increases the fear of failure. Those who have a rather pessimistic outlook on life will be more willing to believe that a project will go wrong and imagine the worst consequences. Those with low self-esteem will be more inclined to believe in their own failure.

Brain scans showed that our brains are most active when they think about their present, current self, and least active when they think about a present other person. However, when the subjects thought about themselves in the future, brain activity was almost as low as when they thought about a current other person. So we have a very detached relationship to ourselves as a person in the future. This also explains why we like to put things off or neglect them without thinking, if we only see disadvantages (e.g. renunciation) in them today and the advantages only benefit our distant future self.

Overcome procrastination: Turning the "have to" into a "want to".

Procrastination is thus more of a neural phenomenon because our brain is always geared to putting our present self first. But when we approach the problem with the tips above, we bring the future into the here and now. We visualise the negative consequences of not acting, the positive consequences of acting and the attractive reward we have come up with. We rationalise the decision, get information and help and design a small-scale action plan that seems feasible. This almost automatically turns the "have to" into a "want to". We have made the task, the problem, the decision our own and eliminated or at least reduced all the reasons that have prevented us so far. This motivates and forms the basis for productive work.

The best thing, however, is that what you can achieve as an individual, you can also achieve as a team - and with ease. At least with the right means. More on this in our next article.

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