Taming procrastination

N°301b – Synopsis (8p.) – Personal Effectiveness
Taming procrastination
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Tending to postpone until the next day what we could be doing that same day is a natural mechanism to manage our emotions. Rather than fighting this temptation, how can we channel it, or even take advantage of it?

Charles Darwin is famous for his theory of evolution, which revolutionized the scientific field. What is less well known is that, upon his return from the Galapagos Islands, he took more than twenty years to write his masterpiece! While he had already formulated its great principles, he scattered in many minor topics, from the study of earthworms to the geology of Scotland. Was he scared of how his theory would be considered? Did he have health problems? Specialists have diverse opinions, and only Darwin could (maybe) have said why he chose to play for time during two decades.

Darwin is far from being the sole example of procrastination. It took Leonardo da Vinci twelve years to achieve The Last Supper. He only put the last touch to it when its patron threatened to cut his funding. Closer to us, exceptionally performant leaders have acknowledged this tendency, like Steve Jobs or Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s founder. In reality, even if procrastination carries an image of guilty weakness, it affects almost everyone: 95% of staff admit that they sometimes push back part of their work until the next day; a third consider that this tendency can even penalize them in their professional life.

What force can thus go against our will, and push us to prevaricate on some tasks that we nonetheless deem important? Should we see in our bouts of procrastination a form of laziness or a lack of organization? In fact, it is rather a defensive reaction that is deeply anchored and very difficult to repress. Its function? To regulate our emotions. When the prospect of a task prompts negative thoughts and feelings—weariness, worry, discomfort, etc.—, our limbic system automatically triggers the “flight” mode to prevent us from being affected. At that point, browsing through YouTube or preparing our week-end shopping list appear to our brain as the best options to preserve our emotional balance.

In such conditions, seeking to suppress procrastination is often pointless and exhausting. Conversely, understanding its origins and mechanisms allows for channeling it, or even for making it a lever of productivity!

In this synopsis:
– What type of procrastinator are you?
– Five pieces of advice to manage procrastination better
– Changing your inner dialogue to procrastinate less

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