More often than not, procrastination is quite harmless. In fact, many believe it’s an important part of the creative process and can help achieve better results than people who burn out.
Writers or journalists, for instance, are considered to be the worst procrastinators of all because they think it helps them think clearly and perform more effectively.
It may be true. However, that's not always the case.
Task-aversion, in its compulsive form or chronic procrastination, may be a sign of an underlying psychological disorder. If not treated, it can potentially cause problems in your career, relationships and in some extreme cases, your health too.
''It can be devastating to people,'' stated a 1981 New York Times article, quoting Dr. Herbert Fensterheim, an associate attending psychologist at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
''It can ruin marriages, friendships and careers,'' he said.
Even worse is the part where seeking professional help for this condition becomes a problem unto itself because of the social stigma that people are just generally lazy or looking for excuses to avoid hard work.
So, how can you know if you are suffering from chronic procrastination?
Although it’s always better to talk to an expert, here are some questions, which are basically indications, to help you out:
1- Tardiness is a habit. But has it started affecting your life adversely?
So, you know that lateness is one of your biggest faults. However, you should know that it’s getting a little out of hand when you start getting into trouble because of tardiness.
If your supervisors are increasingly becoming irritated because of your unpunctuality or if your partner has fought with you more than twice over delaying a movie or an important lunch, then you should really rethink your choices and start scheduling stuff.
2- Do you face difficulty getting started on new, challenging tasks or switching from one to another?
If you are one of those people who like to settle for menial tasks instead of challenging projects, then chances are you might be on your way to becoming a chronic procrastinator.
At work, try to engage in projects that test your skills and abilities. Mediocre jobs lead to mediocre output.
3- Not good at keeping promises, are you?
You start off with good intentions. You pledge to complete an assignment within an hour but spend three instead. You promise to meet an old friend in the coming weekend but forget each time, coming up with lame excuses.
If you are doing this then stop immediately. People will eventually stop trusting you with anything important and might not even consult or communicate with you in future.
4- Do you use procrastination as a way to show your resentment?
You can’t say no to a request but you also can’t do the work you just said yes to. As a result, you delay doing the task you undertook to show your hidden resentment. At times, you might not even notice you’re doing this.
Keep a track of your commitments and if you don’t want to do it, just say no.
5- Is nostalgia becoming a problem?
Do you love dwelling in the past? If yes, please don’t. Primarily, because it’s not going to help you pay the bills or buy the tickets to that Coldplay concert your friend is looking forward to attending.
One of the major reasons chronic procrastinators fail to function is that they constantly worry about stuff that cannot be fixed because it has already happened.
To quote award-winning inspirational writer Lisa Wingate, “A bad past is like gristle. You can chew on it forever and starve yourself to death, or you can spit it out and see what else is on the table.”
Spit it out. ASAP.
6- Are you easily distracted?
So, you weren’t able to complete your project on time because you spent too much time on that really informative Washington Post article on the Iraq crisis.
This just goes to show how easily you are distracted from the task at hand. Try to curb this urge to “do something else instead” by staying away from stuff that you think might divert your attention from really important things.
For example, avoid social networking websites, video games and online shopping forums while at work. It would save you minutes worth of productiveness.
7- Do you feel being a procrastinator is OK?
Last, but certainly not the least, you said yes to almost four things mentioned above and yet you think it is fine to be that way because it’s probably how people normally procrastinate.
Well, no. It’s not OK. In fact, “alright-ing” task-aversion is one of the major red-flags of chronic procrastination.
To put in a nutshell, delaying chronic procrastination is not just ironic, it could be problematic as well.