People have avoided doing things since the beginning of time, and thanks to the increase of gadgets and technology in recent decades there are now more ways to procrastinate than there are reasons for doing so. It’s easy to blame social media and gaming for our habit, but maybe there is something deeper going on.
Years ago I would wake up at 7:15am with the intention of getting to the bus station for the 9:15am bus, but somehow every morning I would find myself chasing behind, just a minute late as the bus pulled away. My name is Angela and I’m a procrastinator.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines procrastination as:
“To be slow or late about doing something that should be done: to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc”.
Hold on: Where’s the part about scrolling Facebook thirty minutes past my coffee break? This definition doesn’t explain the 20 cat videos that I had to watch as I applied make-up before work yesterday? There has to be more to procrastination than just aversion and laziness. After all, some of the things we procrastinate on are actually our biggest life ambitions.
Why do we procrastinate?
Tim Urban of “Wait But Why” has thought long and hard on the subject and concluded that everyone is in fact a procrastinator. It’s just that some cope better than others. Those clever folks have strategies in place to prevent last second panic before deadlines.
Those of us without strategies often fall victim to a whole host of factors fuelled by fears and anxieties lurking in their subconscious and use our gadgets as a way to escape those feelings. These include the fear of success, failure, judgment and so on.
And then there are those who are just plain lazy, but according to science this might not be entirely their fault. Research suggests that some people may have a gene mutation, nick-named “The Couch Potato Gene” that can cause laziness and even obesity. Although the effect has only been seen in mice, it’s theorised that humans may be also affected.
The role that our tech plays.
The ability to access information at any moment is one of the greatest feats of humanity so far; but that’s the problem. Surfing, swiping and liking is so much fun and so easy to do, that when we’re side-tracked by it the brain receives a reward: a quick hit of dopamine. These easy to earn rewards are hard to resist, especially when compared to the longer term, harder to reach rewards of completing an assignment or cleaning the house. This is called Temporal Discounting and it’s a powerful force.
The good news is that although it may feel like we’re on auto-pilot when we procrastinate, there are plenty of tools out there to help you gain control.
Tools to help curb your tech induced procrastination.
Wasting too much time online? Apps and add-ons like LeechBlock for Firefox, StayFocused for Chrome or AppDetox for Android can help to curb the habit by limiting the time you can spend on time-wasting websites and apps.
RescueTime runs in the background on Desktops and mobile devices, quietly building a report of how you spend your time online, giving insight and highlighting the most important areas to focus on when fixing a procrastination habit.
A great little app for phone addicts is Forest. Simply open Forest and a tree will start to grow on the screen. Over time this these trees will become a forest, but if you leave the app your tree will wither and die. This acts as a fun deterrent and should nip temptation in the bud.
Above all else it’s important to find out the underlying cause for procrastination. Facing your avoidance demons is half the battle. If only it was as easy to avoid social media…