Procrastination: 10 Reasons to Embrace the Word "Now"

Procrastinating often leads to not getting something important done at all.

Posted Nov 17, 2020

 Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain
Source: Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain

There’s an important caveat to be added to what’s highlighted in my title. Doing or deciding on something too quickly can be rash and ill-advised. But many people are in such a rush to get closure that they make decisions prematurely, even when more information is available and should be pursued. And while that’s hardly prudent, these individuals are compelled to do so because leaving a problematic situation unresolved causes them excessive anxiety.

Nonetheless, tackling something right away—that is, after first considering its parameters—is generally the wisest thing to do. Below are some pivotal reasons why.

1. You won’t forget it—or worry that you’ll forget it. We’ll assume that this is something you want to handle as soon as possible. Unless you write a note to yourself and place it in a not-to-be-missed location, given all the other things on your mind, it could easily get lost.

Ask yourself: “How many times have I neglected what I intended to do until it was too late?” Or might you have been in a competitive situation, and someone else got to it before you did, such that there was a monetary or practical cost associated with your not having undertaken it right away?

2. You won’t miss deadlines or anything else with time constraints. Do you have a habit of not doing today what you can put off till tomorrow? It could be something rather petty, as in missing the expiration date for an article of clothing on sale you’d already decided to purchase but didn’t order in the moment because you weren’t in the mood to make up yet another password, prove to the seller you weren’t a robot, and so on.

Or it could be something more important, like missing a mortgage payment, requiring you to pay a substantial fine. Or not meeting the deadline in handling your tax obligation. Or not making a doctor’s appointment soon enough when you’d been experiencing chest pain. Tardiness, after all, can be costly—and in more ways than one.

3. You can’t wish undone tasks away. Contrary to missing deadlines, there are things without deadlines that you realize you can’t ignore forever. True, you may be able to delay them temporarily, but they’ll continue to nag at you until they’re taken care of.

So as onerous as it might feel, you’d be much better off forcing yourself to handle them right now. Putting them off only adds to ongoing stress—and distress—despite the (immediately) greater stress of putting everything else aside and just dealing with them. And this, of course, is what “biting the bullet” is all about.

To Google, biting the bullet is to:

Face up to doing something difficult or unpleasant; stoically [not] showing fear or distress. This phrase dates from the days before anesthetics, when wounded soldiers were given a bullet or similar solid object to clench between their teeth when undergoing surgery.

4. You won’t be missing out on the gratification that comes from getting something out of the way. For most of us, a certain inner tension exists when we haven’t resolved something that needs to be completed. It might be something we really would prefer not to do at all but, ironically, handling it makes us feel much better than ignoring it. You might only experience a sigh of relief—but it’s still a significantly satisfying sigh.

5. You won’t be reinforcing whatever fears of failing have chronically afflicted you. One reason you may put something off is that you’re not sure you can succeed at it. Confronting challenges that you can’t be certain of is crucial if you’re to improve your self-esteem or self-image generally.

Admittedly, it takes courage to approach something that revives old self-doubts, but there’s no alternative to alleviating or erasing these doubts other than “going for it.” As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be rash and do something without first learning all you can about its possible risks. But you also need to ask yourself just how much, realistically, you could be harmed even if your efforts turn out to be off-target.

Consider the expression, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That idiomatic gem is a reminder that many, if not most, complex or ambiguous situations will never be any simpler than they are now. And if you continue to shy away from them, the growth and development that may be important to you won’t happen. Only rarely does avoidant behavior make people feel good about themselves. It’s only in the doing that we may repair whatever has been broken inside us.

To furnish a personal example of persistence, I once wrote an article on Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 that, frankly, I felt especially proud of. Notwithstanding, it was rejected no fewer than 15 times (!). Finally—doggedly refusing to give up—on my 16th try, it was not only accepted but featured in a reputable journal that also highlighted it by placing Heller’s portrait on its cover. And beyond that, it was later included in two edited volumes on the author that selected the most seminal articles on this so-popular and widely discussed novel.

6. You won’t block your learning that, more often than not, “practice makes perfect.” Your self-defeating, pessimistic forecasts of failure may have kept you from starting or finishing projects. But despite the fact that, like everyone else, you have certain inborn limitations, it’s also possible that because of past failures and a lack of resilience, you’ve delayed something not out of fear but because you’ve predicted failure. What you may not have recognized is that, unless you never reflected on why you failed each time it happened, you did learn something—making it that much more likely you’ll succeed in the future. But if self-sabotagingly you focus on past failures, you’ll shelve any effort to deal with projects currently well within your capacity to achieve.

7. You won’t deceive yourself by erroneously prophesying that you’ll have more time later. Researchers have recently pointed out that one illusion so many people stick to is that because they’ve got so much on their plate right now, it makes good sense to delay something till later when they envision they’ll have substantially more time. But almost invariably, at any given future point, they discover that their plate is just as full as it was previously.

8. You won’t be angry with yourself for putting something off until it’s too late to do it. Being angry with yourself is at best unpleasant and, at worse, humiliating. It invites your inner critic to harshly deride you for your sluggishness and makes you feel guilty. Yet that’s what will probably occur if you neglect to handle something you could have done earlier when it was an optimal time to do it.

9. You won’t make others angry with you for putting off things you told them that, within a particular time frame, you’d do for them. That is, over time, you may do irreparable harm to your relationships if you regularly fail to keep your word. Not only could you antagonize them because of your procrastination habit, but you could also end up sacrificing your relationship with them altogether. For they might decide that you’re someone they can’t trust or rely upon.

10. You won’t experience the disappointment or regret that comes when, already overloaded, you failed to delegate an assignable task to someone else. Finally, with respect to competing commitments, there are times when you can’t get to something that’s time-limited and really important because of some task you absolutely must handle immediately. Do you, in such cases, neglect—or procrastinate—turning over this second task to someone as competent (or perhaps more competent) than you? If so, consider that you may be overlooking a resource that could make all the difference in enabling you to succeed in an area equally significant to the one you’re presently working on.

So, considering all the benefits of not procrastinating, might you now be more determined than ever to drive yourself to get things done promptly?

© 2020 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.  All Rights Reserved.