Eleventh Hour

clock imageThe eleventh hour usually refers to doing something at the last minute.  At some point, most of us have procrastinated.  The question is why?

Procrastination is not something we are born with but it can become a habit pretty quickly.  As we know, habits like eating too much or smoking are not good for you.  Procrastination can be just as unhealthy especially when it causes us anxiety and stress.

There are many reasons why we wait till the last moment to do something.  A key reason is lack of motivation.  That seems to be a constant complaint with children when they are doing their homework.  They may also feel it is boring.  One way to circumvent this is to break the task down into smaller segments and more importantly give each task a reward once it is completed.  As an example, if you have a large project to complete, segment it into smaller parts.  Assign each part with an end time/date and also a reward such as going out for dinner or buying a fun item.  Write it all out on a poster or in your calendar.  It is not a good idea just to keep your task list all in your head.

Another reason is that a person may lack the skills or knowledge to do the project.  In the workplace, some may feel intimidated to admit that they need help so they procrastinate. The final outcome in this situation is never good because the truth will come out eventually.  Better to have the courage to speak up early on than to deal with the consequences that there surely will be. Fear of failure also can play into this so supervisors should check in periodically with subordinates.  This is not for them to micromanage but to ascertain if the work is achievable because there could be unrealistic expectations.

There is a lot of pressure in the workplace to be successful.  Once someone has been labeled “high potential” or “problem solver” or “creative genius”, etc. it may be hard to consistently deliver outstanding results.  An internal conflict could arise that would make a person feel that they can’t deliver as well as the last time.  In other words, it needs to be perfect.  They may procrastinate for that reason so this internal pressure stops them in their tracks – analysis paralysis.  To combat this, enlist an advisor that may or not be the boss to review pieces along the way.  Another option is to collaborate with someone else and share the project.  If neither are feasible, take the time to brainstorm to come up with many ideas and then slowly start to focus on a few.  Try testing if possible and then finally choose one concept and develop it to completion.

Lastly some people procrastinate because they are just being rebellious.  It could be for a myriad of reasons including unrealistic expectations or standards and/or a power struggle that one does not want to lose.  The latter one could be at a subconscious level too which may make it harder to identify why someone is procrastinating.  Acknowledging that these tactics are reactive to something i.e. a parent or boss who reprimands you, is a good first step.  Realistically you are going to lose in the long run by procrastinating so deal with the feeling early and then move on.

Procrastination is never tolerated well – either at home or at work.  If you are a frequent procrastinator start writing down why you delay doing things.  By exploring your emotions thoroughly you can start to devise ways to counteract them.  It is not healthy or wise to procrastinate.  You could lose your job or much worse.