On the Origin of Procrastination

Why do we put things off that we want to do? Why do we deceive ourselves of what we could be doing and should be experiencing?

We put off what’s important to do what is urgent. We justify in our minds that certain tasks are more time sensitive so we avoid the work that will actually drive impact and meaning in our lives.

Procrastination is about feeling good now. We put things off to have fun in the moment. We burden our future selves with tasks that we could do now, but we choose to do later. Then when later becomes present, we can either take action thus avoiding procrastination, or we can delay again and double down on the stress vortex.  Because when it comes down to it, procrastination is the gap between intention and action.

Are you taking control of yourself and having a sense of agency? Or are you putting your life off until it’s over? We procrastinate until we die. It is easier to not face reality than to deal with it. Why do humans do this?

We procrastinate because we are afraid of failure, but more specifically we fear not reaching perfection. We think that if there is a gap in our argument, a note that is off in the song, a chapter that still needs work, it would be better to not release it and always wonder “what if” than to release it and face criticism.

A Case of Procrastination to Consider

Charles Darwin published a ground breaking book in 1859 called On the Origin of Species. This was based on a theory he clearly established by 1839 after his studies in the Galapagos Islands. During this 20 year period, he wrote other books on more specific topics that helped solidify his initial findings. He finally published this main body of work after a competing scientist released an essay touching on a similar theory of natural selection. At this point, he was pressed by his colleagues to release his work and findings.

So why did he wait 20 years to publish his greatest life’s work? Obviously I did not know Darwin in anyway and can only make assumptions from the perspective of the human experience. But I believe that it was not until the fear of missing out weighed more on his conscious than the fear of not being perfect. His work in that 20 year period did help provide deeper evidence to support his initial theory. However, he was afraid that this theory would not be accepted based on the evidence he had. He was afraid of the consequences of not being perfect or creating perfect work. The longer we wait, the stronger that fear grows.

I experience this fear. Of course I do, I’m human. I experience this fear with this blog. I made a commitment to myself and failed to uphold because my life/work circumstances changed. I used that as an excuse to not continue publishing regularly. As time went on, it became easier to keep pushing it off and the fear of releasing something that is not perfect after being away for so long became stronger and stronger.

News alert: no one expects perfection. And if they do, they are more likely a critic rather than a creator. I have no intention to please critics. Their opinions carry little value as they themselves have never tried to do what I am pursuing.

Thankfully for science and for Darwin, he could afford the time to procrastinate and wait until a greater fear pushed him to do his most important work. Unfortunately in this day and age, most of us cannot afford to wait. Time is one of the only nonrenewable resources. Spend more of it doing and less of it dreaming. I’m trying to anyways.

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