Procrastination – Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen [Book Summary]

by Nick

Each of us had to put off work for tomorrow, which does not lie in the soul.

But tomorrow it quickly turns into today, and therefore the work is postponed again – first for the day after tomorrow, then for the next week, next month, next year – and as a result, remains unfulfilled.

Time does not wait for anyone, but most of all it is not enough for those who often put things off for later.

Do you know what makes us do this?

Psychologists Jane Burka and Lenora Ewan reveal the reasons for this behavior.

Moreover, they explain how to get rid of this annoying and life-consuming habit.

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It’s Not Laziness

Every fourth adult has the habit of putting things off “for tomorrow.”

This phenomenon even got its own name from psychologists and sociologists – “procrastination”. As a rule, the reason here is not laziness, irresponsibility or lack of self-discipline.

Such behavior can be explained by suspicion, increased emotionality, low self-esteem, high demands on oneself and others, a tendency to “catastrophic thinking” and mistakes in education.

There are people who are afraid of difficult life situations and delay their resolution in order to feel safe. Inactivity can also be caused by biological factors, such as heredity, a violation of the sense of time, or a tendency to take what is wanted for reality.

It is noticed that many people who tend to postpone things, in their attitude to life are repelled by initially incorrect attitudes, such as “I must be impeccable”, “Everything I do should be easy for me”, “I need to avoid difficult situations”, “It is prudent to do nothing than to take the risk and fail ”,“ If I managed something, it should always be like that ”. Their logic is based on uncompromising.

“People who have the habit of putting things off for the future, in many ways endanger their well-being. In particular, this habit has serious health consequences. ”

People who are afraid of life or not confident in their abilities tend to postpone the performance of complex tasks so that in case of failure they will not be criticized – including internal.

After all, he who does nothing does not make mistakes.

Among those who are used to leaving everything for later, there are often perfectionists – people who cannot afford to do something wrong.

For them, failure in any business is tantamount to failure in life in general. In their own inaction, they see not missed opportunities, but a way to avoid defeat.

However, even in the event of failure, they will always be able to find a convenient excuse, for example: “I started this project too late, and I did not have time to do everything as it should; therefore, it’s not my fault that the project remained incomplete. ”

One who thinks this way usually considers himself a capable person who simply does not have enough time to fully reveal his potential. And yet, deep down, such people are worried if they fail to meet deadlines or provide the required level of skill.

The behavior of people who are inclined to put things off for the future is due to another very common, but difficult to identify, cause – the fear of success, which is expressed in the following reasoning:

  • Fear of competition. “Trying to overtake others, doing our job well and on time, we demonstrate our vanity. Being in the spotlight is superfluous. ”
  • Fear of responsibility. “If I steadily go towards my goal, then sooner or later I will achieve it. And then what? Is that what I really want? ”
  • Fear of becoming a workaholic. “If I finally get down to business, I can never stop. I will always have to work hard. ”
  • Fear of hurting someone if successful. “If I finish the work on time, people will decide that I am a careerist. In addition, those who can not cope with the task as well as I, will feel inferior and find a way to recoup. In any case, I will be the loser – why then generally strive for something? ”
  • Fear of own imperfection. “As a child, I was a terrible child”, or “I am a worthless person” – and, therefore, “I am not worthy of success … I am destined to suffer all my life from the fact that I do not have time.”
  • Fear of own perfection. “If everything works out for me, people will envy me. I don’t need it. ”

“The emotional origins of the habit of putting things off are the inner feelings of a person, his fears, hopes, memories, haunting his thoughts, dreams and doubts.”

People who are inclined to put things off do not like being controlled and rushed.

They are stubborn and hesitant if they are required to do something on time.

As a rule, their train of thought is: “Have I delayed payment of my electricity bill? Nothing wrong. I’ll pay later when the time is right for this. ” Or: “My new client asked me to call him at four in the afternoon.

Who is he to tell me what time I should call him? ”The subconscious reaction, in this case, would be to put off the call until a quarter to five. And here is another situation: “I’m tired of reminding my husband that I need to clean up the garage. She told him about it dozens of times, and he won’t lift a finger. ” Without realizing it, the wife can react to this conflict by the fact that going with her husband to visit, she will gather deliberately slowly.

“Many people who have the habit of putting everything off for tomorrow are too painful both for the judgments of other people and for their own criticism, which is inside each of us.”

Sometimes the reason for the unwillingness to complete business on time lies in the fear of becoming too close to a person or, conversely, too far away from him.

There are people who are unable to do anything if there are no close friends or family members next to them, whom you can turn to for support at any time.

Others are inactive in a critical situation – this is a kind of call for help. Still, others are simply afraid of close relationships. For them, a delay is a way to stay away from other people and emphasize their independence.

For example, they are always late for meetings with friends, because they fear that if they arrive on time, this will create unnecessary attachment. Such people usually do not know how to establish reasonable (and necessary) boundaries in relation to the people closest and most important to them.

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The Riddle of Time, Neurology, Emotions and Education

Even philosophers and scientists do not consider the time to be concrete.

Aristotle doubted that time would exist if people did not have the need to measure it. Einstein believed that time is chaos in which the division into the past, present, and future is nothing more than an illusion.

People who put things off for later have a peculiar sense of time.

For example, many of them believe that living in the hands of a watch is below their dignity. For them, “exactly at seven” means at 7.10, at 7.20 and even later. Such people tend to be frivolous about the future and overestimate the importance of the current moment. For example, some parents do not consider it necessary to save money in advance for the education of their children, because graduation is still so far away. However, the same parents may not resist the temptation to buy a big-screen TV,

“For many people, the desire to postpone things begins to develop even at school – when the child first encounters the rivalry characteristic of society.”

The habit of putting things off for the future can develop in people suffering from various neurological disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, seasonal affective disorder, chronic stress, sleep disturbances or executive dysfunction (inability to coordinate thoughts and feelings with targeted actions).

New neural connections are constantly formed in the human brain and old ones are destroyed. If you are constantly late, then the neural connections in your brain are rebuilt in such a way that a careless attitude to time becomes your habit. And vice versa, if you make an effort to get rid of this habit, then after a while the neural connections will be rebuilt again, and punctuality will become your “default” quality.

“Transfer your plans and thoughts on paper. Do this in an environment conducive to work. ”

For various reasons (including those that go back to childhood), many people associate certain activities with unpleasant sensations or sad memories. That is why they often shun even work that seems easy and enjoyable to others.

The habit of leaving everything for later is partly formed under the influence of parents. It is possible that in childhood they presented exorbitant requirements for you, and therefore you still feel the need to always be on top.

As a result, you take on an unbearable burden of duties and therefore never finish anything on time. Another option is possible: your parents constantly questioned your abilities and set you up for failure before you even started doing anything. So now, in adulthood, you are lingering,

How to Deal With It

If the habit of putting things off is a serious problem for you, this can be explained by the fact that, in trying to cope with internal stress or pressure from the outside, you are using the wrong protective mechanism that has deep psychological roots. Among the main reasons why we are putting things off for the future, and methods of dealing with them are the following:

  1. Self-doubt. Set realistic goals that you are sure to achieve.
  2. Negative attitude to the upcoming work. You don’t like some kind of work – but that doesn’t mean at all that it is difficult. Perhaps you want to protect yourself from the negative emotions that it causes you. If you handle these emotions, you might even like something you previously avoided in every way. If everything remains the same, then set the exact dates for the specific task.
  3. Excessive remoteness of the goal or reward for its achievement. Divide the long-term tasks into stages and figure out how you will reward yourself for completing each of them.
  4. Problems with self-regulation. You will have more chances to achieve your goal in time if you give yourself a break.

“In order to be appreciated, you do not have to be impeccable.”

Try to practice the techniques described below. Do not hope to change in one day. If something doesn’t work out right away, don’t give up and try again.

  • Correctly formulate the goal. Instead of promises to stop putting things off, set yourself a clear task: “I’ll prepare a marketing report by June 1”.
  • Do not raise the bar too high at the very beginning. Your goal should not be grandiose and difficult to achieve, otherwise, it will seem impossible to you. Enough if this is an acceptable minimum for you. Making the decision to “lose a kilogram in a week” is more correct than “get rid of twenty kilograms of excess weight.” Perhaps a kilogram is too presumptuous; therefore, be prepared to refine your goals, as appropriate.
  • Announce your decision to everyone. By sharing plans with family, friends, or an online support group, you will be more responsible.
  • Create the most favorable working conditions. If you are planning to write an article, do not sit in front of the TV in a room full of people. Find a cozy place whose atmosphere will be conducive to work.
  • Break down your goal into a series of individual feasible tasks. Make a list of all stages of the upcoming work. The first should be a task that can be completed quickly in order to immediately obtain positive results.
  • Visualize the process of achieving the goal. Positive thinking helps athletes and artists, perhaps it will help you. Imagine how you are moving step by step towards your goal; then imagine that it has already been achieved.
  • Soberly evaluate the timeline. Failure to correctly calculate the necessary time leads to the fact that the work takes more time than planned.
  • Do not wait until you are in the mood to work. It may never appear. Just get started.
  • Learn to do everything gradually. Perform no more than one work step at a time. Do not set as your goal to finish the work as quickly as possible – better ask yourself what your first step will be.
  • Use the “15 minutes rule”. Whatever feelings the upcoming work evokes in you, you must find the strength to do it for at least 15 minutes. In a few of these 15-minute intervals, you can do a lot.
  • Be prepared for failure. Not everything in life goes smoothly. Be prepared for difficulties and obstacles, but do not let them stop you.
  • Save time. Sometimes it’s better to say “no” in response to a request to do something.
  • Plan your time wisely. You should not schedule a half-hour exercise in the morning if you are not used to getting up early. Set goals in order to achieve them, and not then to replenish your list of failures.
  • Do not look for an excuse for not working. Anxiety, anxiety or depression is not a reason for inaction. If you are tired, work another 15 minutes and then take a short break.
  • Come up with rewards. Focus on the process. “I will not stop until I finish everything” – this is an incorrect installation. It would be more constructive to think something like this: “I have time to do everything. So now I will take a break, have lunch, lay down for 20 minutes, and then return to work. ”
  • Try to understand the reasons. If you tend to put things off, ask yourself why you are doing this. Analyze your emotions – it is they who, as a rule, guide the actions of people like you. Try to understand what is really going on inside you. You should not rebuke yourself for not being able to force yourself to get down to business. Better ask yourself: what exactly is stopping me from doing this business at the moment? Why it happens?
  • Use visual aids. To-do lists and self-adhesive recording paper will help you keep track of your immediate tasks — especially if you suffer from neurological problems. Try to think like a waiter. Solve one problem, then move on to the next. Do not back down from your plans.

The Main Thing is Not to Stand Still

You are responsible for the decisions you make. In this case, they relate to inaction or forward movement.

Here are the basic principles that you must follow if you want time to work for you: “You cannot be perfect in everything”, “I am not afraid of mistakes”, “Difficulties temper”. And finally, the most important – “Unlucky is only one who does not live a full life”.

And now it’s time to get down to business.


  • The habit of putting things off for tomorrow is formed under the influence of biological and emotional factors, as well as life experience.
  • The reason for the development of this habit may be a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem or fear of failure.
  • Work that we cannot undertake is often associated with negative emotions.
  • The case may be trifling, but we avoid it in every way in order to protect ourselves from unpleasant sensations.
  • People who are inclined to put things off usually cannot calculate the time it will take them to complete a job.
  • To get rid of this bad habit, divide what you need to do into separate steps and define your goals for each day.
  • Act without waiting for the “right moment.” He will never come.
  • Reward yourself regularly for completed work steps.
  • If you do not have time to do your plan, pay attention to revise your goals and postpone their achievement.
  • By deliberately abandoning the habit of putting things off for tomorrow, you will gradually begin to get rid of it and take control of your time.

Why You Should Read “Procrastination”

  • To kill the procrastination habit once and for all
  • To stop putting the most important tasks at the end of the list
  • To learn how to prioritize

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print