NEVER PUT OFF TILL TOMORROW WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
“Procrastination” said William Shakespeare, “is the thief of time”. In our scriptures also, we are exhorted to do what we are supposed to do immediately without wasting any time. Postponing an action is like defeating its very purpose or delaying or weakening the results that it is supposed to yield. Remember the old saying, “For want of a nail, an empire was lost”. It is said that a rider carrying a message during wartime was careless. He knew that a nail had fallen off from his horse’s hoof. His immediate task should have been to stop his journey midway and get the nail fixed up properly. . But, instead, he preferred to continue his journey because he thought that a missing nail from the horse’s hoof would not make much difference to the speed of the horse. The horse galloped for some time before it stopped on account of pain. Another nail had fallen off. But the rider was still not bothered. He continued the journey. Soon, the horse fell down; it had become lame. It refused to get up and gallop further. The message was not delivered in time to the general, to whom it had been urgently addressed, requisitioning reinforcements on the war front. As a result, the forces lost. A whole empire was lost because the rider would not take immediate action in getting the nail on the horse’s hoof fixed before starting off. We should, therefore never postpone our assigned tasks. The delay or postponement may lead to disastrous results.
This applies especially to the students. They should not postpone their day’s studies to the next day or for some other time.
By postponing, the work would accumulate to such an extent that the very thought of doing it would frighten them and eventually at the time of the examinations, they would not be adequately prepared. This is the bane of students today. They keep postponing their preparation for the examinations till the last moment. Consequently, their performance leaves much to be desired. Those who work regularly and do not postpone their assigned task, come out with flying colours in any test or examination.
This can be expanded further to apply to activity and work in all walks of life-be it an office – goers or his boss, an administrator or his subordinate, or the highest or the lowest in the land. They should keep in mind the golden maxim. “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” If all of us keep this in mind, there would be no delays or hold ups, no bureaucratic red tapism and no hassles in our own or our fellow being’s lives. Unfortunately most of the people agree with Oscar Wilde. “Do not put of till tomorrow what you can do the day after”.
Most of us will be familiar to some extent with procrastination. ‘I’ll do it tomorrow!’ ‘It’ll all work itself out.’ ‘I would but there’s just some other stuff I want to do first…’
Psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, prominent writer on procrastination, characterises procrastination as the occurrence of ‘a temporal gap between intended behaviour and enacted behaviour’. In other words, it is when there is a significant time lag between when we originally intend to do something and when we actually get around to it.
It’s important to distinguish between procrastination and prioritizing – sometimes it may be necessary to postpone a task if it truly is less important or urgent than something else that needs to be done, or we are physically unfit to do the task at that time. However when neither of these are the case and we are simply putting it off for the sake of reluctance to do it, this is procrastination.
We can procrastinate for a number of reasons, from the basic obvious ones: reluctance to do a job that is uncomfortable or unpleasant, fear, preference to do something else that is less so, ready availability of distractions, laziness – to the more serious psychological struggles such as depression and anxiety.
Of course some level of procrastination is normal, we may all have the odd occasion where we favour a good catch up on the phone with a friend over the essay we really should be getting on with, or leave the washing up until the morning so we can watch something good on TV. But when it becomes a repeating cycle, it can actually become very detrimental to our state of mind, and cause serious problems in everyday life.
It is important to make sure we don’t get stuck in patterns of procrastinating, and we can use three basic tools (‘RUT’, if it helps you remember) for this:
Do you find yourself regularly doing any of the following? If so, warning bells should go off…
–Putting your ‘low priority’ To Do tasks first
–Avoiding making any To Do lists altogether because your don’t fancy seeing them written down (we may sometimes convince ourselves that things will just magically get done or go away by themselves if we don’t fully admit they are there…)
–Leaving important items on your To Do list for a long time
–Sitting down to start an important task, and immediately getting up to put the kettle on
–Reading emails several times without actually replying to them or doing anything about them
–Saying ‘yes’ to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do when you already have more important things to get on with
–Waiting for the ‘right time’ to tackle something important (knowing full well there probably will be no ‘right time’)
Why are you putting off these tasks? As mentioned above, there can be many reasons for procrastination. Talking to someone about these, or writing them down in a journal if this feels more comfortable, can help greatly if there are certain fears or reservations you may have underlying your reluctance to do something.
You may realise that in fact you are really worried about failing this task, or not doing it well enough. You may be worried that once you start, you will have to face even more things that need to be addressed.
Try to be gentle with yourself and take it easy; confront one problem at a time. Consider any fears you may have, and think about what you may be able to do to help overcome these or find support with them, to make the task easier to face.
JUST DO IT!
Sometimes we can get too caught up in the first two stages – realising all the things we may be procrastinating about, feeling ashamed or stressed that we are doing this, thinking about all the reasons we may be doing it and then becoming overwhelmed with that….
It can all get too much, and for that reason it is vital to move swiftly through these steps, winding up at the place we really need to be to end this cycle: action.
Having completed even just one important task that we have been procrastinating about can feel great, a huge relief, and inspire the confidence and motivation to then tackle the next job.
Again, take it one step at a time, don’t leap to the other end of the spectrum and try to achieve a To Do list as long as Santa’s in one day, because chances are you will not manage it and then may feel defeated about that! But ultimately, action is the solution and, one tick at a time, you may begin to cross off those looming chores that just aren’t doing themselves.
Catherine is a BSc Psychology student at Cardiff University, currently on a professional placement year in the private mental health sector.
She helped launch the Cardiff 'Student Minds' (formerly 'Student-Run Self-Help') charity group providing support for students with eating disorders in 2011, and continues to volunteer with the charity alongside her studies.