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Procrastination… I’ll Do It Later

Be honest. Are you procrastinating right now? I am.

Perhaps you have an assignment deadline looming in the very near future, or maybe the dishes are piling up in the sink and it won’t be long before you resort to drinking coffee out of a bowl. Nevertheless, procrastination is a tough habit. Whether you have an addictive personality or not, it’s also one of the toughest to kick. So, why do we do it?

Instant gratification.

Two words that happen to be such a deeply ingrained element in human psychology. It’s such an innate thing, so much so that it’s all around us and it can be easy to turn a blind eye to the sheer omnipresence of it. We’ve been taught all our lives to resist it, and to invest our present efforts into potentially bigger and better rewards in the future – ie. delayed gratification. This is what we’ve been told to do by our parents, our friends and hundreds of Pinterest quotes with pretty pictures.

What is instant gratification? Simply put, it’s the desire to experience pleasure or fulfilment without delay. I want it, and I want it now.

Now, I’m an impatient person. I know what I want, and most of the time, I want those things right there and then. The same goes for the opposite– I know what I don’t want, and I immediately know that I have no desire to deal with the things that I would rather not be dealing with. I guess you could say that I am a woman of black and white preferences. Not a shade of grey in sight, let alone fifty.

Unsurprisingly, I am very much prone to procrastinating whenever I can. Despite the fact that I have invested a great deal of effort into resisting the temptation to do it, every now and again, I slip right back into my old ways.

Let’s go back to that concept of instant gratification. Personally speaking, it could mean anything from spending another hour on YouTube to taking an afternoon nap when I should be at the gym, or leaving that piece of coursework for next weekend - it’s not due for weeks anyway. My rational reasoning skills tell me that I should leave it for later, since there is clearly no hurry and I could be spending the present on something much more interesting.

In other words, there is always something else that I would much rather be doing at that instant.

Here’s the other key element to making the conscious decision to procrastinate. I’ll be honest – I’m not much of a risk taker, but I thrive on that surge of adrenaline to no end. I unashamedly crave the buzz that comes from the tiny act of rebellion by not doing what I’m supposed to be doing – delaying pleasure. The even bigger buzz that comes with the pressure to get the original task done within a shorter time frame. That’s the killer right there. Whether this is my subconscious at play or not, I’ll never know.

Instant gratification is a concept that manifests itself in almost everything we attempt; it’s certainly not privy to therapists and life coaching sessions. The advertising and marketing sector is one of the biggest culprits, particular in conjunction with the digital-focused nature of the world we live in. Think of the sheer number of “limited edition” beauty products out there. Available until a certain date only, grab your early bird discount, lose 20 lbs in two weeks. Turn your attention to social media, and the bombarding of photos and videos ensues – instantaneous image-geared updates by the second. As for emails, we’re expected to be available at all times to provide instant replies, and any delay in communication is frowned upon (I would honestly love to be able to blame a carrier pigeon for my letter not arriving on time). As for viral videos – it’s all about an explosion of growth overnight. There is no time for organic growth, the next viral phenomenon will have taken over YouTube with their singing and dancing cat by the time you hit half the number of their subscribers.

Why are we so susceptible to the lure of “right now”? Scientifically speaking, the brain is hardwired to seek out activities that provide the most reward – a sense of gratification quite literally sends out a wave of dopamine that gives us that happy feeling, and it’s a feeling that we enjoy. Logically, we start to seek it out more and more often – happiness is a huge contributing factor to a healthier lifestyle with fewer aches and pains, which in turn means a longer lifespan to be able to continue the species. We quite literally seek pleasure to survive.

I don’t know about you, but I’m rather starting to enjoy delayed gratification for a change. Yes, YouTube has a whole list of juicy videos waiting for me on my suggested list, but that glass of wine seems to taste so much sweeter when you’ve cleaned the entire house before collapsing on the sofa and taking the first sip. Embrace timeless beauty – trends will come and go, but those that are worthy of cultural icon status are often the ones that have stuck around for the longest. In fact, embrace timelessness. It doesn’t always have to happen right now. Holding out today may bring bigger and better things tomorrow.

Though, who am I to stop you from embracing the squiggly eyebrow trend on Instagram? I’d love to hear any of your thoughts – simply leave them in the comments below. I’ll be off to make another cup of tea before I make a crack at the mountain of revision on my desk. Just another one, promise.
 
Janelle Soong is a pharmacy student, violin teacher and millennial who harbours a profound love for tea and cat videos. She also writes for her blog, thenellybean.com; her little corner of the internet dedicated to all things beauty, philosophy and humorous ramblings.