The habit of postponing a difficult task is one of exasperating traits of the mañana or tomorrow syndrome. It can stretch from the day after to the month or the year after. Somehow, it seems to be a maddening cultural glitch that some people probably picked up during the long colonial era.
The American poet Don Marquis once wrote, “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”
A lay observer would say that this character flaw is a form of irresponsibility. The self-absorbed individual does not have a sense of urgency or time. What can be done later is left hanging indefinitely. He does not want to deal with anything unpleasant.
Moving at a turtle’s pace, he is not eager or enthusiastic about the duty or chore. By dilly-dallying, he wastes precious time. Instead of doing something today, he looks for excuses and justifies the delay.
Of course, there are real reasons for some people when they postpone. It is not good to rush just for the sake of complying. The quality of a job could suffer.
The habitual procrastinator would rather have fun than do what he should do.
The habit starts in childhood. A petulant or spoiled child taunts his parents or teacher by not doing his homework. A lazy student delays turning in a term paper. When he does, it is a sloppy, haphazard job. He postpones studying for the exam and then he crams at the last minute — burning the midnight oil.
The self-defeating cycle continues.
He sets aside a “must do” list of good projects, important resolutions or tasks. Then he conveniently forgets about them. Unless he is reminded.
An annual medical checkup is reset for another season, another year. Getting a license, paying taxes or loans, completing a tedious legal process, writing a document are chores.
Delaying the inevitable is costly in terms of one’s health, peace of mind, and well being. There are frazzled nerves, hypertension, hives, and hyperacidity. Surcharges, penalties, extra fees are imposed.
Resolving to lose weight, to quit smoking (or any vice) is often unpleasant or painful.
Starting the exercise regimen is put off for as long as possible.
He goes to the gym a few times a year. There are many reasons for not going regularly.
I’m too busy.
I’m not feeling well. I have too many meetings.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have the energy.
The gym is too crowded.
The treadmill is a torture machine.
The stationary bicycle causes cramps.
The weights are too heavy.
The financial report, chart, blueprint or architectural plans are not ready because:
The boss is too demanding.
The team is not innovative.
The resources are meager.
The research material is not sufficient.
The computer crashed.
The individual cannot make a commitment because:
I have to wait for the right time and the right sign.
The weather is bad.
The stars and planets are not aligned in a favorable position.
The litany of “valid” excuses is endless.
Hemming and hawing.
Hesitation and tentativeness.
The reluctance is palpable.
The procrastinator unwittingly sabotages his performance, promotion and success. He jeopardizes personal happiness or a promising relationship. By postponing, he loses valuable points, turns off other people and spoils his chances.
His personality would be an interesting case study. What makes him tick? What slows him down to a snail’s pace? Why does he miss crucial deadlines on purpose?
Is it an inherited genetic flaw? A passive disorder? Or a rebellious streak?
The reality is clear.
Laid-back people often pass the buck. They are immature and blame others for what are actually their own shortcomings and mistakes. It is not accurate to say that the fault is someone else’s.
Today is precious. Life is too short.
It is time — to grow up, move forward, and evolve.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.