The art of procrastination

Are you similar to Oblomov, the character created in 1859 by the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, who gave birth to the neologism “oblomovism”, designating a “total inertia resulting from an apathy towards everything that happens in the world”?

According to Sebastian Dieguez (Cerveau & Psycho N°66), oblomovism, for philosophers and psychoanalysts, refers to the impossibility of recreating the happiness and carefree nature of childhood, the perfection of the mother’s womb, nourishing, protective, entirely devoted, which asks for nothing in exchange. In the novel, Oblomov is a young man who has never recovered from the early loss of his mother. Since then, he dreams every night that he finds her in the oblomovka. Each of his attempts to break into the real world, into “real life”, is met with failure. Reality disturbs him so much that he leaves the area that belongs to him and that he is supposed to take care of. How could he face it, reality, when nothing is equal to the paradise he has lost?

This is the paradox of the procrastinator: he dreams of acting and that’s the whole problem, he dreams, so he doesn’t act. He sometimes lies on his bed for days on end, brooding, thinking, worrying, and this infernal triad makes him feel guilty; tired for good, he melts into his bed for the rest of the day.

Oblomov is a child in the skin of a young adult, who mopes at the idea of facing the problems of adult life and who would prefer to return to the blessed time when his only problem was to make his mother happy. It’s understandable, isn’t it? Who hasn’t delayed handing in a project, doing the dishes, answering a message? Who can boast of having moved through life in a linear fashion, without ever having regressed?

No one can. And that’s why thinking about the reasons for procrastination is an interesting process for everyone.

When do I procrastinate?

Procrastination is not an inevitability, it is rather an enigma, a mechanism that needs to be unraveled. According to Sebastian Dieguez, this process exploits a form of self-deception: I delegate my own work to my future self, as if it were another person, as if today were a dark day and tomorrow would finally become auspicious.

For the consciousness, in reality, tomorrow is only ever the continuation of today and the self of a few hours ago will precisely not have been transformed without action at this very moment. So what is the fate of procrastinators? A form of fixity where the soul is content to hover patiently above the body, waiting for what it fears: action.

Because this is often the problem of procrastinators: they are great dreamers, great dreamers and by dint of thinking they sometimes get lost in the limbo of their consciousness; at this stage they would like to get back on the ground, but the anguish of this encounter suddenly freezes them.

How to fight against procrastination? There is no miracle cure. A great dreamer remains a great dreamer if the dream gives him joy and comfort. The objective is not to remove from our lives what makes us happy. On the other hand, it is important to reflect on what in us aspires to happiness. The tightrope walker of thought who plays with his imagination satisfies the needs of the soul, but doesn’t he do it at the expense of the body? Can we flee the present in favor of a better tomorrow without doing without the body? No, because the body exists only in the present. One can thus live in the imaginary only to the detriment of the body, essential however to the exercise of the daydream.

In this sense, the procrastinator’s argument “I run away from reality to avoid facing it” is perhaps nonsense. Is it really possible to run away from reality? Are we not beings of flesh destined to accept its undeniable existence? Time is ticking away, marking its passage on our bodies and offering us a limited life span. In other words, we can dream to escape our life, but only being alive allows us to dream. To refuse real life in order to reach for something lost that will be accessible tomorrow but will never be there today, such is the paradox of the procrastinator. Procrastination is a personal matter, the reasons for which are sometimes very deep. That is why no “method” of procrastination will be given today. However, if you were to give an argument that justifies your preference for semi-living over living fully, what would it be? Whatever the argument, accept it without judgment, without guilt, take it for what it is: a reality, yours, the one that perhaps made you run away from all the others.

How to overcome your procrastination?

If it comes from :

  • From a fear of failure;
    “Am I able to succeed? If the answer to this question is no, then it makes perfect sense that you procrastinate. The first step is to change the way you see your abilities and test them. You may fail, but in the meantime you will have made a path: through action you will have gained knowledge and knowledge is the best weapon against fear (we fear less what we know).
  • From a feeling of meaninglessness;
    “What is the purpose of all this? What is the purpose of existence? It is Camus, who, in the Revolt, explains to us that it is in the heart of the disarray that he finds a reason to act. He tells us: “Stop complicating your life with hope and replace it with the strength to accomplish the daily task of maintaining, in spite of everything, the world in its beauty”. In other words, it is not the meaning that precedes the will to act, it is the acting that gives the meaning its reason to exist. Launch something, anything, oppose perseverance to emptiness and you will discover without a doubt that “this hopeless love song can also be the most effective rule of action”.
  • From a sense of inferiority.
    “I will never do as well as everyone else, so what can I contribute? Most people who act will tell you that they have been able to do the things that impress you by doing very small things. One of the pitfalls of daydreaming, unlike action, is that it has no limits: you can imagine yourself as King of the world. But this does not make reality a material prison where nobility cannot exist. It does exist, it is just more subtle: to help someone, for example, is worth a thousand scenarios of greatness.

The reasons may be deeper and in this case, do not hesitate to talk to a psychologist.

“When you know that you only have one life, you stop replacing the present with the future and give priority to the goal you set for yourself over the approach you take.” Raphaël Enthoven

Tomorrow is waiting for you: don’t wait for tomorrow!