Let’s talk about procrastination!
But first, I heard the washing machine beep that it’s finished so I’m just going to take care of that laundry. And my plants need watering – it would be irresponsible to neglect them. And, before I forget, I need to look up that thing that someone told me about. And the book I ordered – shouldn’t it have arrived by now? I’m just going to check the tracking number. Oh wait – did I forget to put the next load of laundry in the washer? Duh. I better run downstairs and do that. OK, all set now. Hang on, was that my phone buzzing?
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but those are all things I’ve done when I’ve had something more important to do. Can anyone relate? One distraction after another, a series of non-urgent tasks prioritized so that you’re doing without getting anything significant done. Then you wonder, where did the time go? I was so busy.
Busy doing what? That’s the important question. Because on the surface, it looks like someone who procrastinates is simply lazy or unmotivated or undisciplined, frittering away their time. If only the procrastinator would just buckle down, get organized, focus, try harder and stop fooling around then work would get done.
But the “lazy theory” doesn’t hold up, because procrastinators don’t procrastinate in every area of their lives. They are motivated to do and to accomplish without hesitation in areas of their interest, like hobbies or sports.
So, what’s going on?
When it comes to completing tasks and meeting deadlines, procrastination is not the problem. Procrastination is a symptom of a deeper issue – a conflict between taking action on a task and resisting that action.
It’s an inner battle of “I have to” vs “I don’t want to”. Procrastination becomes a coping mechanism, a way to avoid dealing with the conflict and the underlying emotions that fuel the resistance.
With this understanding, you can see why buckling down and trying harder isn’t going to help. Extra effort will be met with extra resistance, leading to anxiety, frustration, overwhelm, shame and an even stronger desire to escape. All of which reinforces a sense of being chronically incapable. Why even bother then? Might as well keep procrastinating.
To break the cycle of procrastination, the key is understanding what is causing your resistance. There is a part of you saying (or maybe screaming) “I don’t want to!” and what you want to understand is, why?
It could be a fear of criticism, or not feeling good enough, or that perfection is the only option. Or it could be that deep down you know you’re following a path that isn’t right for you and you’re doing something against your will.
When you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself these questions:
What action am I avoiding?
What thoughts do I have about the task?
When I think about the task, how do I feel?
Discovering the underlying fuel for your procrastination provides you with an important tool: awareness. You can’t change what you don’t recognize. As you answer these questions, you’ll begin to see the patterns and reactions that become your fast track to procrastination.
This is where your freedom from procrastination begins – leading you to reconnect to your innate ability to create, produce and accomplish.
“As you begin to speak to yourself in a language that focuses on results rather than blame, on choice rather than ‘have to’, on what is rather than what you think should be, you will find that your body and mind cooperate by providing a level of positive energy free from the unnecessary struggles of the past and negative comparisons with the future.” – Neil Fiore