“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.” — David Allen
We all procrastinate in our own ways. There are thousands of ways to avoid doing what you must do. The interesting thing is procrastination is a really creative act.
Think about the moment you start to procrastinate. What are you thinking?
“There are as many reasons why we procrastinate as there are stars in the sky, so what’s your favorite excuse? Is it…
- “It might not be good enough, so why bother.”
- “If I wait until I have what I need I can do a really first class job.”
- “I’ll wait until I’m inspired.”
- “I’m too tired.”
- “I’m not in the mood.”
- “It won’t take very long, and there’s still plenty of time.”
- “I’m having so much fun, I’ll do this later.”
- “I need more sleep, more food, more exercise.”
The excuses are endless.
Then comes the plea bargaining.
“I hope no one finds out.”
As time drags on and nothing is done, you may feel guilty, ashamed, or fraudulent and yet you continue to hold onto the hope that there’s still time to get the project done.
Someone will wave a magic wand and it’s all done.
But when the things don’t get done and no one waves the magic wand, you’re stuck with judging yourself. “I’m useless. I lack discipline, courage, brains, or luck. Any idiot could have finished this job by now.”
And finally, you’re in the part of the cycle where you have to admit, “I either do it or don’t do it.” If you do it, you’ll feel good about yourself for finally completing the project, and if you don’t do it, you can continue to feel bad about yourself. It’s your choice.
When we get caught up in this cycle, we are essentially sabotaging our lives.
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.” — Wayne Dyer
Many people who procrastinate are apprehensive about being judged by others, or by their critic who lives within. They fear they will be found lacking, and their best efforts won’t be good enough. This is the fear of failure, and procrastination may be one way of dealing with this fear.
Dr. Richard Berry of the University of California at Berkeley believes that the fear of failure is living with a set of false assumptions that striving for accomplishment is a frightening risk. The belief is that what I produce is a result of my competence, and my level of ability determines how worthwhile I am as a person.
Thus, what I do is a direct reflection on who I am as a person. Self-worth = ability = performance.
And for many people, when they get caught up in that cycle, they stop before they even begin
We all procrastinate in some area of our lives but, not in all of it.
Think about where you procrastinate. Is it at the office? At home? At school? Personal care? Social relationships? Or finances?
We procrastinate selectively.
If procrastination is something you deal with, keep track of your excuses over the next week.
Pay attention to your thoughts in the moment when you put off something. It’s a good way to observe how your thinking affects your behavior.
Many excuses have a kernel of truth.
The house can always be cleaner. Your workspace can always be more organized, and your to-do list a lot shorter. And you do need to straighten out your priorities.
The function of the excuse is to make you feel better, but it’s a short-term benefit. The stuff always comes back to haunt you.
Overcoming your aversion to starting a task is not about proving yourself, which could be risky, but it’s a way to stretch yourself to become more than you are right now.
When you notice an excuse, look at what’s underneath it. Try to reverse the perspectives.
It might not be good enough, but I’ll give it a try anyway. This may not turn out perfectly, but I know I’m going to learn a lot from doing it.
“I want to stop procrastinating” is a noble but too vague expression.
Consider where you are currently procrastinating and create actions that will take you where you want to go.
As Sam Horn would say, “Someday is not a day of the week!”
Ask someone to hold you accountable? Be specific and concrete.
Allow yourself the occasional ‘I’ll do it later”, and know you will be disciplined enough to do what you say you will do and feel good about it. After all, it’s the reward we get for sticking to it, and getting the results we want