Procrastination is not only a huge time-waster, but a stress-inducer as well.
In an often-told tale that goes something like this, a Native American elder once described his inner struggles to a friend:
“Inside of me there are two dogs. The bad dog is mean and angry. The good dog is good and kind. The bad dog fights the good dog all day.” When asked by the friend which dog wins, the elder reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.”
Are you feeding your recurring procrastination? Is it a given that you operate by putting things off to the last minute? Do you complain of the stress you are always under, yet take little or no action to prevent it?
Procrastination is the opposite of action. By procrastinating you are creating a delay in completing, or perhaps beginning, a task. This delay can be linked to either being afraid to do the task you should, worrying about the outcome once you do it, experiencing tension in the process of working on the task, and/or possibly you are not even certain of what you are supposed to do or how to go about doing it. And maybe, just maybe, something else is far more exciting to you and draws you in.
Action = Self-Assurance and Power: Putting things off until critical mass is reached, we become reactive, rather than taking the proactive approach of anticipating and planning. This leaves a feeling of passivity, uncertainty, and helplessness, which can contribute to a cycle of doing nothing.
Simply taking action has the power to help one become unstuck! It creates momentum and motivates us to keep going.
Many times it is our own self-limiting judgments that hold us back from taking action. Procrastination may be rooted in a belief that we will never amount to much, that what we undertake won’t work, that the project isn’t worthy. My clients who experience procrastination often harbor negative feelings about themselves. Then, when a person procrastinates, they feel doubly bad. So sometimes they will do something that they enjoy more first in hopes that this will make them feel better. Most people feel somewhat guilty in having taken the pleasure before taking care of commitments. Rather ironic, when you look at it.
The flipside to this however, is that doing something positive is at least taking some action. Often this small step can propel a person toward the original task that they put off.
Here are three steps to aid in reducing procrastination:
1. Create and keep a good list of tasks you need to do, and set out to do them with enthusiasm. Can you find a way to make the thing you are procrastinating about more enticing somehow? Can you build in a reward system if you get the task done?
2. Do something else of value if you find the need to procrastinate. Just start SOMETHING that is productive. It is common to do those things we are more passionate about first, or that is giving us the most pleasure, and sometimes that works to get us going in the right direction.
3. Have someone hold you accountable. Tell a friend, hire a coach, or make it public. I did this with a business I was dragging my feet on starting. To motivate myself, I made the business cards before I had the company! It worked – within six months I had the entire business up and running with a federal trademark in the works too. I moved on it because I would have been embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really have a company for the new cards I had made.
Watch next week for Time-Waster #4!
More questions? Send them to Juli at email@example.com and put “question for column” in the subject line, and they will be answered in an upcoming column.