For decades, psychological research has been able to explain procrastination as a functioning problem, not a consequence of laziness.
Procrastination isn’t about being lazy. Being curious about the underlying issues rather than judging the behavior can be very helpful. For instance, procrastination can be a symptom of feeling my attempts will not be good enough or acceptable. They may be a result of not knowing how to take the first steps or not having the innate capacity to divide a large project into smaller, manageable pieces. Perhaps a person seems to be procrastinating when they are actually struggling with mental health issues or a difficult home environment.
People don’t want to fail or disappoint. There are always barriers, whether we see them or not.
Affirmation: I will take a deeper look at procrastination.
Coaching questions: Why do you procrastinate? How do you judge others who procrastinate? What’s a step you’ll take to discover the underlying causes of your procrastination?
Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him. Charles Dickens
According to Piers Steel (love that name), author of The Procrastination Equation, about 95 percent of people admit to putting off work at one time or another (perhaps the other 5 percent didn’t complete the survey). It’s a good guess that many of us procrastinate with checking social media, surfing the net, or watching television. Here are three suggestions to help you re-wire your procrastinating brain.
- Just begin. Duh, that’s the obvious part we can’t seem to get to. Let go of your expectations and judgments and just begin. Give yourself a specific start time. Set aside outcomes for now and start the task in a messy way.
- Take a timed break. This may seem counterproductive but if you know you’re going to get a break eventually, it will help you get started. “If I work on my book for an hour, I can read someone else’s for ten minutes.” Set a timer if necessary so you don’t go down a rabbit hole.
- CYA. Celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t expect others to pat you on the back. Give yourself credit for overcoming procrastination and completing, or at least starting, a task. Procrastination is usually a response to the unpleasant feelings associated with a task. Rewire your brain for a positive message.
Affirmation: I can overcome procrastination.
Coaching questions: What are you procrastinating about right now? Get off the internet and get to it! (I’m glad you read my blog first)
Today’s political climate is annoying but I tolerate it because I want to live in the USA. I try to be tolerant of those with whom I disagree. Unfortunately, I’m tolerating my lack of significant political participation.
Toleration dances with procrastination. You tolerate a loose button on your jacket. Every time you button your jacket, you think about how you must sew the button on before you lose it. Periodically thinking about the loose button is gradually draining your internal resources. You are procrastinating the act of sewing on the button and you’re tolerating the situation. Both inactions are zapping bits of energy.
The act of being tolerant and having toleration for others is different. I’m not crazy about the hot weather but I tolerate it. Short of moving away, what choice do I have? I’m tolerant of people with whom I disagree or people I can’t avoid who annoy me, like certain co-workers or relatives. Hot weather and disagreeable people can zap our energy too if we let them but we can’t do much about it.
Change the things you can and seal up your energy drain.
Affirmation: I take care of tolerations.
Coaching questions: What are two things you are tolerating right now? (a door that sticks, a leaky faucet, constant tiredness because you go to bed too late, an extra ten pounds, etc.)? What is one toleration you will take care of before Monday (or at least start to eliminate)?
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. William James, American philosopher and psychologist, offered the first psychology course in the United States.
Procrastination is a common ailment. As James suggests, procrastination is fatiguing and can keep us from being our best selves. Procrastination often happens when we fear or have anxiety about the important task awaiting us. To get rid of the negative feeling, we procrastinate and move on to something more pleasurable. We may feel better temporarily but reality returns with a vengeance. Shame and guilt can ensue.
Sometimes, as we procrastination (I’m writing this blog in order to put off editing my book), we actually accomplish things. Some people procrastinate to the point of urgency which is the only way they get difficult or important things done. One of the important things you can do as a procrastinator is to forgive yourself because procrastination is linked to negative feelings. Remember—you don’t have to be in the mood to do a task, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and do it.
Affirmation: I get important things done in a timely way.
Coaching questions: What is one thing you procrastinate about? What is something you can do to break the cycle and get things done at the appropriate time?
In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from 121 to 180 AD
For an ancient guy, Marcus gives us some good advice. Procrastination, confusion, unfocused thoughts and passive/aggressive behavior all keep us from being our best selves. I’m wondering what his experience was to cause him to say, “don’t be all about business.”
In our current 24/7 working environment where we walk around with a computer on our wrist or in our purse, it is tempting to be all about business. And yet, the conventional wisdom talks about how no one ever talks about business on their death bed. Dying people talk about relationships…those they love, those they want to forgive, and those they will miss most.
Affirmation: I lead a balanced life.
Coaching questions: How’s your life balance? If there is room for improvement, what’s one thing you will change?