Life in General Life Skills Ponderings

What to do about procrastinating…..

Let’s start off by defining procrastination:

According to Wordnet, “putting off or delaying or deferring an action to a later time; dilatoriness, slowness as a consequence of not getting around to it.”

According to Wikipedia, “refers to the deferment of actions or tasks to a later time; psychologists often cite this human behavior as a mechanism for coping with anxiety associated with starting and/or completing any task or decision.”

According to Wiktionary, “the act of postponing, delaying or putting off, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness”.

According to Webster, “a tendency to putt of completing tasks until some later time, sometimes resulting in increased stress.”

Before we get into the whys, etc… I do have to tell you that there are times that procrastination can sometimes be your best friend.  It is sometimes you teetering on the edge of motivation… until, of course, you become counterproductive.  It becomes a problem when you put off an important decision, leave a critical task undone, and start becoming busy by doing “needless” work so you can just be busy.  If a person starts behaving this way it takes real mastery.  You’ve got to learn how to procrastinate – it doesn’t just happen.  You’ve got to use your physiology, create the right emotions and get it all working perfectly and in the right sequence, and when you get really good at it – so you can do it without thinking – then you’ve really mastered it.  What an accomplishment, huh?

Of course, most people don’t look at it this way… they think procrastination is a negative thing.  What they don’t realize is that you learned this behavior.  If you can learn how to procrastinate and do it well, then you can just as easily learn how to become motivated to do the “do”.  You see, all you are doing is creating.  You will be teaching yourself how to get motivated or how to procrastinate.  To get really good at procrastination you had to learn how to use your emotions because your emotions are what drive your behavior.

Here are two ways to overcome procrastination

1. Eliminate Fear—You see, you have all these emotions pulling you back and forth.  It is like an internal tug of war.  Some days you are good and other days – not so good. Positive emotions pull you towards what you want; negative emotions push you away. In a sense, procrastination is a form of self-sabotage.  If fear did not exist, then you wouldn’t be putting things off.  You would just go for it, but since you are putting things off (like we all do at some point) then your negative emotions must be stronger than your positive emotions; or in other words, your fear is winning the tug of war.  If you want to eliminate procrastination, then eliminate your fear.  Just keep asking yourself – are you pushing away the things you want?  Are you pushing them away because of your fear of success or your fear of failure?  Once you get clear on what is stopping you, you can reframe those fears and empower yourself to take action.

2. Cultivate Desire—Remember, emotions govern your behavior.  Fear pushes you away from what you want and desire pulls it towards you.  Someone once said, “Why did you go into counseling?”  I thought about it and said, “Because I had an overwhelming desire to do it.”  It wasn’t an overly complicated answer, but here is my point – your emotions are what drive your behavior.  If you keep putting something off, then you don’t have a burning desire to do it.  No desire = no action.  So how do you cultivate desire:  You start with the end in mind.  How will things look when they are all done?  What will you see and how you will feel?  If you can associate strong emotions with the end result, you can cultivate a burning desire (or even a twinkling desire).  Then watch how fast you jump into action.

So… take an inventory… figuring out exactly when and how you procrastinate can help you stop the behavior.  It can be difficult to tell when you are procrastinating.  Think about the clues that tell you that is what you are doing:  for example- a nagging voice in your head, a visual image of what you are avoiding or the consequences of not doing it, physical ailments (stomach tightness, headaches, muscle tension), inability to concentrate, inability to enjoy what you are doing are only some of the things to look at.

Bite off only what you can chew. If anxiety gets in the way… breathe, breathe, breathe; take a break, take a walk; change your expectations perhaps by breaking the task into more manageable sections;  but — just do it!!!!

How do you procrastinate?

            Try to ignore the task, hoping against hope that it will go away?

            Over – or – under estimate the degree of difficult that the task involves?

            Minimize the impact that your performance now may have on your future?

            Substitute something important for something really important? (cleaning instead   of writing your blog?)

            Let a short break become a long one, or an evening in which you do no work at      all?

            Focus on one part of the task, at the expense of the rest? (Like the title of a project            instead of the project?)

            Spend too much time researching or choosing a “do”

Once you better understand how you procrastinate, you will better be able to catch yourself doing it.  Too often, we don’t even realize that we are procrastinating…. Until it is too late.

Get rid of the myths

            I can’t function in a messy/clean/etc. environment

            I know it is time for me to start, but I just haven’t done enough research yet.

            I do my best work under pressure

            In order to do the “do”, I must have ____ amount of uninterrupted hours

            What I “do” has to be perfect

So, break it down, get a new attitude, ask for help, get yourself unblocked, make yourself accountable… just DO IT… then give yourself a reward.

So, any of the “to dos” help you?

6 thoughts on “What to do about procrastinating…..”

  1. Good morning,

    Thanks for having this particular conversation this morning–I’ve been doing every single thing you have mentioned above in trying to avoid doing something and the hubby and I began talks last night about how that really isn’t healthy for me and it continued this morning and then I read here and I have a sneaking suspicion it is my two by four wake up call. I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the task–but reading your words (most of which I have known or heard before–but most definitely needed to hear again) reminded me I don’t have to be overwhelmed–if I break things down I really CAN do this. In fact I really can do anything I set my mind to if I just keep the steps simple enough :). Thanks–you are awesome–hugs!

    1. Thanks, although I probably will rarely say anything new, my whole purpose here is just to remind and/or inspire folks to be more of ‘themselves’. Well, that and I have a chance to ramble a bit each day. It really does save loren’s ears from my pretty constant ‘ponderings’. He is grateful- I am sure!!!

  2. Your breaking down the fine print of procrastination(and other issues that limit us) is tremendously useful and practical in the sense that we cannot make and sustain change until we have developed significantly more ‘self-awareness’ in relation to the issue we find ourselves struggling with.
    Becoming aware of how pervasive the issue(i.e. procrastination) is,how often it presents itself,what it feels like and what we usually do when we are presented with a situation that brings up the feeling may sound convoluted but we must truly become students of ourselves if we intend master these areas of self restriction or limitation.
    A teacher I once worked with used to say that the path to truth was not reaching or seeking something that we do not know but backing away from what we come to realize is inherently false!
    Thank you Diane for taking the time and making the effort to share your wisdom!!!!

  3. Thanks Diane for your words of wisdom and inspiration. Spring is a great time to get on the ball. You have most likely heard this…Last year there was a Procrastinator’s Convention, but they didn’t have it this year because they didn’t get around to it.

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