Thoughts on Procrastination

Oh, procrastination – a vice for most of us! As we want to increase productivity and results, we are often looking for strategies to keep procrastination to a minimum. However, no matter how great we think we are at NOT procrastinating, what if some of our behaviors are just procrastination in disguise?

" In preparation for writing, I was visiting with a colleague about Procrastination. With a house full of kids, a demanding job, and a thriving business that he owns with his wife, he is a truly BUSY person. I commented that surely he doesn’t procrastinate because he just doesn’t have time. After some thought, he speculated that busy-ness might be procrastination in disguise. That perhaps he took on 50 new things to avoid the one thing he truly didn’t want to do. 

What an interesting thought. I would have said that I don’t procrastinate, but I know I’m guilty of this other thing, this busy-voidance.  And what a sneaky vice it is! Ours is a culture that values busy-ness: regardless of what you’re doing, if you’re busy, that’s good. Which leads me to wonder how many of us are covering up procrastination with busy-voidance. So I challenge us to take a look at our busy behaviors: 

- Is there a task in your planner that keeps getting pushed from one day to the next? 

- Are you sitting at your desk completing endless mundane tasks while something larger looms? 

- Is there a task that you just can’t clear the space to do/don’t have the right materials to complete/can’t quite make the time for? 

These are telltale signs of busy-voidance. It might just be time to clear that space, make that time, and tackle procrastination head on!" -Becky Eason, Wellness & Career Coach

Food for thoughts, huh? Are you taking the challenge? Here is another perspective on how we justify procrastination.

"People tend to look at procrastination as a negative and this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, procrastination is our way of hiding behind a fear versus facing the challenge presented.

If you think about it, procrastination might be more about the lack of forward-thinking. How many times have you put off a task because it seemed overwhelming when first approached with it? After the task is completed there is a realization that the task wasn’t that daunting, didn’t take the time expected or wasn’t as boring as determined.

Procrastination is more like a comfort zone and not all comfort zones are good for us, they are just comfortable. This is what makes it difficult to move away from them. This is truer when we have justified procrastination with excuses such as, “I would have done this sooner but I do great under pressure.” What is worse? The reward of a good feedback when we do procrastinate. This brings up the question: Is procrastination a comfort zone we created for ourselves or have we been enabled to procrastinate when we receive positive results?-Tara Parker, Academic Success Coach & Mental Trainer

Now, let's break procrastination down so you can see it for what it is and diminish its power over your decision making.

Procrastination is my own worst remedy — Rick Manelius

I submitted this one-liner to a short poem contest in college. What I loved about it is how much people tended to resonate with it. Too often when I and others felt overwhelmed by the task at hand, we somehow managed to find inordinate amounts of time to pursue distractions (TV, social media, video games, etc.).

Well, that’s just a diagnosis of a universal experience, but it doesn’t provide a meaningful path forward to address the cause.

Ultimately, we are driven by the twin desires of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Procrastination rears its ugly head when the *perceived* pain of pursuing the goal and failing is far outweighed by the *perceived* lack of value of achieving the goal itself. A TED Talk by Tim Ferriss provides an excellent strategy for flipping this around. When following the process of “Fear Setting,” one is encouraged to quantify a *realistic* value of the potential pain and gain. Once this is put on paper, the fear factor generally reduces in its score. The stories we tell ourselves that end in horrific “and then we may die” situations turn out to be mere annoyances and minor setbacks. On the pleasure side, there is equal value in quantifying the amount of happiness or fulfillment it will bring you on a zero to ten. If you find the score is low, you now have the choice to either abandon it as a goal not worth pursuing or find a way to make it more motivating.

In short, quantifying the pain and pleasure values is a mental trick to reduce downside and increase the upside. While this will not cure procrastination (after all, it’s still on you to take action), it can make it much easier to take the first step." -Rick Manelius, CTO of Contact Mapping

Great to understand procrastination better to see it coming and understand its patterns. As mentioned, it's on you to take the first step, so here is a tip to bypass the temptation and make progress towards your goal.

"Consequences of procrastination are real. The biggest one often discussed in coaching is increased stress due to time crunches, worry, overwhelm, guilt, and beating yourself up with negative self-talk.  

Other consequences are poor sleep, affecting relationships negatively, losing motivation, feeling “stuck”, and gaining a reputation of a procrastinator.  

A tip to help you move through the procrastination is to take a minimum of five steps/actions a week towards your goal. With 5, that is about one a day for a week and that’s attainable and actionable without being overwhelming. You’ll quickly make progress towards what you want to achieve and start to feel better with little to no stress." -Danielle Carson, Stress/Anxiety to Happiness Coach 

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