I wonder if I can count myself as an expert in procrastination, given that my goal was to blog once a week and it’s now 3 weeks since my last post. Generally, I believe that we procrastinate when we are ambivalent about something, maybe caught between "I want…….." and "I should……..". The old "shoulding all over myself". You can google procrastination and find 18 million results worldwide and 619 thousand in just Canada (approximately). And no, I didn’t check them all out in an effort to avoid writing!
I had a bit of an epiphany this week when a call I had been putting off for a while resulted in good news, instead of the hassle expected. I wondered if I googled doubts and what can go wrong, the results would be greater online than my own self-generated thoughts. And no, I won’t put that to the test……….too much trouble to actually count! My counselling practice reveals that many of the solutions people consider are in fairly short order followed by the reasons to procrastinate or "wait and see". See what………….if it goes away? If it does, was that okay with you, or are you disappointed?
This blog is starting to look like my last (see "I Can’t………Can I?"), so to shift gears a bit, let’s talk about procrastinating in a healthier way. If evidence suggests that you’re not doing something that you’ve said you would, ask yourself why. Why you put it on your list, why you think it’s important, and why it matters to you or those around you. Consider your answers, look for the shoulds and then dig deeper. What drives your should? Does it inspire you, or just give you permission to feel moderately adult by at least acknowledging a sense of responsibility?
An exercise (yes another common area of procrastination, but I digress): Pick something you’ve been procrastinating about. Examine it, by asking the questions above. If you do feel inspired, find a way to begin – now. Develop your inspiration, envision the completed project, review your personal resources, do what you need to remove obstacles and share your plan with someone who’s willing to challenge you on your progress. Start!
If you don’t feel inspired, ditch it and move on. This might mean getting honest with anyone else who is invested, renegotiating, apologizing (see an earlier blog entry "I’m sorry, but………"). I’m not saying this is easy or that there aren’t obligations we just have to meet. If that comes up as a reason not to ditch something, but you still aren’t doing it, dig deeper. If you have an obligation, consider why it’s yours? If it puts food on the table or a roof over your head, takes care of someone you love, those are pretty good reasons to want to do it. Find the inspiration and go back to step one.
If your hesitation has more to do with avoiding displeasure or challenge, refocus your questions about how important it is to you. Make a choice about where you want to put your energy – being fully committed to what you do or letting your energy leach out by procrastinating. Yes, procrastination for whatever reason is like your computer on standby -power is still used, but nothing gets done.
I like to see procrastination as similar to anxiety – useful as a signal that something is not working or is fearful, but of no particular use as a strategy. A little bit can give you space to consider whether it matters. Too much can be paralyzing. On that note, I’m off to tackle a project that I don’t enjoy, but that does, indeed, matter.