Secret #5 Surprising Procrastination
In English 101 my daughter wrote a paper on procrastination as a universal human characteristic. She went in search of scholarly research.
The studies she found challenged my view of procrastination.
It turns out that putting things off and procrastination is not the same thing – any more than being a neat freak makes you OCD.
Dr. Joseph Ferrari*, a psychology professor at DePaul University makes a distinction between a person that procrastinates and a chronic procrastinator.
Psychologists go so far as to call it a “maladaptive lifestyle.”
Who wants to be maladapted?
Chronic procrastinators avoid tasks due to a crippling level of perfectionism, people pleasing syndrome or the inability to make a decision.
What is the surprising procrastination secret?
Or, how to know if you are maladapted…
Take a look at your tasks and projects:
What has been sitting on the list for a long, long time?
What tasks do you avoid?
Is it good ol’ laziness? (Be gentle with yourself here).
Is it a lack of definition on exactly what needs doing?
Are you waiting for someone or something to happen before you can start (really, truly)?
Is there a pattern of avoiding things to escape some pain?
5 perfect reasons to surprise procrastination
Self-sabotage is ugly
If I know what needs doing, and I’m aware of the consequences of not doing it, then why is it still sitting there?
Could it be a subtle ploy to communicate to the world that I’m not competent?
After all, it’s easy to live up to low expectations.
When I was a kid, we had a family friend with culinary training. She kept this a closely guarded secret so that no one would ever expect her to cook.
A funny example – but not so funny when we present ourselves as undependable to avoid responsibility.
Procrastination makes us miss out
The big, risky things in life usually offer the greatest benefits.
For example, taking a dream trip. Believe me, I know, there’s always a good reason that now is not the right time.
Or, cleaning out the garage so a bigger, better project can happen. Keeping the garage in a shambles is a handy excuse not to get started.
Parking an idea in the realm of possibility – and leaving it there – means we can’t fail.
Fear and insecurity stink
Worrying about what others think or trying to make everybody happy is the biggest possible wrench in the gears of motion.
Yes, it’s important to consider the needs of others.
Making everyone happy though? Not going to happen.
Pick a good direction (notice, I didn’t say the “best direction”) and get going.
Bust through ambiguity
Define what you want to accomplish.
Productivity experts call this, “beginning with the end in mind” or “defining the outcome.”
Whatever buzz word we use, some projects need the handles of concrete action to get us ‘failing forward.‘
Find personal meaning
Chronic procrastination can be a healthy warning sign if it makes you evaluate your life.
Are you procrastinating because you simply don’t care about what you’re doing?
Can you change the situation or find a reason to care?
Put surprising procrastination into practice
Jokes, articles, even books excuse procrastination as a harmless, even helpful, human trait.
Procrastination is a type of failure because it puts life on hold.
Being honest about that is the first step to combating it.
Do I sound like a 12-step program?
Bootstraps? Probably not
Realize that dealing with chronic procrastination won’t be a quick fix.
To paraphrase Dr. Ferrari, you can’t just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it, any more than a clinically depressed person can smile themselves well.
Here’s a prescription from the experts…
After doing a bit of soul-searching to get to the root of why you avoid what you avoid, determine if this is just garden variety putting-things-off, or is there a bigger issue you need help with.
On a less serious note, having too much to do can be numbing.
When my to-do list starts to overflow, I lose perspective. This is when I need some help sorting through the options.
At home, this is my husband. He knows me and our priorities deeply, but he’s removed enough emotionally from all the obligations I’ve amassed to pick out the weeds.
Another common thing with moms is the fact that we are on-call. Interruptions and “being flexible” are our life.
We can get to the point where we stop doing stuff because it feels like too much trouble.
I know I can get a little fatalistic about my situation. “Why even get started, I’m just going to have to make ANOTHER meal in a few hours!”
Yeah, it’s a lonely pity party.
Chop up projects/tasks into the smallest chunks.
Make a list of every single step.
It may feel silly at first until you discover the power in the exercise.
Take it one micro-task at a time. Retrain yourself to take action.
Putting a hard edge on a project that’s moving like molasses can help.
Nothing gets me to tackle nagging home projects like scheduling a party or overnight guests.
Whether the deadline is external or internal, be sure to carve out time in your schedule.
Create a block of time on the calendar for high priority projects.
On a day-to-day basis setting a timer will create micro-deadlines.
Have a low-gear list
Keep moving forward.
We legitimately come to an end of our energy, physically and mentally.
There is a time to “veg out,” eat or do a mindless activity.
Then there is the time we are supposed to be working, and we know it, but we just don’t have the juice to do what’s on the docket.
Pull out the low-gear list and knock out a bunch of tasks you do have the energy for.
This forward motion can be motivating in itself, and it also frees up time when we are firing on all cylinders.
Have two choices
When you are in energy prime-time be sure you are ready to make the most of it.
Give yourself two options.
That way if one project stalls or you run out of steam, you can switch it up and keep going.
Also, have a plan for what you could do, if time opens up.
Events get canceled, the baby naps an extra hour, your husband offers to take the kids to the park – are you ready to take advantage of these time windfalls?
Use the two-minute rule
Something you plain hate doing?
Let’s say tax preparation, as an example.
What could you do in 2 minutes to move the project forward? Seriously, set the timer.
Seriously, set the timer.
When the timer goes off, allow yourself to stop. After a couple of two-minute sessions, momentum will take over.
Gather all the stuff
The night before you want to work on something, lay out the supplies/materials.
Having everything waiting eliminates one layer of friction.
Attach it to something
Harness tedious, repetitive work to something you enjoy.
Listen to an audio book you’re dying to read or catch up on a favorite podcast.
I strongly dislike running errands – bribing myself with fancy coffee works for me.
Beware of the future
Having a detailed plan early on is the key to chipping away at long-term projects.
Pick things up on the way, double meals, shop sale racks for a dress to the event…
Ticking off tasks toward an end goal, over time, will rack up wins.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This keeps the site up and running.)
Open up new possibilities
One of the worst parts of procrastination is that it freezes out new ideas, opportunities, and options.
Break out of project limbo by employing one of the ten ideas above and watch your to-do list shrink.
How do you surprise procrastination? Tell us about it in the comments so we can learn from one another.
*”Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association of Psychological Science RSS. N.p., n.d.Web. 19 May 2016.