pro·cras·ti·nate (pr-krst-nt, pr-)
To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.
To postpone or delay needlessly.
It seems we’re all in a bit of a funk lately. Is it Mercury’s fault for being all retro ‘n shit? Is it the hazy lazy days of late summer? Is it the economy or civil unrest or troubles in our relationships? I don’t know.
What I do know is I’m hearing a lot of talk about overcoming procrastination. Most of which is coming from my mouth, truth be told.
Procrastination, like anything else, is in the eye of the beholder.
I tend to think people use procrastination as a tool for self-sabotage by the way they perceive it instead of through the actual act of avoidance.
Emotions are created by a bunch of neurochemicals responding to external stimuli. When we’re in danger, our brain releases adrenalin and other chemicals which prepare our body for either ‘fight or flight.’
People like me, who have suffered some sort of trauma in their past, often have an overactive fight or flight mechanism leading to persistent feelings of anxiety.
A full-blown anxiety attack can make you feel like you’re dying. Seriously, not fun. But a lower level of anxiety can have a similar effect as any mild stimulant.
Given my addiction to mocha lattes I’m guessing I’m not the only person with a mild-stimulant addiction. Not by a long shot.
Is it a far stretch to then conclude we can become addicted to procrastination?
Can we learn to crave that special cocktail of neurochemicals fired off when we’re in a panic? When we haven’t done everything we’re supposed to do? When we’re a failure yet again? When we’re [insert whatever self-debasing message you prefer]?
And if this is the case, how can we begin to turn this awful habit around?
Here’s the thing, the actual act of procrastination is very often a smart decision. Typically, when our instincts are telling us not to do something there’s a rational reason behind it.
We may not yet be properly prepared for the task. We may not have addressed self-care issues that need to be dealt with first. Whatever the reason, the intuition to delay a project or task usually means that taking a step back is a good idea.
However, the act of distrusting our instincts and using task-avoidance as a tool with which to engender panic and beat ourselves up is NOT a good idea. At. All.
So what if you could transform your procrastination from a bad habit into a tool which strengthens your productivity, creativity and spiritual well-being?
If you’re ready to stop procrastinating for good, try this…
Over the next couple days or weeks, depending on your “panic habit”, when you find yourself procrastinating make note of it.
Don’t judge it or react to it. Just note it.
At the end of the day, or week, take a few moments to quietly reflect and get some internal communication going around whatever it is you’ve been avoiding.
1. How will doing this thing I’m avoiding get me closer to my goal?
If you can’t answer this clearly and relatively quickly, move on to question 2. If you do have a concise answer here, move on to question 3.
2. How does not doing this thing affect my goal?
So if doing this thing won’t get you closer to your goal, why are you worrying about it? Really examine the impact of not doing this thing on your life and the lives of those around you. Don’t judge it, just be with it.
If you find yourself stuck on things that are not relevant to what you’re working towards it’s probably time to sit down and re-examine your goals.
Goals are dynamic and can change from time to time even without our noticing. It’s always valuable to check-in to see what’s really important to us in this moment right now.
3. Why am I avoiding doing this thing?
Again, don’t judge. Just listen quietly to what your inner self is telling you about this thing. Are you afraid to fail? Overwhelmed by the thing in some way? Or is the thing simply not completely developed in your mind and will some additional time, information, coaching, whatever, resolve the issue?
The real secret? Instead of procrastinating, try dreaming.
When I’m putting off doing a certain thing and I go through the process described above, I find it’s usually because I haven’t nurtured the idea of that thing enough. I haven’t spent enough time dreaming about the thing or getting to know exactly how this thing will move me forward.
And that’s OK! It’s nothing a few hours, days or even weeks of dreaming won’t cure.
While dreaming may look suspiciously like procrastination it’s more fun, loads more productive and will leave you feeling infinitely more satisfied.
So quit procrastinating and dream on, baby!
PS: I’m dreaming you’ll leave a comment and share your experiences with the dreaded “P” word. xoxo