If you were to ask people what their worst habit is, of all the bad habits they may have, procrastination is usually up there at the top. Procrastination is postponing an unpleasant task to our future self. Who amongst us hasn’t been guilty of indulging in some procrastination?
Ironically enough, for the last few days, I have been procrastinating writing a post on procrastination.
I did all my go to ways to procrastinate–I went out with friends after work (love distracting myself with others), caught up on my DVR (it was calling my name), I scrolled through Instagram to see what other people were up to (sadly, I even got distracted by watching tv and lost my place on Instagram–had to start all over from the top of my feed-I hate that).
Procrastinating goes against our best interests. It is not logical. Even with the best intentions set many of us find ourselves unable to follow through.
Even when I finally start what I set out to do–I easily find ways to distract myself. I text, watch a few YouTube videos, sometimes, I even go stand in front of the fridge trying to decide if making something to eat is a good idea. Maybe now, I think to myself, is the opportune time to organize my junk drawer.
To be honest, this post would probably be better if I hadn’t waited until the last-minute to get to it.
But right there lies the beauty of procrastinating.
See when we wait until the last-minute to do something, we are able to give ourselves, a built-in excuse for why it doesn’t turn out so good. It’s not that I am a horrible writer, I have just been so busy with other things, that I couldn’t give it all my attention and effort.
This type of thinking serves as a way to give ourselves a buffer for criticism and failure. If I procrastinate working on something that I am worried may be above my abilities, I create an excuse for myself when it doesn’t turn out well.
Procrastinating is a great way to protect our ego and self-esteem.
We can see procrastination easily in others–the kid who don’t study or hand in their homework, the friend who never gets around to using that gym membership that cost a fortune, or when our partner puts off his to do list of what he needs to get done around the house.
This tendency–to avoid taking action—is prevalent amongst all corners of the world.
It can be harmless to procrastinate depending on the task at hand. I can say for as long as I can remember, I put off doing my laundry until the last possible minute (running out of clean towels and I really want to re-wear something from a few days ago seems to get me moving). This isn’t going to really affect my life in any real, meaningful way. When push comes to shove, it gets done.
But people procrastinate not just tasks, but goals. I can’t tell you how many diets I put off to Monday, only to put it off to next Monday, only to put it off to next month…(I feel I am not alone on this one).
We avoid going to the gym, asking someone out on a date, tackling difficult assignments, apologizing, starting a new business, asking for help.
Maybe we procrastinate checking out a mole on our arm. We put off difficult conversations to avoid conflict. We delay big decisions like switching careers or getting a divorce.
Procrastinating important goals–such as saving for retirement or quitting smoking–can lead to more serious problems.
The list is endless of what we can and DO procrastinate.
People will procrastinate until they run out of time.
But why, you may be asking, do we do this to ourselves?
We procrastinate because we are avoiding discomfort. We just don’t feel like it.
Procrastination is a misplaced coping mechanism. It is an avoidance behavior, usually what we are avoiding, is PAIN. Whatever action we are avoiding involves some sort of pain-whether physical or emotional.
Procrastination keeps us from doing things we don’t want to do. Does anyone want to put away 20% of their paycheck for retirement when there is a long list of other things that money can be used for? Does anyway want to eat broccoli and cauliflower when there is a bowel of pasta sitting in front of them? Does anyone want to go for a run instead of relax on the couch after work?
We procrastinate because it is easy. It is easy to put things off. It is hard to break out of your comfort zone and build momentum. When we procrastinate we avoid the negative, unpleasant feeling of action and get to indulge in the comfort of INACTION. We put off going to the gym and opt to instead scroll the internet creating Pinterest boards of recipes we all know we will never make. We rationalize to ourselves why today isn’t the day.
Many of us will do anything to get us out of the unpleasant task of something we don’t feel like doing.
Procrastination is all about feelings. Mainly avoiding unpleasant ones. Even when we know better. Yet our desire to procrastinate can seriously affect our life.
Imagine a task you have been avoiding. Picture starting that specific action in your life RIGHT NOW. Try to fathom how you will feel.
The painful feelings you are avoiding can be fear, vulnerability, embarrassment, insecurity, anxiety. These are all forms of emotional pain.
We don’t procrastinate things we enjoy. We procrastinate things we view in one way or another as uncomfortable.
To overcome procrastination, we need to realize we are avoiding pain and that soon we ALL have to face reality. Eventually we have to–check our bank account. Get on the scale. Go to the doctor and find out what is really going on. Answer to our boss. Answer to ourselves.
You can only avoid reality and responsibility for so long. Your future self will not be any better equipped to take on a task that your current self is avoiding. Human nature, being what it is, likes to retreat to our comfort zone and stay there.
The price of our comfort zone is a shrunken world. We miss out on relationships, opportunities, experiences, all which will pass us by. Staying in our comfort zone keeps us from truly living a full life.
Our time is limited. When you procrastinate, you waste your time. Time, the one thing you can never get back, no matter who you are.
Start thinking about the future you. The you, who will thank you for getting the ball rolling, today. Not tomorrow. It is time to shift your mindset to thinking about down the road, not just for what you want in the moment.
My favorite piece of advice was from a teacher I had who told me to JUST get STARTED. Give yourself ten minutes on any task you are putting off. You will be surprised the type of momentum you get from just BEGINNING.
Remember you will never feel like it. Stop waiting until you feel like it. Feelings have a way of holding you back.
To change, you HAVE to take action.
We can prevent procrastination. It is a habit and like all habits it can be unlearned. Rip off the band-aid and feel the discomfort and stress, that you will eventually feel later. Be willing to suffer through the feelings NOW to feel better later. The best feeling will be the results experienced by your future self-when you feel accomplished and able.
The bottom line is procrastination is just a feeling.
There is nothing stopping you. Except you.
It is time to stop allowing yourself to be ruled by a feeling that brings with it so many negative consequences. It is time to stop letting yourself off the hook.
Can you imagine how much less stress and frustration you feel if you just make yourself do the things you don’t want to do, when you are actually supposed to do them?
Time for me to heed my own advice.
I am going to go now. To take a walk. Even though I don’t feel like it.