If you struggle with procrastination, you’ve probably tried to figure out why you put off doing things. And when you get really fed up, you probably berate yourself for being “lazy.”
Well, take heart. People procrastinate for many reasons but laziness is rarely one of them.
First let’s look at what being “lazy” really means. A Google search of the word lazy generates synonyms such as “idle,” “slothful,” “shiftless, “indolent,” “sluggish,” and “inactive.” Laziness is defined as “resistant to work or exertion.” All of these descriptions convey a very negative—and when invoked to explain procrastination—inaccurate impression of what’s really going on inside a procrastinator’s head.
Sure, we all have lazy days when we don’t feel like doing much and don’t get much done. And from the outside, a chronic procrastinator’s wheel spinning might look like sloth, indifference, or irresponsibility. But scratch the surface and you’ll find a far more complex picture.
Does just thinking about tackling a big project make your head spin? If so, you might procrastinate because organization is a challenge for you. You may find it hard to break a large assignment into smaller, more manageable steps. So you avoid getting started because you don’t even know where to begin.
Do you typically underestimate how long it will take to complete a task? If you have problems managing your time, you might put off a project because you fool yourself into believing you’ll have ample room in your schedule to get it done. Then, when the deadline looms and you can’t avoid it any longer, you panic.
Do you drag your feet on logging expenses, documenting billable hours, writing reports, and paying bills but love going after new business or coming up with innovative, big picture ideas? You might thrive on stimulation and procrastinate because you have trouble following through with boring, routine tasks.
Poor organizational skills, difficulties with time management, and problems with attention all can cause procrastination. There’s also another very common, but often unrecognized, reason behind procrastination in people who’d never be considered lazy. I’ll tell you about it in my next post.
Ok, enough putting it off. No more checking Facebook for status updates of people I don’t remember from high school but can’t unfriend because I’m afraid of offending them. No more binge-watching Orange is the New Black. No more scrolling through the App Store to find the perfect habit tracker. No more games of Words with Friends. I have to stop procrastinating and write a blog post on procrastination.
The beginning of September brings out the inner student in all of us, even if it’s been decades since we last smelled the intoxicating possibilities contained in a brand-new box of Crayola crayons. A new school year is a blank slate—a chance to start over with pristine notebooks and no overdue assignments.
Unfortunately, life isn’t quite like school. Time isn’t measured in semesters. There are always endless projects to complete and opportunities to avoid them.
Dealing with procrastination requires a tough love approach. No excuses. No second chances. Just do it. Now.
Easier said than done, of course. It calls for a major cognitive overhaul. New rules.
Memorize, and repeat often:
1) Later isn’t a better time.
2) You’re fooling yourself.
3) There is no better time.
4) You don’t have to feel like it to do it.
You can work on your capacity to follow through with a plan by practicing just one small behavior every day. Meditation is a good choice because it can help you sit with uncomfortable feelings. Over time, it may actually strengthen the part of the brain involved in organization and planning.
But any behavior (preferably one that doesn’t take more than a few minutes) will do. You can decide you’ll sweep the kitchen floor every night at 8 pm, or empty your in-box at the end of each workday. The point is to choose an activity and carry it out, no matter what.
Procrastinators also should practice resisting the overwhelming impulse to give into avoidance. One way to power through the urge to avoid is by not hitting the Snooze button when your alarm goes off. You’ll be working on ignoring the self-sabotaging messages your brain is sending you. And as an added bonus, you’ll be starting the morning with a sense of accomplishment that can boost your motivation to take care of business throughout the rest of the day.
No matter how long your To Do list, crossing off even one item can help you break through the inertia of procrastination. I feel so much better already! But I’m just getting started. I’ll have more tips on how to deal with this irksome problem in future posts.
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