Some time ago I read a great, little article in a health journal* about procrastination – that dogged, dirty word that makes many of us want to hide in shame.
In this proactive, accomplishment-driven world, procrastination is a painful visitation. But I felt enlightened and inspired after reading the advice author Lynda Wallace offered for four of the most common reasons we put things off, so I thought it worthy of sharing.
What follows is a condensed and paraphrased version of what she wrote (except what is in quotations) and I interject my own comments, as well. But I give her full credit for the information relayed here, with many thanks.
“When you find yourself procrastinating, it’s important to acknowledge the simple truth of what’s happening – there’s something you feel you should be doing that your don’t want to do. It isn’t a moral failing. It’s an ordinary human response. Once you acknowledge it in a neutral way, you put yourself in a position to decide what to do about it.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Wallace. Finding that “neutral place” within yourself frees your mental and emotional energy to concentrate on getting to the heart of the issue and devising an action plan.
The four issues we commonly face are:
Just the thought of getting started is enough to stop some of us in our tracks, especially if the task seems too big or complicated. So, start small.
Make a deal with yourself to work on it for a limited period of time – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes – and then go from there. As Wallace says, the thing about inertia is “it isn’t only the tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest. It’s also the tendency of an object in motion to stay in motion.”
In other words, just get yourself going and you’ll likely keep going. If not, return to the task in timed increments until it’s done.
Sometimes you may not be sure that you are actually up for the task. The fear of failure causes anxiety, and the anxiety makes you avoid the task.
First, acknowledge the anxious feeling and “give yourself permission to feel that way.” Then consider that continuing to put off the task will actually increase the feeling of anxiety even more so, practically speaking, getting started is your best remedy.
Find a part of the task that causes you the least anxiety and begin with that, then break down the whole task in to manageable pieces. And be sure to “celebrate how good you feel every time you get one step closer to completion!”
Some things we need to do are just plain unpleasant. Each of us has “that thing” we hate to do … laundry, washing the car, filing, confronting an issue at work …
Wallace puts it this way, “I ask myself what would happen if I put off the unpleasant tasks indefinitely – if I just never do them?” Clearly, unpleasant tasks don’t get more pleasant as time goes on, they get worse. So, in this case, the best option is to have a good conversation with yourself, recognizing that you will be avoiding more unpleasantness in the future by getting these things done now!
The Passive “No” –
Could you be avoiding a task because truly you don’t intend on ever completing it? Consider the circumstances you are in. Has a task has been put upon you that conflicts with you sensibilities or values, or are you carrying the bulk of a task load that should be shared with others?
“In this situation, avoiding the task may offer temporary relief from the painful feelings of being in a dilemma, but in the end, this type of avoidance is a self-sabotaging strategy.” If you are not willing to do what others are expecting of you, then take a deep breath and face the issue head on. Have an honest conversation with those involved with the good intention of finding a fair and amicable solution.
I like Wallace’s advice because she is inviting us to heighten our “awareness” about what is happening within us and around us that contributes to our procrastination.
Like so many issues I’ve written about in this blog – “awareness” is the key to issuing change. Awareness increases knowledge, and the more we know the better we can make informed decisions and initiate clear actions to solve our life’s challenges.
* Original article from Taste for Life, November 2013