Secret #3: Surprising Procrastination
A few months ago my daughter wrote an English 101 paper on procrastination as a common human characteristic. she went in search of scholarly research articles.
The research studies she found challenged my view of procrastination.
It turns out that putting things off and procrastination are not the same thing at all. Anymore than being a neat-nik 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”.
Meaning, chronic procrastinators avoid tasks due to a crippling level of perfectionism, people pleasing or the inability to make decisions.
The Secret to Overcoming Procrastination
Assess your list of tasks and projects.
What has been sitting on the list for too long?
What tasks do you know you’re avoiding?
Is it good ol’ laziness? (Be careful here, sometimes we jump to this conclusion too quickly.)
Is there a lack of definition on exactly what needs to be done?
Are you waiting on someone or something else?
Is there a true pattern of avoiding things to escape some type of pain?
3 Good Reasons
Reason 1: Self-Sabotage
If you know what needs to be done and you’re 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 you are not competent?
After all, it’s easy to live up to low expectations.
When I was a kid we had a family friend who was an accomplished cook. She kept this a closely guarded secret so that no one would expect her to to. A funny example, but not so funny, when we present ourselves as undependable to avoid responsiblity.
Reason 2: Missing Out
The big, risky things in life usually offer the biggest benefits.
Taking that dream trip…Believe me, I know, there’s always a good reason that now is not a good time.
Looking for a job…my resume just needs an little more tweaking…
Cleaning out the garage so a bigger, better project can happen. But if I do that project, and it’s no good, then my dream of being an (artist, woodworker, camper) will crumble. Better to blame inaction on the messy garage.
Reason 3: Fear and Insecurity
Worrying about what others think about us 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? Not possible.
Pick a good direction (notice I didn’t say, “the best direction”) and get going.
Put it Into Practice
Idea 1: Face It
Jokes, articles, even book abound excusing procrastination as a harmless, even helpful, human trait. Not true.
Procrastination is a type of failure because it puts life on hold.
Being honest about that is the first step to combat it. Do I sound like a 12-Step program?
Idea 2: Boot Straps? 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, anymore than a clinically depressed person can smile themselves well.
After doing a bit of soul-searching to get at 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?
Idea 3: Bite-Size It
Chop up your project/tasks into the smallest chunks possible.
Actually make a list of every. single. step.
This will feel silly at first, until you discover the power in the exercise.
Take it one micro-task at a time. This is retraining yourself to action. Several self-management theories use a variation on this technique: Kaizen, Pomodoro, and GTD’s Next Actions come to mind.
Idea 4: Create Deadlines
Putting a hard edge on project that are moving like molasses can help.
Nothing gets me to tackle nagging home projects like scheduling a party or overnight guest.
*”Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association for Psychological Science RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2016.
See You Next Week…
We will look at Secret #4: Being 2 Ahead to supercharge your efficiency.