I’m not a procrastinator, I’m a pressure prompted completer!
Procrastination is the act of postponing.
It is a behaviour and like all behaviours we can change it if we choose. We can act differently. We can make an immediate change. We can choose action over delay.
But to solve for the long term we need to work out WHY.
What are your triggers for procrastination? What are your underlying reasons? What purpose does procrastination really serve in your life?
Answers range from the trivial to the profound. Our behaviours may be cultivated or inadvertent. And our actions can be described as injurious, damaging or downright perverse.
How Can You Tell If You Are Procrastinating?
Delaying tactics and patterns of behaviour may have developed over months, years or even decades. They are insidious and although they trigger annoyance and self-loathing, the patterns remain largely unexamined.
Do any of these ‘internal voices’ have a ring of truth for you:
- I should start early this time
- I’ve got to start soon
- I should have started by now
- I’ll start x once I finish y
- I’m running out of time
- There is still time, if…
- I hope no one finds out
- There is something wrong with me
- Why are we doing this anyway?
- Why bother?
- That was painful. I’ll never procrastinate again.
The Procrastinator’s Code
Psychologists and researchers Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen have developed The Procrastinators’s Code.
The code suggests that we procrastinators have closely held and well defended but perilously unrealistic beliefs. Take a breath between reading each statement below – what comes up?
- I must be perfect.
- Everything I do should go easily and without effort.
- It’s safer to do nothing than to take a risk and fail.
- I should have no limitations.
- If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing at all.
- I must avoid being challenged.
- If I succeed, someone will get hurt.
- If I do well this time, I must always do well.
- Following someone else’s rules means I’m giving in and I’m not in control.
- I can’t afford to let go of anything or anyone.
- If I expose my real self, people won’t like me.
- There is a right answer, and I’ll wait until I find it.
Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?
If fear of failure is that the heart of your procrastination story, you may experience the ongoing suffering that comes from the search for perfection.
Self worth = Ability = Performance
The procrastinator intercedes before judgement occurs:
Self worth = Ability ≠ Performance
The insidious practice of delay prevents performance. If there is no performance to be judged then my ability cannot be assessed and it cannot be found lacking. I will be safe. Self-worth is untested and so, intact.
Fear of success can be a little more difficult to understand.
In this case procrastination plays a self-destructive role. When we delay we preserve the status quo. Fear of success manifests in a set of bemusing emotional reactions to success:
- I can’t take a complement
- Success will change my life, it will change me
- When people think well of me it makes me nervous
- I don’t really deserve success
Self-defense or Self-sabotage?
It may be true that all procrastination involves some self-sabotage, it is just a matter of degree. Perhaps a more productive analysis of this particular pathology is to pose the question:
How does procrastination serve you?
For all of us, there is a hidden gift in our self destructive behaviour.
What’s your story?
Does the act of delay allow you to remove yourself from competition and the possibility of failure?
Does it protect you from being judged and being found lacking?
Does it allow you to maintain a belief that you are a ‘natural’ and can achieve excellence without effort?
Does it allow you to criticise the parameters of your project – unrealistic timeframes? Poor systems? Inadequate tools? Inferior co-workers?
The Mindset Game
If your attitude does not serve you, then change your attitude.
- Reflect on the Procrastinator’s Code. What’s your ‘why’?
- Identify the hidden gift that is supplied by the behaviour
- Forgive yourself
- Decide that your present self will take better care of your future self
The Behaviour Game
- Brain Dump – Write a list of all the things that occupy space in your mind. Include everything from the mundane to the monumental.
- Start with Action – Identify everything on your list that can be done in two minutes or less. Do those things and cross them off your list.
- Time Box Creativity – Choose something from your list that you know will not be done quickly. Something that requires you to think, create and innovate. Set a timer for 1 hour and remove all distractions. Work only on this project and see how far you can get in one hour.
- Re-visit Your Vision – Take a moment to reconnect with the benefits of the major projects or tasks on your list. How will they help you achieve your long-term goals. Picture yourself achieving a successful result. Now work backwards – what are the all steps you will need to follow to get there?
- Just Do It… If you are a fan of tough love – this video is for you: