When I was twenty, I had surgery that required a local anesthetic. The surgeon told me that if the pain ever got too bad, I could tell him to stop.
Stop?! Why would I want to prolong the pain? I didn’t want any breaks; I wanted it over as quickly as possible. Why would I want to endure the painful situation longer than necessary?
I wonder this same thing about people who procrastinate. They avoid writing content for their web site, filing taxes, or scheduling appointments. They even seem to cling to their procrastinatory habits like an honor badge.
Prolonging the pain and choosing to live in a state of suffering doesn’t make sense to me. Why would anyone want to bear an undone task like a constant weight?
Trade your burden for freedom
If I have bookkeeping on my to-do list, and I avoid it, I’m choosing to allow the weight of this non-fun task to burden my entire day and rob me of peace of mind.
If I do the bookkeeping right away, not only do I release the stress of the onerous task, I feel empowered and free to work on what I really want.
I’ve just traded eight hours of burden for eight hours of freedom.
The release is palpable and allows me to complete my creative projects with more ease.
This is just how I am
I can hear you now. “But I’ve always been a procrastinator. I’ve always done everything at the last minute.” You shrug, proud to bear this burden. “It works for me.”
But does it really work? Do you feel peaceful and energetic? Or burdened and sluggish? Check in with yourself – do your days feel good to you, carrying around this weighty procrastination?
Creative noodling isn’t procrastination
I can hear your objections. “But I need that noodling time. It helps me create.”
I assert that there’s a recognizable difference between procrastination and creative noodling time. I also assert that you know the difference, if you pause to feel it.
One way to see the difference is to assess whether you’ve put some attention on the project. For instance, if I have to write a new About page for my blog, I’ll make some notes, do some research, and I’ll hack out a rough first draft.
Then I’ll let that sit while I do other work, take a walk, and allow new ideas to surface. Inspiration will come and I’ll return to the page to keep working.
Throughout this whole experience I’ll feel creatively engaged and empowered.
Contrast that to procrastination. I see About page on my to-do list. I don’t know what I am going to write, so I do my usual procrastination tactics: cruise Facebook, do easier work, surf the internet pretending I’m researching others’ About pages.
The weeks go by and the About page on my list adds to my stress. My confidence gradually erodes as my deadlines come and go.
Which do you want? I’ll take the lighter version, thank you. Some tasks are still onerous, but at least I am not adding to the weight by avoiding them.
Procrastination = unnecessary stress
If you’re committed to your style of procrastination, rushing to finish things at the last minute, know that you are also committed to a life of stress and disempowerment.
You may think that the rush of adrenaline you get from last minute work is worth it. But I don’t think it is worth the burden of avoidance.
You can change. You can choose to complete things with less stress. Lose the weight of procrastination.
- Do difficult things first. Often we avoid what we anticipate to be painful.
- Break big jobs into smaller tasks. ‘Taxes’ is an onerous thing – but the steps you need to file your taxes can be broken down and made easier.
- Delegate – what’s on your list that will never get done if you’re the one to do it? See who can help you with it.
- Practice committing to less so you have enough time and space to take care of your obligations.
- Let go of your proud identity as a procrastinator. There’s nothing noble about it.
Bottom line: Procrastination is a heavy weight to bear, and may be holding you back.
Coach’s inquiry: What is the cost of your procrastination?
What can you test my theory on? What are you procrastinating on that you can do sooner rather than later? Share how you’ve shed procrastination in a comment below, or argue for your avoiding ways!