So I’ve been procrastinating for 2 weeks on writing this post on procrastination 🙂
Aren’t we all good at doing this? In fact we can be so good at putting things off that sometimes we do it for years. And we’re also really good at beating ourselves up for putting things off, as if that will motivate us to get things done faster. Not!
So why do we do it? And what can we do to not do it? Or should we even not do it? Hmmm…..
Over the years I’ve concluded there are two main reason people procrastinate:
- They don’t want to do whatever it is they’re not doing.
- Their subconscious and the Universe are lining things up and the “not doing” is actually part of a greater plan.
Let’s look at them one by one.
I don’t want to do this!
It’s pretty obvious that we put off things we don’t want to do. Sometimes we even do this at the expense of being able to enjoy things we do want to do. Think about kids who aren’t allowed to go out and play until their room is clean. A mere 20 minutes of what they describe as “torture” will get them out the door for hours of fun and play with their friends. But they’ll groan and complain for hours, not getting that task done and acting like their entire life is ruined because of it. Then predictably, there’s no time left in the day to go play, which reinforces how absolutely torturous room cleaning really is!
As students we play a different version of this game, putting off studying or completing school assignments at the last possible moment. Of course we have every intention of getting them done early or pacing the studying but because we really don’t want to do it we put it off. Sometimes we do this to the detriment of other things we’d rather be doing, so there’s the added anger about not being able to do what we want. The difference between this and the child not cleaning his or her room is that this time it’s self imposed. So instead of being mad at a parent, we’re mad at ourselves. This chips away at self-esteem and causes a lot of frustration and anger.
As adults the theme continues, putting off work obligations until the last minute, missing deadlines, and so on. Then because we goofed off or didn’t prioritize, we have to work late to get things done, sometimes missing things we want to do. This puts a strain on our relationships too, as we miss family events for catch up work. Before we know it our kids are grown and we realize we’ve missed many precious moments – all because of procrastination.
It also puts a strain on our finances, as putting off taking care of small things can lead to huge expense and frustration. Just had a client recently who ignored a “slightly leaky dishwasher” which then turned into having to not only fix that but replace the entire kitchen floor too. This leads to not having the money to do things we enjoy, which makes us mad at ourselves for not being on top of things. It also leaves us full of regret as we age, when we thing of all the things we wanted to do but didn’t because we didn’t have the money.
So the moral of this story is: When not wanting to do something becomes a habit of procrastination, you mess up your life.
You miss out on a lot you’d rather be doing and you also cause yourself stress and frustration, as well as loss of self-esteem as you beat yourself up for not getting things done.
And once it becomes a habit, procrastination becomes ingrained and gets harder and harder to kick. In other words – we become pros in procrastinating getting rid of procrastination and find ourselves caught in an endless loop.
Now let’s move on to the second reason for procrastinating.
The Universe is telling me not to do it just yet.
This isn’t as obvious as the other reason but very important. Sometimes we’re not really procrastinating, but being guided to not do something because the Universe is lining things up for something better.
I’ve experienced this many times as something I was procrastinating on resolved itself, often in a better way than I could have done it myself. I’ve had people pick up and complete projects I was putting off, and in the process discovered hidden talents I didn’t know they possessed. I’ve put off small repairs to discover later I would have had to undo all my work anyway because a bigger repair was on the horizon. An example of this was when I put off replacing the roof. It needed to be done but it wasn’t critical yet (I didn’t have buckets catching water all over the house) and I kept putting it off. Turned out well though because a tornado came through and knocked half the roof off. So yeah, the Universe knew this was coming and kept nudging me to put it off a little longer. And bonus, insurance covered the cost so it saved me a lot of money too.
So you see… sometimes procrastination is a gentle nudge from the Universe to hold off a while because things are coming together behind the scenes and it’s not quite time for you to take action.
How to deal with procrastination.
So ok, now that we’ve covered the two major reasons we procrastinate, what can we do about it?
What I do is always assume I’m procrastinating for a reason. Meaning the Universe is holding me back and it will all make sense soon. By taking this approach I don’t beat myself up about it because I know it’s part of a larger plan. It also enables me to take a proactive approach to moving things forward.
So first, when I notice I’m procrastinating, I stop and have a little conversation with the Universe. I say “Universe, I know this needs to get done and I’m quite blatantly putting it off. If this is something I need to take care of then I need the inspiration and drive to get it done. If this is something someone else needs to take care of then I need to know who so I can get it delegated. And If this is part of a larger plan then let me know and I’m happy to roll with it and put it in your hands.”
Then I do this, which makes all the difference in the world:
I assign the task to the Universe. I say quite simply and firmly “This needs to get done so handle it.” I don’t care if I end up doing it in the end or if someone else does. The important thing is I put the responsibility squarely on the Universe.
Then I wait a minute, and if no inspiration is forthcoming, I purposely back-burner the thing I’m putting off for a short period of time. By “short” I mean 30-60 minutes at most. I give myself another assignment, set a timer and go. Then when the time’s up I revisit the thing I’m avoiding and ask again if I’m ready to make progress on it. I remind the Universe that it needs to take care of it, and again if nothing is forthcoming I set myself to another task for another period of time. I usually keep to the 30-60 minute schedule, though If I’m guided I’ll wait a few hours or even a couple days before bringing it up again.
However long the time period between asking again, I keep doing it until the thing either gets done or doesn’t need to get done anymore. For example, I’ve put off creating reports for work and not gotten any inspiration for days, to find out in the end the report isn’t needed anymore or the parameters have changed so much I’d have to redo it all anyway. See?
Now an important point is to not spend time trying to talk yourself into getting started, beat yourself up, or try to force action. Keep insisting the Universe has it covered and go about your day, revisiting the thing from time to time but not stressing about it. If there’s a deadline you can remind the Universe of that but really… don’t stress.
What will happen is that you’ll be more productive and get a lot of other things done on your list (those little procrastinations). That’s because you are purposely NOT doing the main thing, but assigning yourself something in its place.
You’ll also find you spend a lot less time on things that are what I call “time suckers.” You know… mindlessly surfing the internet, zoning in front of the TV, chit chatting with co workers and the like. Not that you can’t do these things. You can. But make them an “assignment” rather than simply falling into them, got it?
Ok I’m done writing this post and it’s time to get back to one of the things on my procrastination list. Checking in now….