Procrastination is like masturbation. At first it feels good, but in the end you’re only screwing yourself.
Twenty percent of the population are chronic procrastinators. Procrastination isn’t just about poor time management or laziness. It’s worse. It’s those feelings of paralysis and gnawing guilt because you know that you really aren’t doing what you should be doing. Procrastination can be triggered be anxiety and false beliefs about productivity. We often rationalize (a polite way to say we lie to ourselves and who would want to be called an out and out liar). We justify our procrastination with false beliefs “ I work better under pressure” or “ I’m just an 11th hour type of guy.” In truth, it makes you far less productive and frequently produces a poorer quality result.
The fear of failure might also be called the fear of looking stupid. We would prefer to bank on the excuse that we didn’t have enough time rather than confront the possibility that our talents are suspect.
Perfectionism can lead to procrastination. If you have some difficult standards to achieve, the procrastination is understandable but not in your best interests. Being overly concerned with what other people will think if it’s not perfect may lead to many uncompleted projects.
Procrastination is the lack of discipline to start and explains why you are doing everything but what you need to be doing. The good news is that discipline is a learned skill. With practice you can become more disciplined and focused. Some tasks just plain aren’t fun, but procrastination creates more suffering. It’s better to just start and do the boring mundane task. Some people may experience some kind of death defying (I made it again) rush that escapes those we disdainfully call plodders. I suspect the plodders over the long haul accomplish more in their lives.
Unclear expectations of what you plan to accomplish can allow worst case scenarios to bubble up and make procrastination look attractive. Commit to accomplishing a specific amount. The reality is that once you start you’ll probably do more. If the commitment feels overwhelming commit to less. The point is to commit to whatever is needed to get you started.
The conversation you have with yourself can be shaming and debilitating or empowering and supportive. Saying “I should” can generate guilt or shame, but saying “I choose to” gives you a feeling of control and empowerment. This may sound trite or irrelevant, but self-talk is potent. It’s how we program ourselves for either success or failure.
Set realistic goals and focus on being persistent and starting every day. If perfectionist tendencies control your life, be aware and develop selectivity concerning the efforts that require higher standards. A final draft of a book or proposal should be free of typos, but do typos really matter in a rough draft or in emails to friends?
And remember any evaluation of your work often says more about the critic than it does about your work. So don’t allow yourself to be defined by others.