Why do we procrastinate?
Hang on a moment… and I’ll tell you.
Oh, you want to know now. Well, that means taking action and to be honest, it’s not something I’m very good at.
Or rather, it’s something I’m sometimes not very good at. I can take action. Give me a straight forward situation that needs some straight forward action, and I’m there. I mean really there. I’m the one saying “Let’s just do it now. Why wait until later?”
I figure I have enough to do without adding things to my list, so by taking immediate action, I’m reducing the number of items on my “to do” list.
However other things don’t seem to work quite so well with me: things like getting going in the morning, sitting down to write a blog, planning my jobs for the day.
I’m very good, however, at reading Facebook and doing the washing. And I really come alive when I’m doing jobs that involve other people as well as myself.
So why am I so great at taking action on some things and a major procrastinator on others?
Well, having thought about this long and hard, I’ve started off with the basic premise that I procrastinate with the jobs I don’t want to do. However, it’s not that simple, because I really don’t love doing the washing and actually I do like writing blogs once I sit myself down and start.
So my revised premise is that I procrastinate with the jobs that challenge me in some way. I don’t mean they challenge me because they are necessarily difficult. It’s more of a challenge because they push me out of my comfort zone. It might not be apparent in the first instance how they do that, but there will be some block present that prevents me taking action.
For example, on a day that I have relatively easy things to do, say a weekend where I’m off for a day out, I’ll get going quite easily. That, after all, is a fun thing to do and probably something I’ll do with at least one other person. However, on a day when I’ve got to work at something on my business that I find a bit scary, I can take an age to wake up and even longer to get myself through my morning routine and to my desk.
These challenges are what we attract in order to grow and fulfill our potential, but they’re not easy to experience. We move forwards when we push our boundaries of what we think we can achieve and this touches our insecurities, our self-doubts and our fears. We have a choice with everything in life and so, with each challenge, we decide whether we’re going to push through or we’re going to let the challenge go and accept life as it is now. Mostly we have an internal battle as we find ourselves torn between the two options.
That is what is going on when we procrastinate. Or it is with me, and I’m sure I’m not unique in this.
“I’m going to write a blog today”
Vague fear-y feeling comes up leaving me feeling tired. I’ll just sit here for a bit.
Distraction comes up. Maybe I should tidy my office first.
Mind goes into confusion. “I don’t know what subject I’m going to write about, so I can’t start.”
“I’d better just check Facebook. Oh look, there’s an interesting article on an anti-gravity fountain.” Link here for anyone who wants a distraction from this article.
“Oh dear, it’s now lunchtime. I seem to have wasted the morning!”
The solution isn’t easy to define as it will be different for each of us. I find getting into the flow helps my creativity, which gets blogs written. So for example, thinking about emotional issues will spark thoughts and make connections until I find something I want to write about.
I find being clear on my goals and breaking them down into specific jobs gets other things done. So writing a clearly defined email to a clearly defined set of people will be more likely to get done than the goal of get more clients.
And sometimes recognising that I’m being drawn to a different area of work then I’d originally planned. For example, my energy might be telling me it’s a good day to send emails, when I’d planned to do my accounts. It can be difficult to know whether you are just distracting yourself though.
Often we develop procrastination patterns from other people or experiences in our past. I used to put off mopping the floor because my mother always gave the impression that cleaning the floor was a mammoth job. It was only when I bought the correct tools (a mop and mop bucket, rather than a cloth and bowl that she used), that I found it was actually a very quick job and the need to procrastinate was removed.
I’m still a work in progress, but although I still procrastinate, I usually understand why.
If you would like some help in understanding your patterns, do get in touch for a session.