Updated: Mar 16
Tomorrow (noun). A mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.
“Tomorrow” probably features regularly in the vocabulary of those who are prone to procrastinating.
While most people know the saying – “don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today, procrastinators would probably prefer Mark Twain’s tweaked version that reads “never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow, just as well.”
Procrastinating involves putting things off when there are opportunities to do them. They are often things that eventually have to be done. Avoidance happens with the full knowledge that this task will not go away and an awareness of its’s looming presence. Often, putting it off complicates the situation even more when you eventually get around to it. Think of those fines that collect interest when they are not paid; the computer that should have been backed up. We have all been heard to regretfully say “I had been meaning to do it.”
Often when we do get started, it doesn’t take that long. It’s actually in getting started that the avoidance lies. So, procrastination can be seen as the gap between the talk and the action.
Some disguises for procrastination:-
I am too busy
I can’t decide
I don’t have all the things I need to start
I don’t want to start it unless I know I can finish in the same day
I don’t know where to find it
There are too many things waiting – there is no point even starting.
Some of these can be valid reasons – you don’t want to start hanging a door unless you can finish it on one session. However, most jobs or tasks can be broken down into smaller components. If indecision is the reason you aren’t tackling something, then why are you choosing to stay in indecision. If you don’t know where to start, why aren’t you thinking about it? Why do you choose not to get your documents organized so that you can find them?
Consider the possibility that your procrastination might sometimes be a form of self -sabotage. You are capable of that job you have seen advertised, you want it and all you need to do is to compile an up to date CV and apply. And you don’t. Could it be that you are afraid of getting the job and not being able to cope, that you will have to assume responsibility for your life. Whatever the reason, recognize when you do this and become curious about what it is you are actually avoiding.
We live busy lives. Most people are under time pressure. Some of this is beyond your control. However, if you reflect honestly, you might be surprised to realize that a lot of pressure arises from factors within your control.
We are encouraged to have a balanced life, where there is room for work, family, recreation, exercise, holidays, own time, creative time and so on. However, different life stages place limitations and provide opportunities and it might be necessary to trim your range of activities for now to actually live a balanced life.
Maybe the ‘waiting to be done” list that waits and grows might be about unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve in the time available.
In this case, it might be useful to look at those things that have been hanging around forever and scrap them off the list. By this I am not referring to your overdue tax return, but rather that toaster you were determined to work out how to fix 5 years ago but haven’t got around to.
Often, we are told to start with the simplest things, so that it feels as if we are making headway. This can be true, but not always. Often it involves just starting somewhere, because once we get going, the momentum can take over. Remember, it is in the starting that the avoidance lies. The things that take priority also have to be those which will have the greatest consequences if not done.
If procrastination involves substituting thought or words for action, as long as you are saying “I must get around to that” without actually making a plan to do it, you are getting nowhere.
So, take a look now. Become clear about what has to be dealt with, finished up or discarded in the next 3 months. Decide if you need to pay someone or co-opt friends to get some tasks done.
Make a list and take action. Think about the things you will really regret if they go wrong – update or make your will; evaluate your insurance; take your car for that overdue service; phone the person you keep meaning to. Then throw out the 5 year old toaster and that dress you have been planning to alter for 7 years.
Start today. It’s not difficult. Create a system whereby you deal with the most important things first. Put some quick and easy things on that list to get them out of the way. Tick each thing as you go along. Review your list, move things if you were unrealistic about what you could achieve or add things as they come to mind. Either way, just do it!