I decided this was a good topic today because, similar to analysis paralysis, procrastination is something I am really good at. I learned from the best because my father was a world-class procrastinator. There was no task, big or small, that he couldn't put off until it became much larger and more time-consuming than if he had only done it when he should have.
I just did this with my tax returns. My taxes are not particularly complex but, because I have my own business, they are filled with details. My record-keeping through the year is complete although it isn't orderly so I have to sort through a ton of papers to get everything recorded properly. Of course, once I sit down and do them, I always wonder why I put the project off as long as I did...every year.
So why do we procrastinate? This quote really spoke to me as I started to pull together some inspiration for today's post.
"Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a lot of responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the 'someday I'll' philosophy." - Denis Waitley
Why are we so afraid to succeed? I definitely see some truth to this in my life. I have so many aspirations about where I want to take my business but sometimes my dreams take my breath away. I become overwhelmed and go into shutdown mode.
According to Psychology Today, there are three types of procrastinators:
- Arousal types or thrill-seekers - wait until the last minute in order to reap a euphoric rush
- Avoiders - put off tasks for fear of failure or even success and are concerned of others' opinions
- Decisional - unable to make a decision which makes them not responsible for outcomes
Do you remember Newton's First Law of Motion, also known as the Law of Inertia? It states, essentially, that an object at rest will remain at rest and an object in motion will remain in motion, unless acted on by an outside source. So when we procrastinate, we are in full manifestation of the Law of Inertia. Unless we do something to change that, like just get started, we will remain inert.
Here are some ways to overcome the inertia of procrastination:
- Look at the big picture - we are usually more focused on what needs to be done now vs. what we need to get done for the greater benefit. For instance, have you considered furthering your education but have allowed current life to get in the way? Consider the long term benefit of going back to school.
- Allow a learning curve - have you ever looked at a project and not known where to start? Build in time to figure it out. Try a few approaches before landing on one that makes the most sense. Engage the help of others with more expertise or experience than you have. Don't feel bad if it doesn't go well the first time.
- Don't confuse your value with the outcome of a project - we're often afraid of failure so if we never take on the task, we can't fail, right? Don't allow perfectionism to derail your efforts. Don't set standards so high that you can't reasonably meet them and even if you still don't meet your standards, missing the mark does not define you.
- Know your style - some people are able to work better under pressure but if you plan to procrastinate, make sure you that describes you. Some people function better when under the influence of the adrenaline that is released when the pressure is on. Others do not so be sure you know which person you are.
- Know the cost and the benefit - maybe there are other things that are more appealing to do rather than the project at hand. Is the immediate gratification of doing something else worth the cost of not doing the work that needs to be done? Consider the trade-off and make the decision that makes the most sense to you.
We all can have the tendency to procrastinate from time to time...some more than others, like me. I'm making a conscious effort to stop doing it so often. How about you?
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