What does being a procrastinator mean? Truth be told it ain’t pretty. I for one want to stop myself from indulging in this self-defeating pastime.
Each day we only have a finite amount of time to get things done. Broken down into bits and pieces, time that is wasted adds up to days, weeks months and years. Time is the most precious, non-negotiable, unreplenishable resource that we have.
I’m tired of feeling frazzled, slightly panicked and behind the 8-ball when it comes to EVERYTHING that I have to do, I have decided it is time for a change, well actually change came knocking by way of my inbox.
How I have lived my life for the past 40 odd years:
My desk surrounded by boxes and files of paperwork that seems to grow overnight. Every day I look at them. Sometimes I shuffle them around the room. Stack them and condense them. My boxes of paperwork even join me in my sleep. I wake up in a panic daily thinking about how I have to organize them. My taxes are already in the late filing queue because I have not organized my receipts.
Amongst the ever growing pile of madness are letters reminding me that my car(s) need tune-ups, the dry-cleaning is ready for pickup, and it is time for my mammogram. I add prompts to my iCal. I set alerts and reminders on my phone. I have a spiral notebook filled with pages of to-dos. Even though I take the time to refine my lists by crossing off what has been done with a neat black line, my encyclopedia of “must accomplish” continues to expand.
What is my problem? Why can’t I just do it, like the Nike ad says?
When was the last time that I replied to all of my outstanding emails, took my cats to the vet, finished a weekend project that was started two years ago, or went to the dentist? I don’t know, but I am sure I have it written down somewhere.
I know that I am not alone. I never did wear my I AM A PROCRASTINATOR hat with shame until recently. Why do I continue to live in misery? Why do I always seem to lose control and start chasing my tail when I am faced with a distraction? Why do I continually, without fail, leave everything to the last minute proclaiming with a snarky grin that “I work better under pressure?” A pressure cooker is more like it.
What is procrastination really? It is a nasty little precursor to the fact that I have problems with self-control. I lack the mental muscle that would keep me on track even on days when I have PMS, or the weather sucks—those are my go to fallout days.
What’s become quite clear since the days of Cicero is that procrastination isn’t just hateful, it’s downright harmful. In research settings, people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and lower well-being. In the real world, undesired delay is often associated with inadequate retirement savings and missed medical visits. Considering the season, it would be remiss not to mention past surveys by H&R Block, which found that people cost themselves hundreds of dollars by rushing to prepare income taxes near the April 15 deadline. —Eric Jaffe
Hope finally arrives:
A friend of mine recently directed me to a series of podcasts called iProcrastinate. The folks at the Procrastination Research Group have dove right into the phenomena that is considered a chronic “illness.” It affects 20 percent of the population here in the US.
Of course, I didn’t listen to them right away. I procrastinated. Then one day, I simply did it. I downloaded a podcast. While the host of the podcast, Dr. Tim A. Pychyl and his guest speaker droned on in a monotone yet melodic way … my mind started to wander back over to my boxes of paperwork … then I heard this:
“Procrastination is a byproduct of low self-esteem and self-doubt.” Say what?
Dr.Pychyl expanded on our breakdown of intentional action. He explored the themes behind the reason we procrastinate, and he has been able to clarify for me the reason behind my method of madness.
- I have learned that my pattern of procrastination was “learned” i.e. I was not born with this fabulous attribute. My childhood, lifestyle and who I turn to for support all contribute to my addiction of delay.
- I have learned that I am lying to myself when I say that working under pressure makes me more creative. What I am doing is hiding behind the skirt of self-doubt. “I am not good enough.” “I can’t do it.” “I will fail.”
- By going with the “flow” otherwise known as procrastinating, I am deliberately distracting myself constantly. Checking emails, status updates or text messages is my way of coping with my deep-seated fear of failure.
- My lack of, or hesitation when it comes to making a concise decision is an attempt for me to shirk responsibility. I do not want to be the one to blame if the outcome of my decision is not a favorable one.
Procrastinators like myself seek fun at all costs. There is an internal banter that rages on between the “good angel” and “bad angel” in our minds. Responsibility freaks us out. Our coping skills are warped and our modus operandi is quite childish.
The good news is that with patience, self-love, determination and due diligence I (me, we, you) can break free of this self-destructive habit.
Here are a few tips that I have found to help me go beyond my comfort zone and into my JUST DO IT mode:
- Breaking down my “to-do” list into bite-sized mini wins. I start with the easiest or quickest tasks first. This boosts my morale, giving me a sense of accomplishment.
- If I find myself struggling with a task, at a loss, or just not quite grasping the right way to accomplish my goal, I stop what I am doing. I set a timer on my phone to go off in 5 minutes, and then I stand up, and walk around the room. Stretch. Have a glass of water. Then it is back to work. With a fresh mind, I am more apt to complete the task before me.
- Checking in with my “attitude” on a regular basis has been a key factor for me on my road to recovery. I regularly remind myself that it is all “mind over matter.” I stop myself from ruminating in negative self-talk. Instead, I chant to myself “I can do it” (under my breath, of course, I would not want the locals to think I am crazy or something.)
- Turning off iMessage and silencing my phone has been a huge help, simple and effective.
- Remembering that emails do not have be replied to the second after they arrive is another pearl of wisdom that I have latched on to.
- Timing each of my activities has been a true time saver. Whatever it is that I have to do, I try and keep each task limited to 1 hour at a time. Doing things, this way has kept my OCD tendencies in check. The result is that I am better able to achieve my goals in a timely manner. Being efficient and streamlined with all things is my goal.
Cold hard facts about being a procrastinator:
“People who procrastinate tend to be less healthy, less wealthy and less happy,”-University of Calgary professor Piers Steel