photo by Eva 2016
“Procrastination is the thief of time”. Edward Young
I have been a life-long procrastinator and I am at a point in my life that I want this habit to be gone. Oh, I admit, I took some pride in the ability to pull all-nighters to complete assignments but I realize now that I could have accomplished so much more by doing it in a more leisurely fashion and been more satisfied in the long run.
Procrastination is an illness…an addiction…much like alcoholism, smoking, over eating. People who have no clue/understanding about it will say, “If you are a habitual procrastinator, well it means you are lazy, bored, that you might have fear, dread or anxiety about a task and you give in to feel good. So all you need to do is stop doing that.”
Well, simplify that to the alcoholic…”well, then, just don’t drink alcohol…easy, peasy.”…to the smoker…”how hard can it be? Just don’t buy the cigarettes anymore and then you won’t smoke.”…to the over eater…”Just stick to a healthy diet. Eat three healthy meals a day. It’s a piece of cake!”
Wikipedia gives the definition of Procrastination as follows:
“Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.”
It wasn’t until I came across Tim Urban’s blog (www.waitbutwhy.com) that I truly understood what procrastination really is and that procrastinators are not lazy, bored or just want to feel good. Tim Urban gives a great explanation about the procrastinator being like everyone else except that they have the “instant gratification monkey” in their brain who is trying to take over. When the deadline looms, in comes “the panic monster” who scares the monkey away and in most cases motivates the procrastinator into action.
Key points about procrastination which hit hard:
1. This is no way to live…it’s unpleasant and if the task had been done in a timely fashion, leisure time would have felt satisfying and well earned.
2. The procrastinator ultimately sells himself short because he ends up underachieving and fails to reach his potential…thus feeling regret and self loathing.
3. The “have to do” may happen but not the “want to do” The want to dos are what make our lives richer and bring us a lot of happiness…and they get left behind.
Mr. Urban gives us hope though(he has been a life long procrastinator as well) by telling us that we need to change our “storyline”. We change our storyline “one brick at a time”…
a. planning what it is we want to accomplish (very detailed planning)
b. Making progress on a task gives you self satisfaction because you need to prove to yourself that you can do it….not just tell yourself. Things will change when you show yourself that they can change.
c. If you have to create a “panic monster” to complete a task, then do so.
d. Minimize distractions however you need to.
e. Aim for slow, steady progress…
A deeply ingrained habit like procrastination doesn’t change all at once…it changes one small improvement at a time. You aren’t aiming to be perfect…you are aiming to improve. One step at a time. Changing your thought process from “I procrastinate on every hard task I do”…to “Once a week I do a hard task without procrastinating.”
Mr. Urban says Defeating Procrastination means gaining control over your own life.
His website is filled with enjoyable cartoons of the instant gratification monkey and the panic monster(you can even buy stuffed monkey and monster!).
Realizing my procrastination is an ingrained habit that will take time to change, I now know to be gentle with myself and work on it one day at a time. Here’s to sending the Instant Gratification Monkey back to his tree and no longer needing the panic monster!
til next time,