It is a fact. Procrastination does steal time. It is usually thought of in a negative way. Things that I need to get done today, yet put them off, only steals my time tomorrow. So, why do I do it? Why do any of us do it?
The definition of procrastination is the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there may be negative consequences for doing so. The actual breaking down of the word in Latin is 'pro' meaning forward and 'crastinus' meaning of tomorrow. Most of the time it is a habit such as putting off daily errands or even big events like going to an appointment, submitting a report whether it be for a job or an academic assignment or even communicating some difficult conversation with a friend or partner.
Sometimes it is not always a negative response. If it gives one a low self-esteem, guilt or just plain ole not good enough then we are headed in the wrong way. However, there is another way to look at some types of procrastination. Sometimes not acting on something if we are waiting for possibly more information to help us make a better decision is a good thing. In my former job, I learned early to not act hastily when all of the information has not been gathered. Better to wait and make an informed decision than to go off the deep end and have to change everything around and end up eating my own words or explaining my own actions.
There is a term that I used with students called shaping your deadlines. If it is a major project, it can feel overwhelming to have one BIG MAJOR deadline staring me in the face. That is when the normal human reaction takes over. Some people (and I include myself) actually can talk ourselves into the view that we work better and more effectively under the pressure of an immediate deadline. This is really a myth. It is thinking too big and the job may get done but is it the best that we could have done? Shape your major deadline into developing the skills of divide and conquer. Check out the big deadline requirements and break them up into smaller chunks. Most of us do not do well when fear grips us and we believe we will fail. Yet throwing out the work at the last minute will always take me over the edge in knowing it is not my best work. A Norman Vincent Peale quote shares this view with me: "The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job are full of eagerness, zest and productivity." One gets this way by breaking the overall job into smaller bits that are more manageable. Each step is a "WIN" which emits a checkoff of one goal toward the big one. It helps to see the end becoming more doable.
One study that I read about helped my brain and my self-esteem by not calling myself a procrastinator. It is ok to say that I procrastinate, because I do. We all do at some point or another. The question then is why do we do it? Several good ideas come to my mind:
- fear of failure
- no motivation
- no planning or purpose
- thinking too big
- distracting environment
Setting your big goal takes care of the fear. It helps in the planning and purpose of the goal and it stops us from thinking too big by following shaping your goal into smaller increments. It lets us see positive smaller goals heading into the large overall job. If in the smaller goal we experience failure then it is easier to learn from that small set back and change how we go about accomplishing it.
Creating a vision board helped me see the steps to head to the big outcome. It gives me a sense of purpose. It also is something visual that I can get motivated about. Sitting down and waiting until I get motivated to do something is going to give my brain more time to think up ways to make a mountain out of a molehill. Practice letting things go. For a perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough. Breaking your goals down to smaller goals can help that mindset.
Now the revealing part of why I have been procrastinating on completing my novel which is almost completed. It started with the pandemic. Please don't judge and call this an excuse. Maybe in some ways it is. Before we all were in lockdown, I took my laptop and went to local coffee shops. I was there by 9ish. I even got to know some of the servers and managers. There were other writers in these places working too. I felt motivation to keep going and finish what I had started.
One way that I read to overcome the changing of my environment is to work on getting my environment conducive to a new focus. I have a study. I have a vision board. I have to also get my mindset that when 2 of our 4 legged fur-babies need me, to use this as a time to let it serve as a short break before getting back to work.
In other words, I can't let my environment as always being something fixed, as it used to be. I still am not ready to go back inside a coffee shop. On sunny days I may have to try to take my laptop over to a patio just to try it out. Learning that I can have distractions, as long as they are on my terms.
“Today isn’t just another day. Today I’ll create something beautiful.”
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