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Procrastination: Take 2

Do you have those days when you are so incredibly frustrated with yourself because you can’t focus and get stuff done??!! I’m having one of those days, actually make that weeks. Oh heck, it might be one of those months! As I was growing increasingly frustrated with my procrastination it occurred to me that I’ve written about this before. So, I went looking at my old blog posts and found one from December 2015. Yes, I said 2015. Clearly I still have a thing or two to learn. I’m going to share it with you below and then come back at the end to let you know where it leaves me (and maybe you) today. Every time an issue shows up that means there is more work to do on it. To me that is good news, because I know my awareness of my procrastination patterns is growing. In other words I am on to myself and change is coming.

Procrastinators; We Are the 20% (from December 2015)

Hi, my name is Jennifer and I am a procrastinator. I was supposed to have this written

days ago, but instead I'm scouring my house looking for candles. I always have a candle burning and I wore them all out and scent is really important to me and I like to have my desk set up just so...get the picture? Why do I do this to myself?!

There are a lot of ideas out there. One is that procrastination is learned from family, we are not born with it. Some researchers say that these families tend to have an authoritarian parent and problems with self-control, there may be a history of alcohol in the family and/or the procrastinator. It is estimated that 20% of the population worldwide identifies as a chronic procrastinator. I am in good company. According to Dr. Joseph Farrain, Associate Professor at DePaul University in Chicago there are three types of procrastinators:

  1. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.

  2. Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

  3. Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

I used to lie to myself and say that I fell into the first category. I worked well under pressure. The stress motivates me. But, I know now that isn’t true. I don’t work best under pressure, in fact my work is probably substandard because I haven’t left myself enough time. I just get stuff done because the deadline is hours away. In reality I’m some combination of the second and third categories, with a little of the time pressure of number one thrown in.

I am tired of procrastinating and decided to dig into the whys of my actions. My personal experience is that procrastination shows up particularly when I am feeling overwhelmed; which is often. Or I'm overwhelmed because I procrastinate, it's the chicken and egg syndrome. I can’t respond to one more email, make note of another practice, rehearsal or what kind of shoes my daughter needs for her drama program because I don’t have the bandwidth for it. At least that is what I tell myself. To avoid piling on the overload I close the email intending to look at it later, but I don’t. The result? Piling on the overload. Instead of taking the time to put dates in the calendar I am walking around with unfinished business in the back of my mind, periodically hitting upon it, wondering what I am supposed to be doing about the drama program and if my daughter is missing something. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I am actually making the overwhelm worse by dragging this out much longer than I need to. And for the record, this feeling of overwhelm is a story I’m telling myself about how I don’t have enough time. I’d have enough time if I’d address things sooner. As bizarre as this sounds, the cycle of overwhelm and procrastination serves to keep me stuck. Our brains like the status quo and staying stuck keeps me playing small. It is self-sabotage. If I stay small and overwhelmed I won’t have the time to go out and meet new people, potential new clients and grow my business in the way that I dream of doing. It is an energy drain to have things (appointments, dates, projects, gifts, invitations, decisions) hanging out in the back of your mind waiting for you to act; like apps open on your phone draining the battery while you are not using them.

At this point in 2015 I invited people to participate in a challenge to put our procrastination to the test. It was a fun experiment and I gained some insight into my inner critic's stall tactics. I have to admit though that I lost focus on the procrastination piece. But if I get really honest, my awareness has been brewing in the background in the form of frustration with myself. I haven’t been calling it procrastination, but I’ve been working more around planning and coming up with more positive beliefs to contradict the “I don’t have enough time” tape running in the background. I have also discovered recently that I avoid making decisions because I’m afraid of making a bad choice. The result of procrastinating on decision making is that I either don’t get things done or find myself in a pickle around time. Neither is fun...or productive.

I’d love to declare right now that all that is over! I’m done procrastinating and will make firm decisions from here on out. But, the truth is my inner critic would be all over that. I’d never believe it and stay stuck. So, what I am declaring here is that I’m on to you inner critic/perfectionist. I know how you operate and I’m coming for you. I will be listening, noticing and shifting my thought patterns to something more positive and I will be VERY kind to myself when I fall down.

Where does procrastination and indecision show up for you? How does it impact you? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear. As always, we're in this together.

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