I got suckered by a Facebook ad yesterday. It was a somewhat intriguing article about someone’s journey freeing themselves from the shackles of chronic debilitating procrastination. At the end of the article was an invitation to take a free quiz to learn what kind of procrastinator you might be, and get a plan to defeat it. Against my better judgement, I clicked the link and took the quiz.
As I suspected, it was a useless waste of time, because I had to pay for my results, which I refused to do, but it did get me thinking. How on earth will I ever quit my habit of procrastination? It is a vice that has troubled me as long as I can remember, and I can only say I’ve made any significant progress in curbing the habit in the last year or so. The fact that I am writing this right now is proof that I am not as beholden to my habit of procrastinating as I once was, however, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Here are a couple of thoughts that have recently occurred to me in the pursuit of that elusive goal.
I first considered when I am already successful as a non-procrastinator. Are there already times when I refuse to allow myself to say, “I’ll do that later.’? The answer is yes, of course there are. I am a mother. That means any of my child’s immediate needs always take precedence over my preferences, indecision, anxiety, laziness, or whatever the cause of my desire to procrastinate may be. I just have to do, and resolutely ignore any part of me that protests that I would rather do it tomorrow. This is true of any situation wherein I find that I am not tempted, or at least can resist the temptation, to delay the task at hand. I make a conscious decision to prioritize the thing in question, and choose to do it whether I want to or not.
So what does this tell me about the situations where I am not successful in resisting the urge to put things off? It tells me that when I procrastinate, it is either because I have:
A. Not made a conscious decision to prioritize the task
B. Have not consciously considered the consequences if I do not complete the task, and or
C. I have become distracted by my feelings surrounding the task and have irrationally allowed those emotions to dictate my behavior.
There have been times that I have felt powerless to break the hold that procrastination has had on my life thus far, but identifying these causal factors, and noticing places in my day-to-day routine where I already regularly resist the tendency gives me great hope. If I can begin to identify the moments when I think, “I’ll do that later”, I know that I can redirect my thoughts to consider why I want to delay the task, and, if appropriate, choose to instead prioritize and complete it, just as I do with duties related to mothering.
I know all of this sounds very simple, and it is, but I think the reason that it is a revelation to me now is because procrastination for me has never been a very thoughtful thing. It has always been a sort of knee-jerk reaction, or gag reflex. Something came to my attention that I needed or wanted to do, I thought, “I’ll do that later”, and that was the end of that. The pattern is so familiar that many times I hardly even notice the thought at all. The thing just gets pushed to a later time, and I get annoyed with myself when I realize I still haven’t gotten around to doing whatever the thing is I could have already done. It sounds stupid but “catching myself in the act” so to speak is a new sort of skill, and the opportunity to develop it further is an exciting prospect to me. Here’s to ever increasing timely action and efficiency.