Once upon a time long ago, in a house far away, stood a man baking bread, King of his demesne. He blended the ingredients methodically and kneaded the dough with care. He lovingly placed the loaf tins in the oven and spent the baking time, “Tidying around”! When, at last, the bread was baked and cooled, he carved two doorstep slices, smothered them thick with butter and sat down to devour them with a steaming cup of tea. Just then his beautiful Queen entered the kitchen, surveyed the scene and said:
“Really? You’re Baking??? Have you got your thesis finished yet? For God sake, Ronan, you only have a week to complete it”.
I was that man and yes the thesis got done. But I did go around the houses in the doing of it.
It’s called “procrastination” and we all do it to a greater or lesser extent. When it strikes, we usually find ourselves doing something that we perceive to be less stressful or less painful than the task we “Should” be doing. More often than not, what we find ourselves doing is infinitely less important than the task we are avoiding, for example, jeopardising 4 years of study to bake a couple of loaves of bread.
When we finally get around to doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we invariably find that the preconceived pain level was blown out of all proportion; The job gets done and with a self deprecating reproach we mumble to ourselves, something along the lines of:
“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
The impact of procrastination, on those who indulge, can be anything from mildly irritating to chronically debilitating. A study published in Psychological Science in 1997 found that in a group of college students, rated on an established scale of procrastination, those who chronically procrastinated not only finished their work later, but the quality of the work suffered, as did their own physical wellbeing.
So, there are a number of very good reasons, not least of which being your health, to turn away from procrastination in favour of another, more effective way of approaching tasks.
In this series of three blog posts, I will discuss three main considerations in combatting procrastination:
Firstly, it must be said that there is a massive emotional dimension to the process of procrastination. As I’ve stated above, we procrastinate to avoid the discomfort (real or perceived) associated with doing the thing we’re supposed to be doing. But we also know, deep down, as we are in the process of not doing the thing, that the actual pain or consequence of not completing the thing, is going to be astronomically worse than any perception of how horrible the doing of it would be.
So, not only are we not doing it, we are also beating ourselves up for not doing it. The more we beat ourselves up for not doing it, the less likely we are to actually start doing it. And on it goes… the rot must be stopped!!
When we hope to address any issue, it is important, firstly, to accept that there is, in fact, an issue.
- Yes, I put things off till the last minute.
- Yes, I avoid tasks I don’t like.
- Yes, I prioritise the tasks I’m good at, regardless of their importance or priority.
Add to this the emotional dimension of beating ourselves up (figuratively speaking) for engaging in these behaviours and you have a recipe for paralysis of action.
We get nothing done!
That having been said, if we are going to accept the crap that goes with procrastination, for balance’ sake, we must accept the good stuff too.
Consider what we “do” as we procrastinate; Primarily, we will do something else instead of what we are supposed to be doing, rather than doing nothing.
So, we are NOT lazy. In actual fact we can be very task oriented and attack projects with great energy.
We can be creative; daydreamers usually are.
We can be the visionaries that generate great ideas or see applications for others’ ideas without necessarily having the implementation skills required to see the project through to fruition.
So, we have an energetic, creative, intelligent, task oriented, visionary.
Sounds like a great leader to me.
However, an essential leadership quality, on which people who procrastinate tend to fall down, is planning.
That is not to say that we do not have the ability to plan. We are well able. It’s just that planning is not perceived as a priority task!
“Planning” is not “Doing”!
So, it’s this predisposition to “do”, and our lack of priority on planning, that lands us in trouble. We get very accustomed to the sound of deadlines as they swoosh by and find ourselves cramming everything together at the last minute.
The first step then, in combatting procrastination, is accepting the fact that we procrastinate.
Hi, my name is (Enter your name here), and I procrastinate!
More than that, in the interests of completeness, we must accept all the good stuff too.
The question then becomes how can I leverage on the good stuff to negate the negative impact of my procrastination habit. The answer to that question is as varied as the people asking it are numerous.
Now, give yourself a break. Don’t be so harsh. Be gentle, it’s going to take some practice and self-discipline to bring this under control. Case in point on that statement; it’s taken me three weeks to complete this blog post. Can you smell the irony?
Remember, you tend to procrastinate; the tendency will always be there to put stuff off. Your goal is to reduce the negative consequences of this behaviour until they are negligible. And it would be preferable to do this without beating yourself up along the way!
This is the first post in a series of three. If I can put the guitar down for long enough to complete the next one, I will discuss how what I have just said about “putting the guitar down” is totally ineffectual in motivating me to complete the next blog post…. It’s all about the language.
I’m eager to hear your comments, stories, skirmishes, battles and out right wars with procrastination so get in touch. Otherwise, see you in another 3 weeks!!!