Fresh Start: Do not let Procrastination get in your Way!
Let us talk today about procrastination. We are in January and in the culture in which I was born, it is the beginning of the year. It usually is an opportunity to make a fresh start as well as the occasion to commit to changes in one’s life. For example: go to the gym, go on a diet, meet someone are the classics. I could go on and on. What I observed though is that many of these promises were dropped sooner or later.
Starting another year is seen by some people as a chance to take on projects with a new eye, from a different perspective or they may experience a sense of regained energy and develop a certain enthusiasm for new challenges. There is a quote that I love and I used it as the first post on this blog: “Though you cannot go back and make a brand new start my friend, you can start from now and make a brand new end” (Anonymous). It is never too late, is it? To be perfectly honest, I had planned on writing this post quite a while back, when my friend Dennis finished creating this website. He even guided me step by step through all the technical aspects and patiently taught me what to do. I was ready to get started and yet the other day I realized that the entry “create a new post” had been on my “to do” list since July!
As many others, under the impulse of this New Year I felt it was time to get started. My idea is to share observations, raise certain questions on a different subject every month in 2014 and provoke awareness in best cases. So, I guess it starts with me. Looking more closely at the reasons why this entry on my to-do lists had not yet been taken care of many reasons and excuses came up. Definitely, a lot took place and I did cross out many other items from my lists. Again, being perfectly honest I was forced to admit that I could have made the time and that there were opportunities I did not seize.
I could see that there were other instances when I lost my focus and I would end up feeling utterly overwhelmed. I grew aware of how frequent it had been in my life as well as in the lives of the people surrounding me. I observed how often we postpone taking actions although they would be tremendously helpful, healthy, fun, necessary and even vital. We all put ourselves through painful moments of frustration or in deep trouble because of delaying completing certain tasks. I do not mean to be indulgent towards my past choices. Again, I merely observe that this phenomenon is broad and in certain cases quite destructive. This phenomenon has a name: Procrastination.
Procrastination is taken more and more seriously in the field of psychology. Clearly, in order to overcome a problem it is necessary to understand what it is about and what impact it has. I will not engage in extensively describing or commenting on Procrastination when there are many very interesting articles written by specialists. This is the reason why I chose to share a few links to articles I found interesting to start with.
It appears to me that one’s degree of Procrastination can be put on a scale. Where most people experience it from time to time or in only a certain area of their life others suffer from it to the extent they are paralyzed and it cripples them to the point they dramatically sabotage themselves. It can be very subtle, often misunderstood and confused with laziness, lack of ambition or plain carelessness. Yet, a lot of times, delaying certain tasks does not necessarily mean doing nothing. I could not count the amount of times when I delayed my concentrating on a paper in favor of doing the dishes, re-organizing my emails or anything else that was not fundamentally urgent. Now I see that it was merely easier for me to launch myself in something boring yet comfortable than in an activity more challenging and stressful. Paul Graham outlines that very well in his article where he qualifies good and bad procrastination (see attached link). At any rate, procrastination of any sort clearly stands in our way to being fully efficient and it may take a physical as well as an emotional toll on us.
I strongly believe we are all affected by episodes of procrastination and it has various impacts on our lives. That is why I think that gaining awareness on how we do it, to what frequency and in what circumstances is a key to leading a more effective and comfortable life. There is no point in beating oneself up over it and from what I have seen so far I doubt it can be fully eradicated. Yet, from what I read it we can progressively overcome it. We can trick ourselves to procrastinate effectively (see article on structured procrastination). By implementing strategies to get around it, we can progress in a less painful manner than by pushing ourselves brutally with what we think to be self-will.
What I find to be efficient is first of all to know myself well enough. That is where neutral observation and acceptance come handy. It is a difficult exercise yet necessary to make an accurate assessment in order to determine strategies and actions. In addition to creating awareness I have experienced that when I am pulled by a goal and excited by a certain outcome, my motivation enables me to overcome the fear and the discomfort that usually take me right in “procrastination land”. Therefore, creating a vision by depicting as accurately as possible the life I want for myself is the best way I know to muster the necessary energy to deal with some steps that I do not qualify as interesting or enjoyable and to arm myself for the battle against my doubts and fears.
Moreover, with time I created for myself tools that help me to stay on the top my to-do list. These tools correspond to my needs and to my personality. They are tailored for me. I had to try on several approaches. There are still tasks that I am more or less enthusiastic to perform. I try to bring a certain balance between urgent missions, long-term projects, interesting work and compulsory chores. My point is that I try to make my day enjoyable and efficient. I never missed deadlines and using my tools I progressed at meeting them with more ease and effectiveness.
I would like to end this text wishing you a productive and fulfilling year. I also invite you to consider what tools and resources could support you in bringing to fruition the projects you have at heart to develop this year and that procrastination may end as just another funny sounding word in the dictionary.
The following links and resources may be of help if you want to gain a better understanding of what Procrastination is about:
PDF: Belonging to Tomorrow: An Overview of Procrastination by Brian A. Wilson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination: Wikipedia definition.
http://www.raptitude.com/2011/05/procrastination-is-not-laziness/: defines and describes procrastination. Some of the origins explained by Neil Fiore’s “The Now Habit”.
http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/: on how to deceive oneself in using a flaw to counter act on defeating habits.
http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html: Good and bad procrastination. How errands can kill good work.
http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/: self-control, notion of laziness.