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Procrastination…The Happiness Thief!

Do you suffer from ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ syndrome?

We’ve all been there. There’s this thing you have to do. You’ve been putting it off for months. You get into a panic…but you still don’t do it. Now you don’t have much time…but you still don’t start it. Finally you can’t put it off any longer. You sit down to do it and suddenly you are hungry. You need to look inside the fridge that you just looked inside 15 minutes ago. Now you need to check your emails. Two hours later…you’ve watched a couple of TED talks, caught up with all your online shopping… contacted friends you haven’t spoken to in 5 years on Facebook. You put on music to make the task seem easier…suddenly you’re dancing…Why are you dancing? Now you’re ready to tackle the task but it’s too late in the day…you’re not in the mood….oh well! Tomorrows another day! Sounds familiar?

All of us suffer from the condition called procrastination from time to time. You know… putting things off…starting things and never finishing them…simply never getting round to doing anything.

Me too! I absolutely hate filling in forms…hate it! Hate it! It is not until the bills piled up and I almost embarrassed myself that I took a look at why I procrastinate. This is what I found.

Procrastination is a coping strategy you discovered, develop and refined in childhood to relieve the tension and anxiety you felt at being made to do stuff you didn’t want to do…not feeling important in the family…not being consulted about what you wanted…being made to feel guilty about doing the stuff you wanted to do. It is childish behaviour because it comes from the crazy belief that if you put things off long enough they will simply disappear. Poof!

The power and control procrastinator

If you fall under this type…as a child you probably had no control over what happened in your household. Do your homework…eat everything on your plate…come inside its late…stop watching that film and go and help your brother. Go outside and play…put this on or you will be cold…don’t talk back. Seldom were you consulted. So you discovered procrastination which is the decision which states “I will do things in my own sweet way… when I am good and ready and not before”. By taking your time everyone had to wait for you. By dragging your heels everyone had to pay attention to you. By being stubborn and obstinate you asserted your power and control.

The perfectionist procrastinator

This type of procrastination develops if you were raised in a family where everything had to be just so. The standards were incredible high and if you didn’t achieve those standards, you were criticised. The way of dealing with all the demands imposed on you as a child was to give up. If you never start anything then you could never be accused of ‘messing things’ up… or if you never started anything then you would never have to deal with the issue of never being good enough.

The instant gratification procrastinator

This type of procrastination develops when as a child you figure out the difference between pleasure and pain. All the things the grown-ups wanted you do were boring and painful. All the things that you wanted to do were pleasurable. Why couldn’t you have things your own way? Life wasn’t fair. The grown-ups were always stealing your pleasure and so the only thing to do was extend your pleasure and dig your heels in.

So what’s the harm in a little procrastination?

Procrastination worked up to a point in childhood but most of us ended up having to do our homework, tidy our room and clean out the kitty litter anyway. We probably figured out that doing the chores was preferable to being kicked out of the house and sleeping rough out on the streets.

Procrastinating in adult life is childish. We used procrastination in childhood to relieve tension… now the act of procrastination builds tension. When we put things off we feel stressed. When we start things and don’t finish them this eats away at our self-esteem. When we find ourselves surrounded by all our incomplete tasks they remind us what a failure we are. How lazy we are. How lacking in will power we are. Everyday spent procrastinating is another day spent worrying about the thing that we are trying not to do! It’s a double bind situation.

If you have ever achieved anything in your life…no matter how small… then you will know what I’m talking about when I describe the sweet afterglow of accomplishment. Ticking something off a to-do list is so satisfying. You were designed for success. Because achieving your goals and dreams is the key to living a fulfilled life.

Ultimately procrastination does 3 things. It waste your time….it steals your chance of success and happiness…when you put something off …you are actually putting your own life off. .

Stop procrastinating….NOW

It is time to make a new decision. A fresh and healthy one. 1) You have to tell yourself that procrastination has reached its sell by date and is no longer useful. 2) You do not need to assert power and control in your life because it is your life and you already have the power and control. 3) When you were a child you did childish things…it goes with the territory and now you are an adult you choose to do adult things. 4) You plan and prioritise your life. 5) You realise that pleasure comes after you have completed something and not before. 6) You come to realise that the pain of doing something you don’t particularly relish is temporary but putting stuff off can go on forever. 7) You train your mind to develop the will power needed to see things through to the end. Will power is a muscle and the more you use it the stronger it becomes. 8) As you do the things that you normally put of you will come to find that the magic is in the detail and there is something deeply rewarding in doing the most mundane of tasks.

As you start to clean out the kitchen cupboards or put up that shelf that has been lopsided for 2 years…this will happen… you will feel a sense of resistance….this is your childish decision coming to tell you that you should be doing ‘fun’ stuff… It will manifest itself in negative self-talk…sulking… moaning…continue…as you progress the resentment feeling will give way to…. “this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be”…continue…do not stop…dig deep….when you have finished sit back and reflect on what you have achieved…and feel pleased. Now raise the glass of wine…have a piece of cake…dance around the room and wave childish procrastination goodbye!

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