“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” – Spanish Proverb
Does the mere thought of procrastination provoke a sense of uneasiness and even mild-to-moderate guilt?
According to http://www.psychologicalscience.org, “experts define it as the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result. Studies have found that procrastinators carry accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety with their decision to delay, in addition to negative impacts on ‘performance, well-being, health, relationships, regrets & bereavement.’ ”
Leading expert Pychyl, who runs the 20-year-old Procrastination Research Group, finds “Procrastinators get sick more often, report higher rates of depression, and suffer the somatic and psychological effects of elevated stress. Procrastination doesn’t only affect our personal well-being and integrity, but it has an ethical dimension, affecting those around us who suffer ‘second-hand,’ either because of the time we take away from them when we rush off to finish things last-minute, or because the stress we put ourselves under negatively affects the health of our relationships.”
While some of us are chronic procrastinators (20 percent of the U.S. population, according to psychologist Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a leading international researcher on the topic), most of us procrastinate at some time or another. Do you have a task you’ve been putting off? If so, I invite you to explore the following questions:
Is this actually a task or is it a goal? If it’s a goal, what is the first task for you to accomplish toward it? For example, if I want to lose weight, that is my goal. I will then need to choose concrete steps toward achieving it, perhaps no longer buying high-calorie snacks, or eating smaller portions. If what you initially chose is a goal, pick a beginning action step toward it, and apply the questions below.
Do I truly need to do this task? Is it actually a low priority item for my values, a “should” from a sense of social expectations or obligations? Or is it something that is more appropriately someone else’s responsibility? For example, has your child reached an age where he or she could put away his or her laundry, benefitting by taking responsibility for this task?
Do I want to do this task? Does it help me to achieve something I value? Or help to prevent something I find detrimental from taking place? Take a look at the longer-term benefits here. While your task may not have short-term appeal to you, its longer-term value may get you over the delaying-hump to act on it. For example, if I want healthy gums and teeth, I may choose to floss daily despite any dislike I may have for the action itself.
Am I able to do this task? Or do I need more information, skills, or other support? If so, what steps can I take to equip me to complete this task? Do I need to chunk this task down into a series of smaller, more easily accomplishable tasks?
Is there something else I need to do before tackling this task? Do I need more sleep and/or nutrition to be able to accomplish it? Do I need to clear a physical space (desk, counter, etc.) to be physically and/or mentally able to do it? Do I need to obtain and/or organize the materials involved to be able to do it? Is there a different task that really, truly is more important for me to take care of first?
Am I afraid of failing (or of succeeding) at this task? If so, what potential consequences of this are concerning me? How might I respond effectively to my concerns? Who or what might support me in responding to these concerns? Are these potential consequences of greater or lesser concern to me than the risks involved with not following through with this task?
Am I simply in the habit of not doing this task? If so, what steps can I take to help me create a new habit of accomplishing this task? Is there someone or something that might help support me in creating this new habit?
Is there a better way for me to accomplish this task? Is there a more efficient method for me to do this? A more enjoyable one? A better perspective on doing it? A better time of day for me to do it? Might it help me to schedule it in or tell someone supportive when I will accomplish it? Set a deadline for its completion? Reward myself in a healthy manner for following through at each step along the way? Would it be better for me to request, barter or pay someone else to do it?
As Pychyl explains “Procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: time.” Only you can discover what you need to do to help heal that wound and reap the rewards of time well-spent.
Roslyn Elena McGrath is the author of Chakras Alive! and other personal growth books and CDs. She recently released a recording of the Chakras Alive! meditations, and also offers workshops and private appointments. For more info., visit http://www.empoweringlightworks.com or contact (906) 228-9097, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.