When we are stuck, we use distraction and misdirection to avoid facing the painful truth about our lack of productivity and effectiveness. Procrastination is one of the big tricks we use.
Procrastination is a neat way to explain why you were always up until 4am finishing a big project, why you never took that class, wrote that novel, or fixed the dripping faucet in the bathroom.
This word, so frequently used in our culture, makes the very unproductive and unappealing behavior somehow ok. It neatly ‘packages’ all those fears, doubts, self-loathing and perfectionism into an acceptable term that requires no further explanation. “I’m a procrastinator” has become a personal identifier akin to "I'm vegan" or "I'm Catholic".
It is hard to break out of a box like that because it’s so easy and comfortable to stay there. Or is it? Perhaps our own adeptness at misdirection hides in plain sight the pain and wreckage that such behavior, such lifestyle, brings.
Procrastination and avoidance deprive us of the joy and pride of celebrating our accomplishments, the satisfaction of fulfillment of our potential, and the serenity of balanced life. We are plagued by deadline-driven stress and shamed for under-performing.
You'd told yourself that there wasn't that much to do and you would get to it when you felt like it, had the time, was inspired, etc., knowing all along that more and more is being piled onto your metaphorical plate. Now, just thinking about what needs to be accomplished is overwhelming. You are being crushed by the sheer magnitude of the to-do list. Does this sound familiar?
A while back, Amy Novotney wrote a great article for the American Psychological Association where she described procrastination as the inability to self-regulate when it comes to completing tasks. The article names self-doubt and fear of failure as the chief culprits for our inability to take action. The subjects of her study: graduate psychology students.
Nobody is immune…
(Want to know the top 15 excuses for procrastination? Click here.)
Where do you even start when an hour of work doesn’t feel like you’ve made a dent?
Just identifying your distractions and the emotions behind the procrastination might be a great start to feeling empowered. Begin by simply being truthful with yourself. Then, it’s all about being equipped with the right tools to get going and stay on the right path.
Charles Duhigg offers up some great tools to help maintain a feeling of control and combat procrastination in his new book
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.
He recommends writing to-do lists not to pat yourself on the back for small accomplishments, but to build internal motivation. Having a large goal broken down to very specific and achievable steps makes sitting down to get started much less daunting.
Start there. Take off the cape, put down the wand, and get honest about what is really going on. Talk about how you really feel and, more importantly, how you want to feel.
Try different productivity strategies to find what works best for you. Try bullet journaling to stay accountable, or stay motivated by using SMART goals. It doesn’t matter what technique you use, really, as long as you take action and maintain the momentum.
Feelings of fulfillment, accomplishment, pride, and freedom are sure to follow the taking of responsibility for your own growth and empowerment.
Now, that’s some real magic!
Great books on the subject:
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