Procrastination is letting the low-priority tasks get in the way of high-priority ones. It's socializing with colleagues when you know that an important work project is due soon, watching TV instead of doing your household chores, or talking about superficial things with your partner rather than discussing your relationship concerns.
We have very clever ways of fooling ourselves. See how many of the following excuses hit home for you:
- I'll wait until I'm in the mood to do it.
- It's OK to celebrate ... besides, I'll start my diet (sobriety) tomorrow.
- My health problem isn't that bad. Time will heal this pain.
- There's plenty of time to get it done.
- Why does the boss give us so much to do? It's not fair.
- It's too hard to talk about. I don't know where to begin.
- I work better under pressure so I don't need to do it right now.
- I've got too many other things to do first.
Once exposed, these self-defeating statements don't sound so convincing. But, when we privately tell ourselves these excuses, they seem quite believable. Don't be fooled by how innocent they sound. They get us to postpone important tasks and duties.
Procrastination is a bad habit. Like other habits, there are two general causes. The first is the "crooked thinking" we employ to justify our behavior. The second source is our behavioral patterns.
A closer look at our crooked thinking reveals three major issues in delaying tactics—perfectionism, inadequacy, and discomfort. Those who believe they must turn in the most exemplary report may wait until all available resources have been reviewed or endlessly rewrite draft after draft. Worry over producing the perfect project prevents them from finishing on time. Feelings of inadequacy can also cause delays. Those who "know for a fact" that they are incompetent often believe they will fail and will avoid the unpleasantness of having their skills put to the test. Fear of discomfort is another way of putting a stop to what needs to be done. Yet, the more we delay, the worse the discomforting problem (like a toothache) becomes.
Our behavioral patterns are the second cause. Getting started on an unpleasant or difficult task may seem impossible. Procrastination is likened to the physics concept of inertia—a mass at rest tends to stay at rest. Greater forces are required to start change than to sustain change.
|Excuse:||I'm not in the mood right now.|
|Mood doesn't do my work, actions do. If I wait for the right mood, I may never get it done.|
|Excuse:||I'm just lazy.|
|Labeling myself as lazy only brings me down. My work is really separate from who I am as a person. Getting started is the key to finishing.|
- There's no time like the present.
- The sooner I get done, the sooner I can play.
- There's no such thing as perfection. It's an illusion that keeps me from doing what I have to do right now.
- It's cheaper and less painful if I do it now rather than wait until it gets worse.
This information was written by Kent T. Yamauchi, Ph.D. Reproduced from: Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 6) by P.A. Keller and S. R. Heyman (Eds.), Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Exchange, Inc. Copyright 1987 by the Professional Resource Exchange, Inc., PO. Box 15560, Sarasota, FL 34277-1560