Don't put off eliminating procrastination

  • Published
  • By Mitzi Wood
  • 71st Medical Group Life Skills/Family Advocacy
The American Heritage defines procrastination as; to put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness; to postpone or delay needlessly. A sign in my office, author unknown says, "I can and I will if I want."

I think that sums up the idea of procrastination for most people. At some point we have to acknowledge responsibility for our behavior and simple say, "I don't want to do this." How often do we say that in our lives? Not often enough, because if we did and followed through with action, then we wouldn't have as much stress in our lives as we do today. I'm not talking about the things we have to do, such as taking care of our children, I'm talking about the kind of desire that helps us regain our power as we commit to a project and follow it through to the end. Our lives are sometimes ruled and dictated by other people. Regaining our power helps us make choices that come from within not without.

People who procrastinate tend to be people-pleasers and externally driven. They get their sense of self and sense of accomplishment from other people not themselves. So they keep going and going and not thinking of the impact of this behavior on themselves until they are sick or worse.

How does a procrastinator heal? By acknowledging this problem and seeking to bring their life back into balance. Why does a person procrastinate anyway?

Most perfectionists are procrastinators. If they can't do something right or perfectly, they will not do it at all. It's easy to fall into a pattern of procrastination. It disguises itself as other things most of the time. For instance, take people who never have enough time to do the things that need to be done. They spend a lot of time planning, scheduling, making lists and preparing, but then don't complete the project. A disconnection happens when the desire to have things turn out perfectly overrides the reality of the situation ending up in non-action. In order to heal this disconnection you have to understand what you want. What keeps you going when nothing else seems to be working for you? There are four aspects of ourselves that we have to look at when we pose this question.

Physical exercise. Have you been putting off that exercise program because you haven't had the time? Or are you hoping genetics will continue to work for you and you won't have to exercise. Don't get caught up in what exercise you will do. Just start with something and progress from there when you feel some success. People get caught up in things like not having the right shoes or not having time to go to the gym. Getting a good exercise routine and just doing it will help motivate you in the right direction.

Mental stimulation.
Do you get most of your mental stimulation from the television? A good book, maybe a self-help book, is just the thing to get those juices flowing and getting you out of your own looping tape of procrastination. Focus on the results of your task, rather than all the work involved. Listen to what you are saying to yourself during the process. Are you giving yourself negative messages? If you are and find yourself doing it frequently, become aware of it and substitute positive language as often as possible.

Emotional inventory. Taking an inventory of where you are emotionally can be very revealing. Do you know that a lot of procrastinators suffer from depression? It may not be clinical depression, meaning extreme, but it could be mild everyday lack of motivation depression that keeps you from doing any of the things you plan for your life. Procrastinators may also suffer from attention deficit disorder which may contribute to an inability to concentrate on any one thing for long periods of time.

Spiritual connectedness. Incorporating some kind of spirituality into your life will round out your life and help you feel you're not the only one making decisions for yourself.

The keys to ending procrastination are: recognize that is what you are doing; make a decision to push through any opposition that you give yourself; and, take one step at a time until you can get to the other side. The reward comes in realizing that things not only did not turn out the way you thought they would, but they may have turned out better because you did them. However, you will never know unless you try!