Is it just laziness?
According to the experts, apparently not.
I’ve researched, googled, contrasted and compared, and the consensus is, that ‘Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead. It is different from laziness, which is the unwillingness to act’.
Excellent! I am not unwilling to act. I do a multitude of different tasks, (not the one actually required) therefore I am not lazy. I will do anything, from making (yet another) cup of tea, to organising the cleaning products under the kitchen sink (how sad), to having a little chat with Albert the Amaryllis sitting in its little pot on the table. (Even sadder. However I must tell you, looking more glorious by the day, clearly due to our endless chats.) Whilst in the meantime, the main, and only job that I actually need to do remains festering in my mind whipping up increased anxiety, with its friends, stress and guilt following hot on its heels. But apparently this means that I’m not lazy … Phew! The experts have concluded that I’m not bone idle!
To be honest, however, given half a chance, I wouldn’t do all those other little, more enjoyable tasks, but something deep within me prevents me from lying on the sofa with yet another cup of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits whilst watching endless re-runs of The Graham Norton show. That something is my conscience. Double phew! …. I apparently now have a conscience too. A good start. Perhaps I’m not completely flawed after all.
However in ‘Psychology Today’, procrastination reflects our perennial struggle with self-control. Ahhh now that I know, is one of my failings. Self-control, discipline, lack of good habits and abundance of bad habits is something very close to my heart, as I am becoming increasingly aware that this is the basis of so many of my problems.
What I have found is that the feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety that occur while procrastinating are 100% worse than the actual performance of doing the task in question. The anticipation is so very much worse than the actual event. The problem is not in doing the work, it’s simply starting the work. Once I’m doing it, whoop whoop … it’s a doddle! Once it’s done (and more often than not, without any of the pre-conceived problems that have been building in my head) I feel glorious! I’ve achieved! I’m a super hero! I am Wonder Woman, complete with shield and sword, but minus the dodgy shorts.
Studies show that procrastinators are often perfectionists, as in, they feel that if they can’t do something perfectly, then they back off from the task, rather than not being able to do it ‘with perfection’. At the other end of the scale, (more like me) there are those who don’t have any confidence in their abilities, so that then leads to the task being deserted completely.
Another major cause of procrastination is poor decision-making. If you can’t decide what to do, you’ll likely put off taking action in case you do the wrong thing. (Hello, and welcome to my world). Personally, I’m not good at making decisions. In the past I have made bad ones, which simply goes to reinforce and confirm that I shouldn’t make decisions because I make bad, rotten ones. So simple solution, I put off making the decision hoping that some poor soul will do it for me or I’ll be forced into a decision being made for me which usually has a worse outcome.
We also know that ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression are associated with procrastination. Bit of the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario there … which came first, the depression and anxiety, or the procrastination? I don’t know and frankly I don’t think it makes much difference. I just need to end this habit. Because that is what it is. Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour that I need to fight daily in order to break it.
So, in real terms, how do I resolve this ‘non lazy’ procrastination problem of mine?
Well I’ve rather taken matters into my own hands and have created a short list of my plan! If however, anyone has any other suggestions, fill your boots … I’d love to hear them!
- Make a to-do list each evening for the following day. No more than 5 things and in priority order. It will be simple and short thereby not making it too daunting and scary.
- Anything that can be done within minutes of the first morning cup of coffee touching my lips, I shall do. This is pre 8am so it’s ambitious but I do know that getting all the bad stuff done before you’ve had time to start overthinking it, takes the pain out of it. A bit like eating the nasty things on your plate first so that then you can relax and slowly enjoy the best bits.
- Do not deviate from The List. Only in extreme circumstances may I do other jobs. Extreme, as in husband needing a lift to Accident and Emergency because he’s hurt himself, and there is blood everywhere, thereby creating another job of clearing up to go on The list. It would be counter-productive not to drive him to hospital. More cleaning and he may suggest divorce. Negative outcome.
- Do not find easy little tasks (looking at stats, making more coffee, nattering on the phone (with sister, friends, mother-in-law) until The List is done, crossed off and ripped up and thrown in the bin with flourish and gusto.
- When The List is in said bin, have a huge pat on the back, followed by a treat. Chocolate in any form, feet up, blog writing, checking stats, reading, whatever floats my boat at the time. Put simply, a reward.
In time I understand, that ‘praising the good behaviour’ (which is slightly akin to dealing with a small child), will become less necessary as the sheer happiness, relief and delight of having got the jobs done will be enough. I still need however to be treated like a child even on good days, and frankly will never say no to chocolate.
So in answer to my fellow blogger who challenged me to put a Just Do It poster on my wall and incorporate it into my blog, I hope I have exceeded your expectations and gone the extra mile by dedicating a whole morning and a bit, to Procrastination! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading up on this and coming up with a plan. Of course I haven’t got much else done today, but then again, apparently my to-do list doesn’t need to be written until tonight, so there’s plenty of time ….