Procrastination Blues

So, we’re not talking rocket science here, right? Surely, most would agree that procrastination is not only a seriously tough dude, but also ugly, mean, and nasty. Slow killer of dreams, forestaller of goals, bouncer at the door to your well-being: it can be all of those things and more unless you recognize its power and potential destructiveness.

           Many Feeders

Purely out of self-defense, then, we should take a look at some of the ways this big bully gains its strength. Here, for example, are but four of the usual suspects:

•    Overwhelm
•    Don’t-do-it (plus its two siblings)
•    All-or-nothing syndrome
•    Perfectionism

  Feeling Overwhelmed

Because we live in a busy world, it’s safe to assume that you generally have some balls in the air. And perhaps much of the time they stay up there pretty well. Trouble is, any one of them might drop to the ground if you quit juggling or even just slow down a little.

Often swamped already, the thought of tackling even one more task or project practically breaks you out in hives. So, here's a thought: when over-commitment tempts you or even holds you in its grasp, ask yourself how many “balls” you can genuinely cope with. Whatever number surfaces, try subtracting one or two—and then holding to that. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much calmer life becomes...and at how much better you sleep!

  "Don't Do It"

More procrastination enablers? The don’t-do-its (DDIs), can't-do-its (CDIs), and shouldn't-do-its (SDIs), which tend to kick in when you’re thinking about doing something new or a little risky or even just different. Such power can these wet blankets unleash that, if you allow it to happen, they could hold you back indefinitely. If that’s not how you want your life to be, click on the link for a discussion of those particular hazards: the first step. Perhaps you'll find some food for thought there.

  All or Nothing

Although you may not take the all-or-nothing approach to tasks and projects yourself, many people do. So, just in case one of those is you, let’s touch upon this briefly. If you do tend to get mired in this bog, it would likely be because you prefer not to begin anything you can’t finish that hour or that day or at least PDQ.

And I think we’d all agree that finishing things is good (unless you slop through just to get them done). However, when you set a rigid time frame for your projects, you may find yourself procrastinating indefinitely on those requiring a more-flexible deadline and/or approach. A classic standoff, it may also fire some flak in your direction, often from Significant Others but also from bosses, co-workers, fellow volunteers, etc. A post will be coming soon...

  Perfectionism

With this entry in the procrastination sweepstakes, we move into slightly different waters. In fact, for many, perfectionism may not have that powerful an effect upon whether or not they begin something. But it can make finishing almost impossible for some of us, as a tinkering habit can nail projects right to the ground. And there they stay, vainly spinning until someone finally pulls the plug.

If that kind of thing tends to happen to you now and then, see if you can "just say no" to the tinkering urge and actually mean it. And I'm not suggesting that it will be easy, because it likely won't be, but I am suggesting that it will be worth the effort.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

A final (cautionary) word here: just because you procrastinate doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. At the starting point, as well as along the way, people often choke for any of the above reasons and/or simple force of habit, lack of support, and related blocks. If something continually holds you back, see if you can figure out the why of it. Even if the answer(s) dismay or discourage you at first, at least you’ll know. Then, should you choose, you can take "remediative" measures. [Yes, I made that word up, as I'm feeling pompous today.]

Meanwhile, and above all, simply do what you can where you are and with what you have at hand or can get hold of...to paraphrase some great advice from Teddy Roosevelt. Here and now are right in front of you, but they tend to slip away quickly. So, grab them while you can. In the Autumn Years, we no longer have the luxury of decades to accomplish the needful or the "wantful": hence, the need to use at least some of our time in focused ways.


BTW,
focused ways can also mean fun ways, so even as you work through the essentials, remember that all work and no play can make "Jackie" not only dull but also rebellious and grouchy. So, instead of plunging into that trap, take care of business in a timely manner, and also leave some room for fun. After all, who deserves it more than you?

For a lighter take on procrastination, visit John Perry at Structured Procrastination. You'll likely find him more than worth the trip. He's also the author of the lower book in the right column.

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