Well Not Yet Anyway…
I’d like to address a topic a lot of us are familiar with: procrastinating. We push the inevitable and uncomfortable to the future for some present peace of mind. But does it really bring peace to put things to the side? Can you really forget about what you push to the back of your mind? I’m going to guess most of us will agree that’s just not the case.
But before we get into the actual how-to of stopping the procrastination (which, yes, I’ll be recommending that you stop), let’s dig into the reason why you procrastinate.
I love the question why. I always resented my counseling professors for telling the newbies to avoid this question. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the question, but it can cause people to be defensive. For only having 3 little letters, the question why sure does pack a big punch. But that’s why I love to ask it!
Before we can ask why, we need to visualize. Think about the last time you procrastinated on something. Really visualize it like we did when we were choosing our impossible goal (see article: choosing an impossible goal). What was the thing you procrastinated on? Homework? Going to the gym? Cleaning the house? Paying rent? It’d be good to know what kind of things you tend to put off doing. You might learn a little bit about yourself. I tend to put off reading. I have my assumptions as to why, but when something needs to be pushed aside, it’s usually reading.
Ok, so we’ve got the what: you procrastinated when it came to paying rent (we’ll use this example for now). Let’s think back to the moment when you decided to push it to the bottom of your to-do list. What was the thought? Maybe it was, “I don’t want to deal with this right now”, or “this can wait”, or even something as simple as “I’m too tired”. If it was a combination of all 3, then pick the main one that you think most often when it comes to procrastinating.
Let’s say you didn’t pay the rent because you didn’t want to deal with it. Now here comes the chance to be curious and ask yourself why. Why didn’t you want to deal with paying the rent? Maybe you’re worried about money so you don’t want to think about paying a bill. Or maybe you can never remember your password to the resident site. Or maybe still you’re mad at the fact that you pay so much rent for such a small place.
Each of these answers presents you the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Before we can get out of the rut we’re stuck in, we gotta have a little understanding of how we got there. Money issues makes you feel stressed? Well that’s good to know. You can definitely do something about that. But how do you know if you don’t take the time to figure out what’s going on in that brain of yours?
The first of the month is upon you. You know that rent is due on the 5th and you find yourself thinking, “I don’t want to deal with this”. So, you don’t. You procrastinate paying your rent. Now the 5th of the month is here and it’s time to pay the rent. Ugh! You think to yourself, “Why didn’t I pay it earlier?”. Now you have to rush to get it done while feeling the stress of the impending deadline and the possibility that you might not get it done on time.
Now it’s time for some self-love. I’m not talking anything woo-woo here. I’m talking about compassion. This is a skill that can be taught. And along with having compassion for yourself and building on that skill, you’ll build trust in yourself. When you start having compassion for yourself, you’ll find yourself being less berating and more curious about the how and why of what happened. You’ll realize that being compassionate and curious with yourself feels much better and gets you more progress than berating yourself does. You’ll give yourself some wiggle room to look at the underlying reason for the procrastination.
Back to our example above. We didn’t pay the rent on the first of the month because we just didn’t want to deal with it. Then on the 5th of the month, we go to pay the rent and angrily say to ourselves, “why the heck didn’t I do this earlier? I hate it when I do this!”.
Let’s add some compassion into the mix and see what happens. We didn’t pay the rent during the first of the month for the same reason. Now on the 5th of the month, we go to pay the rent and ask ourselves, “I wonder what was going on with me that I would put off doing this…”
The key here is that I’m not asking you to become a completely new person who changes all of their bad habits. In the example above, we still procrastinated paying rent. The small, yet significant change you’re making here is to be curious about yourself and have compassion for yourself.