Do more, be better

Walking on the moon

by Harry on 21 July 2011, filed under Working It Out

I used to think that people who procrastinated (myself included) were simply bad at managing time. What I’ve come to learn is that it’s actually more about denial than anything else. When we are supposed to do something, and we just don’t do it, the reason is seldom that we forgot it when planning our day.

It is the great internal conspiracy. It’s as if the CIA, MI5 and the US Government are all working together to make you believe in something that isn’t real. However none of these organisations are involved. In fact, no one else is involved at all; it’s only you – inside your own head.

A good procrastinator will start an internal dialogue as the task approaches. We will come up with all manner of creative ways to avoid doing it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, other tasks of life changing importance will appear and we will reason to ourselves why we should do them first. These are things like reading a riveting trade magazine that has been sitting on your desk for weeks, or doing an Internet search for some project that hasn’t even begun to take shape.

Procrastination rarely involves sitting back and doing nothing. The best procrastinators are often very busy people, but they are giving their attention to everything but the task they are supposed to be doing.

It’s an internal conspiracy because we actually believe all the stuff we tell ourselves. We believe that this new unplanned activity really does require immediate attention. We convince ourselves that if we just take a 15 minute break, go for a walk and buy a coffee, when we come back we will sit down, focus on the task we’ve been avoiding and it will be completed in no time.

We also believe that the next time an important task like this comes around, things will be different. Next time we will start the task in plenty of time, stay focused and get it finished early. And we truly believe it, despite all the evidence to the contrary. That’s the real denial. We don’t accept that we have a problem all.

So, why don’t you say it. Stand up now, “Hi, my name is Harry and I procrastinate!” (but maybe use your own name). Go on, do it. I did it. And a few hugs and tears later, I was ready start facing up to my procrastinating ways. It’s the first step right?

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