Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Procrastination Doesn’t Actually Exist!

A few weeks ago I was talking with my brother who said he was procrastinating on a project at work and his lack of action was beginning to affect his credibility with his team.  I heard him beat himself up over his lack of action and blamed it on procrastination. I suggested to him that procrastination was a made up word and that it doesn’t actually exist. He of course had a hard time with this and it took quite a long time to convince him otherwise, after all both of us had grown up believing in the concept as real.
Procrastination is a concept, a word that someone at sometime in the past made up to describe a human condition of action or non-action. We humans believe we need these labels to help us understand ourselves but believing in the concept is the problem not the inaction or time passing.
The label allows us to:
·         easily become distracted from the real issue,
·         feel guilty,
·         beat ourselves up and generally feel bad, thereby wasting more time and energy.

Just for a moment take the concept of procrastination out of your thinking and free yourself to explore what is really going on:
  1. You may be going against your natural rhythm of how you accomplish tasks.
  2. The creative process and ideas sometimes require space, stasis or "downtime" to fully form.
  3. There is not enough information available to make a decision or take action.
  4. You don't believe that what you want is what you want.
  5. You don't really want to do what you think you “should” do.
  6. It's not yet time.
  7. You don't trust yourself.
  8. The task is too overwhelming when envisioned in your mind.
  9. Habit and conditioning.
When I had finally convinced my brother that his focus on the idea of procrastination was distracting him from actually discovering the issue of his inaction, I described it to him as a blanket over his thoughts, he was able to identify that, the real issue was his belief that he had to complete aspects he was not good at. Within 5 minutes of this discovery he had drawn out his strategy. The next day he made a phone call and the project was completed shortly thereafter. What was interesting for me was the sudden relief he felt and the corresponding release of energy and confidence the sudden insight created. This happens quite frequently.  Energy creates follow-through.
Many people feel this release, this freedom, when they realize they are not procrastinating at all. How could they be, it can’t exist. Like my brother they are merely missing a key piece of information that is outside of their discovery because of clouded thinking and blame.
Now I am not for a moment suggesting that there is not a feeling of time passing, or distracted action or a general shouting within your head that you “should be doing something dammit”. Rather release the idea of this being a problem from your thinking. This should let your natural insights and intelligence emerge to help you understand what is really going on for you.
Stop thinking so hard, stop trying so hard, let go and breathe. Feel confident in the discovery that procrastination does not exist.  By letting go of a fixation on language and a label and recognizing that what is going on is natural and fine we can give ourselves the freedom to act or not. This freedom after all is really what you want anyway.
How do you want freedom to show up today?

1 comment:

  1. I would personally argue that procrastination is as real as any other concept (such as fear or love or pride), but your message about looking beyond the label and your exploration of the real reasons behind the concept were wonderfully insightful and instructive.

    Thank you for this very thought-provoking piece.