Procrastination is not only the ‘thief of time’ but also the life stealer. Putting things off creates an inner tension that stops a person from enjoying the present and creates a future full of ignored and undone tasks.
The cause of procrastination is avoidance of pain and fear. We avoid the pain of facing those feelings and actions we have avoided in the past; we fear that completing a task in the future will make things worse.
Pain grows greater as we neglect to accomplish or finish what we hope or expected to do. As the pain grows, so does the avoidance and fear of the future. The pain and fear cluster around certain themes:
- The pain of being a failure and the fear of failing in the future
- The shame of neglecting what we should face and the fear of future humiliation
- The pain of not feeling supported and the fear of never getting the help we need
- The pain of being faced with an insurmountable task and the fear of being overwhelmed if we try
- The pain of being alone and the fear of abandonment because we are not good enough
- The pain of disappointment and the fear of being let down in the future
Dealing with Procrastination
Here is a ten-point plan to address procrastination. It requires effort and courage and a strong intention to attempt to change the debilitating pattern.
- Accept the reality that you are procrastinating and have become a procrastinator
- Identify and clarify three tasks or activities you are currently not attempting and avoiding
- Recognize the pain and fear that are at the roots of the avoidance—be as specific as you can
- Locate as clearly as possible the sources of the past pain (childhood patterns, failures, anxieties) and what are your fears for the future
- Objectively work out a small step that needs to be done to move forward with one task
- Decide what you currently feel confident enough to face doing
- Make an intention to do one step of the task and determine a near-future time to do that step
- Accept and face the reality that the step will be painful and difficult for you
- Reinforce in your mind the benefits you will gain (relief, satisfaction, accomplishment, etc.) from doing the first step
- Take the step. Pause to recognize what you are feeling now and give yourself positive feedback and celebrate your action (do not criticize, undermine or minimize)
Learn from the process and the results—and do it again!