Procrastination often gets a bad rap, and there’s a good reason for that. People seen as procrastinators are often labeled as unreliable, lacking self-direction, and even lazy. However, all of us, at some point or another have procrastinated in getting our work done.
So, why is that? We are all intimately familiar with deadlines and the stress and anxiety it creates whenever we aren’t able to deliver our work at the allotted time. Many of us claim that working under pressure is where we get our best work done, but is that the case?
A few years ago a friend shared the perspective that procrastination can be a form of stress-management and it helped to shift my perspective about procrastination and that’s what I wanted to dive into today.
Why it’s 100% OK.
As I mentioned, a friend of mine shared a perspective he read in The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. It states that procrastination is a stress-response. Therefore, if you find yourself procrastinating, it’s because you are stressed or because the activity that you need to get done is preemptively causing you stress.
From that perspective, procrastination is 100% OK. It’s your mind and body forcing a physical response to tell you that you’re embarking on a stressful journey. And, while that might sound self-evident, I know many folks that don’t often realize that they are stressed out mentally until they beginning having physical responses.
My wife, Tia, for example, will start to have headaches or have changes in her eating patterns before she realizes that she’s steeped in particularly stressful situations. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with your mind and body letting you know what’s happening as a ‘sort of’ early warning system to stress.
Understanding the root cause of procrastination allows us to re-contextualize it, not as a vice, but as a tool that can serve us. All of that being said, recognizing why we procrastinate is only half of the equation, the other half is what we need to do about it.
But, also, why it’s NOT.
On the other side of the coin, procrastination isn’t OK. To be more accurate, it’s unhealthy and unsustainable. While procrastination can act as a form of self-soothing and an early warning system to stress, it also creates stress by limiting the time available to get work done.
So, let’s say we have been given the gift of realizing that we are procrastinating. How do we respond productively?
Before I talk about meaningful action that we can begin to take, there’s one other item to address and that’s the root cause of why the work that needs to be done is stressful, to begin with. For some of us, it may be fear of failure, perfectionism, or lack of the technical understanding necessary. Understanding this reason before taking action will share the approach that works best.
Ok, so now we know why we have been procrastinating. What can we do about it? Here are three steps to follow -
Write down in detail, what success looks like i.e. a completed report, an implemented process, etc.
Write down a rough sketch of the activities that need to get done and match it to a timeline
Complete the first step that you’ve outlined e.g. set up a meeting, speak with an expert, etc.
The idea is to take away as much complexity as possible and look at the work as bitesize chunks that are much more doable. Creating an outline without starting any work allows you to strategize, without the burden of worry about how you’ll get it done, it’s just a plan. Finally, you also leverage momentum when you start tackling one simple task that goes toward completing the whole.
We often tend to ignore procrastination whenever it starts to occur or worse even, we tend to become self-critical and blame ourselves. However, if we reframe procrastination as an indicator that we are stressed or becoming stressed, we can then start to take meaningful action to return to productivity.
If you find yourself dragging your feet on your goals for the new year, don’t forget to check out my ebook, The 7 Day Sprint to 2021 Goals, here. Have a fantastic week prioritizing and tackling your most ambitious work!