PROCRASTINATION–What is it? Why do we do it? How do we overcome it?

That old thorn in my side called procrastination has been an ongoing struggle for me for over twenty years. Is it as much of a struggle for you as it is for me?

I wanted to publish this post in August, but as you see, I’ve procrastinated. I found myself working until the last minute on the 31st. But the subject is just too big to finish in one day, so here I am a week later still struggling to get it out. It is quite a lot of information so I’m going to break it up into a three-part series. My goal is to get each part posted every Saturday for the next three weeks. I’d love to post more regularly anyway–at least once a week. Maybe this will be the start of a new thing. But first, I have to conquer this ongoing battle with putting things off.

PART I—What is Procrastination? And why do we do it?

I wrote a poem back in my everchanging college days, back before settling into what I was to do with my life. I tried to express my feelings of indecision through a class assignment. We were to write about ourselves, our goals and plans. I found the poem tucked in an old binder along with other essays and poems I’d written in college. As a writer, I’ve held onto these kinds of things. I enjoy occasionally re-reading the instructors’ feedback and relishing the good marks. It’s a kind of “feel good” binder I pull out when I’m feeling low.

However, this particular poem is not really a “feel good” sort of thing. It is a sad reminder that I still struggle with the same problem I’ve had for over twenty years. I am still a Procrastinator.

When I found the poem this summer, I knew I had to get to the bottom of why I procrastinate. I’ve done some research and soul-searching and have learned a few things. I’ve learned that each question I asked, brought even more questions. But the answers to all those questions opened my eyes.

First, let’s look at what is procrastination?

Wikipedia describes it as “The avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones; or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the ‘last minute’ before a deadline.”

Simply put, “Procrastination is to delay, postpone action; put off doing something.  

As if we didn’t already know that! The real question is: Why do we do it?

Understanding why we procrastinate holds the answer to how to stop it. Let’s review this check list.

  Is it going to be hard: What makes it hard?  Yes/No
  Is it backbreaking?  
  Mind boggling?  
  Do I even know how?   
  Is it too Emotional?  
  Too vast?  
  Do I want to do it? If not, why don’t I want to do it?  
  Is it a sweaty, dirty job?  
  Is it confrontational?  
  Time consuming?  
  Does the project take longer than I allotted?  
  Am I afraid? What am I afraid of?  
Is it important? If not, can I just take it off my list and forget it?  
  If so, why do I keep pushing it to a lesser priority list  
Why is it important? Is it the “right” thing to do?  
  Did I commit to do it?  
How important is it? Is it less important than other things I need to do?  
  Can I not do other things until I’ve done this one thing?  
  Am I over committed? Do I need to do all these commitments?  
  Can something less important be moved to a lower priority list?  
  What commitments or portions can I delegate?  
  Can I reschedule commitments?  

Finding answers to each of these questions puts us closer to the ultimate answer we seek:  How do we stop procrastinating? We will cover that next week. Meanwhile, here’s the poem I told you about.


Down the road I can see

The life I really want for me.

My dreams, my plans,

All far ahead.

Today is gone as I plan instead.

I’ll change the world,

(When tomorrow comes).

I just can’t wait!

(Still nothing gets done).

I’m always thinking

What I’m going to be;

Not what I am,

What others see.

Oh, but tomorrow,

How illusive it seems.

It never comes,

But in my dreams.

Upset and frustrated

I don’t understand,

While reaching for tomorrow,

Today is gone again.

By Shelia Shook

Can you identify?

Look for Part II How to Overcome Procrastination next Saturday. I’m excited to share with you what I’ve discovered by answering the above questions. Try it this week. It is eye-opening.

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