Saturday, April 29, 2006

Curious about Procrastination - The Who, Why, When and How of It

Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” - Alyce Cornyn-Selby

Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill.” - Christopher Parker

This past week I took part in a teleseminar which dealt with “non-violent communication.” The leader made a statement about procrastination. Then, she had us write down our feelings triggered by the statement (or “judgment”) on the left side of a piece of paper and our needs as a result of the statement and feelings on the right hand side of the paper.
What was interesting and curious to me was the negative feelings (shame, unrest, disappointment, irritation) everyone expressed were triggered by procrastination. So I thought I would investigate it a bit further.

Who procrastinates? I think we all do at one time or another - some more than others. I know several people who say they are going to change a habit or accomplish a goal, and never get started. Others start - for example, an exercise and/or nutritional program - and then quit with regularity. There are also those who attend seminars/workshops and purchase self improvement programs, books and tapes and never follow through with action.

Why do we procrastinate? Dennis Waitley wrote, “Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I'll’ philosophy.”

That is one reason, but I think it is also fear of criticism or failure. We put off a task, job, or change because we are not sure how to do it, so we are afraid of doing it poorly. I rarely procrastinate, but when I do, it is usually because I am tackling something new that I might mess up. It can also be when a task isn’t enjoyable. Even though I am a hard worker and not afraid of spending hours working on challenges, I find procrastination sneaking in when I am not having a good time.

That brings me to how we procrastinate. Let me count the ways! Of course, there are always those chores - like laundry, cleaning and gardening - which must be done this moment. Or the many e-newsletters that should be read - even if the information is nothing new. Or the plethora of on-line discussion groups - good information, but I sometimes find myself reading and answering posts that mean very little to me. We all have our ways. And, don’t get me wrong. I do feel that some procrastination is a good thing once in awhile. It gives us time to think.

So, how do the experts feel?

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” - Napoleon Hill
  • Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” - Don Marquis
  • Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.” - Lord Chesterfield

A little bit heavy:

  • Procrastination is opportunity's assassin.” - Victor Kiam
  • and “If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.” - Thomas de Quincey

Because I like to end on a positive note, I will leave you with the words of Gil Stern, “One thing that's good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow.” Tell me, do you procrastinate? How do you feel about it?