The week after I returned from Italy, I was behaving like someone newly in love.
I mooned around watching Room With a View so I could see Tuscan poppy fields again. I imagined painting my walls terracotta and adding frescoes, learning to speak fluent Italian. I grew weepy over spaghetti sauce commercials. I avoided anything having to do with running my business. I was a goner.
After a week of this lovesick behavior, I began to get nervous. There were deadlines to meet, new projects to begin. Since procrastination is not one of my normal vices, it took me by surprise. How was I going to get back on track? Did I even want to?
Perhaps there was something to learn from this, I decided. Don’t people tell me all the time that procrastination is their biggest challenge?
Then I realized that chronic procrastinators—the most skillful ones, anyway—are not idle. In fact, being terribly busy is often their main weapon. “Ah,” they groan, “I’ve been run ragged lately.” A closer look reveals that they are always running ragged, but not really getting anywhere.
Of course, procrastination can afflict all of us for short periods of time. A dreaded chore, an unpleasant phone call, or a serious case of daydreaming can render the most competent of us idle. For the most part, this is harmless enough. Unlike our chronically postponing peers, we’ll eventually do what needs to be done.
Whether procrastination is a big issue for you or only an infrequent visitor, it’s helpful to understand this behavior so you won’t find yourself on your deathbed with regrets over all the things you meant to do but didn’t.
Often, the tendency to put things off is simply a bad habit that’s been cultivated over time. Yes, some procrastinators are lazy. Period. Others have such a lousy self-image that they lack the confidence to do even the simplest assignments.
On a grander scale, fear and perfectionism (kindred spirits) render many folks inert. Then there are those who contend they have too many ideas. Guilt eventually sets in and makes movement even harder.
Getting past procrastination begins with taking responsibility for it. No, others aren’t at fault. You are choosing not to find the time or resources to get at that undone project. When this happens, acknowledge that you’re avoiding something that needs doing and ask yourself if you know why you’re shoving it aside.
Berating yourself won’t work. If fear, perfectionism, or low self-esteem is the culprit, deal with that first. Or perhaps you need to eliminate some lesser activity to free up time.
What do non-procrastinators do that keeps them from putting things off?
Most obviously, they are crystal clear about their priorities. They know what matters and what doesn’t. They measure their time investment against what’s most important to them. There’s no disconnect between what they say is important and how they spend their time.
And when they return from Italy, they allow themselves time to swoon.
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