Ever wonder why we procrastinate? Why we put off what we could take care of in the moment only to carry it day-by-day, or even longer. Why we avoid, resist, tax and fatigue our bodies, and miss opportunities to live life more fully.
I’m not talking about the “I’ll do it tomorrow” kind of procrastination that has little to no influence on the rhythm of our lives and relationships. Every fall, I procrastinate breaking down the last of the summer pots and gardens in preparation for winter. I hang on to every last day of color and blooms fully aware that eventually, the task will need to be done.
I’m also not talking about taking time to contemplate an important decision or delicate situation that provides time to reflect, let go, or shift perspective. Slowing down the process of vulnerable actions or emotional conversations is not procrastination. It’s healthy living.
I’m talking about the type of procrastination that suffocates us, stifles our movement, and prevents us from living fully, whole-heartedly, and free.
So why do we procrastinate?
Perhaps we procrastinate to resist. We know we need to take care of something, but we put it off because we don’t want to take the time or don’t believe that we have the time. We rush through life busy with multiple, colliding priorities looming over us. We push things we need to do or say lower down the list, as if resisting will make it go away.
Or, we procrastinate because we don’t want to do or say something that we need to. The weight of the responsibility evolves into an almost adolescent rebelliousness. We dig our heels in waiting until the last possible moment to complete the task, resenting that we’re being pulled away from what we’d rather be doing. The drudgery of the task feels oppressive, fatiguing, suffocating, perhaps even depressing. Moving through each day feels increasingly heavy because of all that is incomplete or unsaid.
Sadly, by the time we do get things get said or done, additional things have either piled up or problems have arose because of not taking care of what we needed to in the first place.
Perhaps we procrastinate to feel a high. We know exactly how much time we need to complete the task, so we wait with anticipation of feeling the rush of the last minute scurry to complete the task. Our hands sweat, our hearts pound, and we feel dizzy with excitement as we foresee the final moments as the deadline approaches. It’s as if this type of procrastination is our drug of choice. It might feel good or bring excitement in the short-term, but in the long-term, it’s a risky way to move through life, internally and externally, that takes a toll on us and our relationships over time.
Perhaps we procrastinate to avoid. We know we need to have a particularly sensitive or vulnerable conversation, but we put it off because of the irrational assumptions we’ve concocted from living in the past. We know we need to do or say something, but we’re afraid of what we might discover or hear, so we avoid, and live in denial, hiding, pretending, and putting off what we know is inevitable.
When we avoid, we fear something or someone. Perhaps we fear what we’ll hear, see, or feel. Perhaps we’re fearful of being judged, rejected, criticized, laughed at. We doubt ourselves, don’t trust who we are, and run for cover inside avoidance, rationalizing, intellectualizing, and defending.
Perhaps we fear failure, not doing it right or perfectly, the unknown, or the risk. Perfectionism is often a close friend with procrastination. Our irrational perfectionistic standards keep us stalled and spinning our wheels. “I’ll never do it good enough, so why do it?” Or, “There’s not enough time to do it right, so I’ll wait until there is.”
We might carelessly think that avoiding inconveniences us only; however, when we don’t move, others around us are forced to renegotiate their decisions, actions, and travels through life. We allow opportunities and relationships to slip through our fingers or stall out before they have a chance to blossom. One after another, moments, aspirations, connections fade into the shadows. We lose time, caught up in busy nothingness. We’re worn down by busyness with nothing to show for it. We awake one day to realize a lump of missed opportunities, dreams, desires, and relationships in our throats.
Over time, procrastination and avoidance can sprout remorse, regret, guilt, bitterness, and loneliness. We grow increasingly disappointed in ourselves for not pursuing our dreams and deepest desires. Our confidence dwindles and we live as shadow people, fading into the background of our life and relationships. We live as a guest in our own life. Friends and loved ones grow weary of waiting, hoping that today we will complete or say what we need to or what they hope we will.
Being done with procrastination starts with acknowledging our procrastination, getting clear about what or who we are choosing to avoid, and becoming deeply aware of what we are getting out of procrastinating. Is it resistance, avoidance, fear, or an internal high? Is procrastination adding to your life, fulfilling your desires, making you a better person, and contributing to your growth and the evolution of your relationships?
When you decide that procrastination is no longer working for you, and I hope you do, begin exploring practices that move you out of the shadows and into being an active participant in your life. You might consider spiritual practices such as meditation or journaling. You might also consider counseling, coaching, or Reiki practices. You might also consider reaching out to a close friend or family member for support. Gaining the courage to have a conversation with someone about procrastination might unlock the shame you carry and inspire movement.
No matter what practices you choose, do it for you, your relationships, and your life. Accept that change will be scary. Do it! Be done with procrastination.
Sending you inspiration,