Don’t put off reading this!

If you’re reading this, you’ll know I relapsed. I’m likely on a first name basis at a meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous.

This is the chapter my editor keeps on file for when I wait to the last minute and then that minute gets interrupted by a case of pinkeye.

Or maybe I just couldn’t resist checking my bank account and sports scores and online garage sales. Maybe I needed just the right cup of coffee to get started, but the Keurig spit out only grinds. Whatever the reason(s), I procrastinated.

Procrastination occupies the punch line of plenty of jokes and quips.

“Procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Never put off to tomorrow what you can put off to the day after tomorrow.”

In Latin, “pro” means “forward” and “crastinare” means “of tomorrow”. The two combine to stockpile many good intentions. We all know the roots of the disease, but, for therapy’s sake, let’s review.

  1. Fear of failure. Whether I’m apprehensive about trying something for the first time or I’ve done something a hundred times but fear this one might not measure up, fear of getting it wrong can slow me to a crawl.
  2. Perfectionism. If I can’t do something precisely right, I often would rather not do it at all. So time slips away while I think about how to accomplish a task perfectly, forgetting that it’s only in practicing a task that my performance actually improves.
  3. Urgent vs. important. Small fires burn so uncomfortably hot that I think I must address them immediately. I think they will only take a second, but they can smoke out priorities for hours and days.

Procrastinating is not necessarily irrational. Work generally expands to fill time. So, it makes sense to compress a project into a window that closes right at a deadline. Deadlines force action.

But this is the rationale of someone who can’t leave well enough alone, someone who obsesses over a project to the bitter end, someone addicted to the adrenaline that comes from squeaking under a wire.

Some possible cures for procrastin-addicts:

  1. Let it go. If you let a project go when it is reasonably done, it will be easier to start the next one. You may need a reasonable third party to help define what “reasonably done” looks like. Your OCD won’t necessarily know.
  2. Care less about what others think. All you can do is all you can do. If it’s your best effort at that point in time, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. Remember: most people are neither for you nor against you. They are only thinking about themselves.
  3. Visualize. This is the most cliche of my recommendations, but it really does help to imagine what it will be like to get something done. Think the thoughts, feel the feelings of relief and satisfaction. Or, conversely, imagine the consequences of inaction.

If all else fails, perendinate (verb – to put off until the day after tomorrow).

If all else fails, add a word to your vocabulary: perendinate – v. to put off until the day after tomorrow!

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

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