Saturday, May 15, 2010

Let Procrastination Work for You!

When you put off doing something, you are engaged in procrastination.

Although this word seems harmless at first encounter, many people have developed significantly damaging associations with its use. Perhaps you've made your own self-deprecating connections with the terms "procrastinate" or "procrastinator."

Here are some examples of these self-critical associations:
  • "I never finish anything I start."
  • "I am not disciplined enough to . . . "
  • "I'm just lazy."
  • "I won't be able to achieve . . . "
  • "I'm afraid to begin that project."
  • "I can't . . . "
  • And so on.
What do you imagine happens when you consistently repeat these self-defeating statements over time?

Of course, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you actually experience your worst outcome. That is, you habitually (or almost automatically) resist starting something because you're convinced you won't complete the task. Then, your behavior proves that your initial self-talk was correct.

That's quite a powerful indictment to establish for your present and future actions! And, you might begin to feel hopeless in the face of this suppressing, self-sustaining situation.

Your feeling of pessimism about changing this pattern signals the need to try something different from whatever you've been doing. You need a new approach.

One place to start is with the recognition that "procrastinate" could be a helpful word. Instead of assuming that you are defective in some way, consider the possibility that when you are "procrastinating," you are putting off doing something for an important (perhaps unknown) reason.

In this context, a more useful direction would be to ask, "How do I feel about this task?"

Many times, people respond to this question with, "I'm not really interested in doing that," "I need help," "I don't want to do it," or similar remarks. With such lack of desire, confidence, and interest, "procrastination" seems like one obvious result, doesn't it?

In this scenario, without internal motivation, what other options do you have? Some promising alternatives include:
  • You delegate the task
  • You decide not to push yourself to take on the project
  • You start the activity when you have more interest or enthusiasm
  • You identify the compelling aspect of the task and only engage in that part
  • You ask for support from competent others to help you
In some cases, you will be required, for some reason, to preform a task you don't like. At these times, you might rely on your own (or your team's) creativity to discover ways to:
  • Introduce humor, curiosity, or light-heartedness into the activity
  • Arrange the project schedule to work for you (and your team)
  • Reinforce yourself with a predetermined reward at each step in the process of completing the task
  • Celebrate when you finish the project
  • Ask other people how they handle similar unpleasant situations
With such possibilities, you can transform "procrastination" from a deadly enemy that threatens your self-esteem into a neutral or friendly ally that warns you of the need and opportunity for expanded self-awareness, enhanced self-acceptance, and creative self-expression.

Engage your ally!

Love and Peace,
Dave

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