Procrastination at our house
Over spring break I went on vacation with my family. When I go on vacation, I like to bring books. A lot of them! Mostly nonfiction and one good fiction book. I imagine myself relaxing and reading for hours on end...although this rarely happens.
On this trip, I brought a book called Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy A. Pychyl. This particular book was not for me, of course, but for my daughter. You see, my daughter procrastinated her homework just about every night this past school year. Although she would eventually get her homework done that night, she would inevitably lose sleep doing it and would wake up the next day feeling exhausted. The whole cycle would drive me crazy! I would work with her on strategies to plan out her evening, making room for a mental break and then setting a time to get to work.
My book on procrastination was going to change my daughter’s life! What a helpful and dedicated parent I was! As I started reading about all of the things people procrastinate on - eating healthy, saving for retirement, reaching out to a friend, homework, writing a blog…it suddenly hit me...I am a procrastinator! This is not about my daughter at all. This is about me! Ugh!
Why do I procrastinate?
What is preventing me from getting the things done that I want and need to get done? I often make excuses that it is too hard, I am not in the mood right now, I will feel like doing it later, I need to do other things first like clean my house, do laundry, declutter...I mentally dismiss my need for doing the task by saying it’s not that important, I don’t really need to do that, there is no rush.
But deep down, I know I am lying to myself. When I think of doing something I don’t want to do I get a feeling of dread and overwhelm and before I know it, my negative self talk starts to take over. Procrastination makes me feel better by giving me short term relief from doing the dreaded task.
I temporarily feel better! Only to feel worse later.
Is it really that big of a deal to procrastinate?
What’s the big deal? Everyone procrastinates, right? The problem is that not only do these undone tasks hang over my head, they make me feel bad about myself and get in the way of my ability to live my best life. When I procrastinate, I am not achieving my goals. This takes a hit to my self esteem. I start to wonder - why am I not living my life according to my goals and values?
Wow! When I really thought about it, I realized that procrastinating has a huge impact on my life and how I view myself. And I thought this was all about my daughter!
How I get motivated
As a human and a trained therapist, I consider what’s going to help me get motivated. If I want to help my daughter and my clients, I need to figure out what’s going to help me. Here’s what I came up with:
Scheduling time. With a little bit of practice and diligence, I try to schedule when I am going to sit down to get started on a project. Whether it’s at a specific date and time or after a planned activity.
Noticing avoidance patterns. I try to be kind with myself in my expectations and pay attention to what I am saying to myself about my ability to get this task done. When I start to go down the very deceptive path of procrastination...I notice my trigger thoughts of I’ll feel more like doing that tomorrow or first I need to walk my dog and use that as a reason to get started...even if it’s just for twenty minutes.
Managing expectations. I take note of the negative emotions that I am associating with the task and remind myself that I don’t need to do the task perfectly, it just needs to be good enough. This gives me a break from unrealistic expectations. Then...I think of how great it will feel to have the task completed and my goals achieved!
For more tips on increasing motivation, here’s an additional article.
What about my daughter?
Even though this has not been helpful in the slightest bit to my daughter, maybe the most helpful thing I can do as a parent is to lead by example. No wonder she procrastinates! I’ve taught her well!
Progress not perfection
Don’t get me wrong...I still procrastinate. In fact this blog was supposed to be done a month ago...but I am working on progress, not perfection!
If you struggle with the pressure to get things done and don’t know where to start, trust me, I understand, and I’m here for you. Let’s figure out what works for you.
Kristin O’Hara is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps couples find love and connection in their relationship. She also helps people struggling with midlife transitions. She is thankful to have kids who help remind her to be the best version of herself.