It’s an activity that looks different for each of us- and it only applies to self-directed responsibilities.
It’s been identified as a basic human impulse, and one that we know is inherently irrational.
We do a remarkable job ignoring its consequences.
When I was in college and needed to write papers, it usually resulted in mass quantities of baked goods or a large roux pot of étoufée.
Now? Well, now it occasionally (thought not always) looks like a blog post.
We are all, each of us, procrastinators by nature. The reality of a future benefit of whatever action or task we are putting off is far less significant to us in a given moment than the potential immediate gratification of something else we could do right now- particularly if the delayed action or task isn’t something we actually enjoy. Those things in the future tend to be pretty abstract as well- and they are certainly more abstract than something sitting right in front of us.
Sometimes procrastination can be used to our advantage; poet David Whyte appropriately mentions that it may provide time for ripening of ideas. He also counsels that we should use procrastination as an opportunity to careful sit with why we’re delaying the action or task in question, reminding us that sometimes the time that it gives us provides us interaction with something much bigger than ourselves. I’ve felt this more than once when I’ve given myself a bit more time than I might have liked while working on a manuscript, only to find that when I finally do get my backside into the chair that it magically ends up “just right.”
However…we all know that procrastination isn’t entirely to our benefit. We know we need to keep up with our documentation, but sometimes the Epic inbox is just so…overwhelming. We know we should respond to a couple of emails from colleagues, but we’re going to say “no” to something they’re asking us to do and we don’t want to disappoint them. The phrase I’ve come to use around the types of tasks we tend to put off even though they are necessary? We have to eat our broccoli (or some other vegetable that may not be your personal favorite).
This week the HBR website had some tips and tricks on how to beat procrastination for those times when it’s not working in our favor. I have a favorite from each group- in the first group, it’s thinking about how great you feel when that task is completed. Admit it, it’s nice to have your Epic in-box empty. For the second group, it’s figuring out the first step that you need to take to get started; this concept works best for more abstract, bigger things (like starting a manuscript).
So, what are you going to get done today that you’ve been putting off?