I promised myself I’d end procrastination.
But that I’d get to it last week, and then this week and now I’m heading into next week.
And if you think I might have something of a procrastination problem…well that can’t be…I’ve recovered from this condition. Haven’t I?
Maybe it’s an inherent part of the human condition that just needs to be managed. Perhaps I’m unable to end procrastination because it’s become a horrible habit.
Maybe I have strong beliefs in procrastination…well that’s got to be true.
If it weren’t somewhere in the depths of my consciousness I wouldn’t experience it. Maybe it’s a mass consciousness thingy that we’ve all consented to.
We’re all at it, procrastinating I mean.
We’ll get to it tomorrow…right?
One soon day I’ll organize that awful mess that I call my junk drawer…it’s not that important that I can’t find the ‘whatnot’ I’ve been searching for since dinosaurs walked the earth.
I signed up for a course, but haven’t opened the first e-mail yet -what’s that about I wonder?
I just read about a great diet, or a cool new exercise routine, but I’ll start it tomorrow because today I’m…fill in the blank.
Whatever the reason, we know we’ll get to it tomorrow, as though the us of tomorrow is going to be so different from who we are today.
And so we don’t, get to it, not until it reaches critical mass and all the things left undone become one massive urgent mess.
How come we always reap what we sow? And why don’t I sow the seed that will end procrastination in my world?
How the Law of Least Resistance gets in the way of ending procrastination
I know how the laws of the universe work…I’m pretty good at practicing them…most of the time…just not all of them and not all the time.
I know enough to understand that trying to change how I do things, without changing the cause, is a waste of time and effort. And the cause lies in me! Sigh.
You can fight it, fume about it, scream at it, but there’s no winning when what we’re fighting is a fundamental life law.
Procrastination calls into being one of the lesser known laws of life, The Law of Least Resistance.
We see this law operating all the time in businesses. Think about why stores keep their doors open – not because they like fresh air so much, it’s because it’s easier for customers to walk through an open door.
That’s the Law of Least Resistance operating.
Sales people are taught to lead their customers through a conversation where ‘yes’ is the only answer.
Yep. The Law of Least Resistance at work again.
When we procrastinate we’re invoking this law to work against us, maybe it’s an unconscious inner argument, or plain old resistance but we lose sight of our objective.
We lose sight of what it is that we want.
We become overwhelmed with the task or tasks in hand and it’s easier to check out e-mails or facebook or twitter or whatever we do when we’re not actually doing the very thing that’ll bring us what we want.
And there are times when it’s simply rebellion. We don’t like feeling we should do something.
Getting in the flow helps end procrastination
We need to make it easier on ourselves.
We need to move into the flow instead of pushing against it. Procrastination is a big pusher against the flow of life…if you haven’t already noticed. And being in the flow feels so much better.
Can you think of a day when everything went really really well.? You just seemed to be in the right place at the right time and the right thing was easily done…that’s the flow.
Now think of another kind of day, one that might be more typical, one in which procrastination played a bigger role. Which would you prefer?
The thing that gets in the way of being in the flow and getting rid of procrastination, is resistance to what is, and this creates stress, because while we’re resistant to doing the thing, we also feel resistance to not doing it.
Wow. Talk about push versus pull.
Good news is, we can let go of it all.
Isn’t that a relief?
We begin by turning everything into a flow experience. You know how kids are able to be immersed in the moment, so that all measure of time and space is lost to them? That’s what we can do with procrastination.
We begin, as with everything, in our imagination. We see the task as being completed, have the sense of relief or accomplishment or joy or even the feeling of being virtuous, because we did it.
And you might be led to something different than I was, but this is what I found.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book Flow
“More than anything else, people seek happiness.”
And his research concludes that the happiest people spend much time in a state of flow. So by choosing flow to circumvent procrastination we’re also choosing a feeling of greater happiness. Sounds like a win win to me.
This is what works to end procrastination
Begin with something that you have a good chance of completing.
Focus on getting started. Not even finishing, just beginning. No overwhelm there.
Take one tiny step to begin. Even moving in the direction of what you want to accomplish counts.
Set a timer and you’ll find that you’ve been so involved in what you’re doing that time seemed to rush by. Wow, did that timer go off already? We lose our sense of time and our sense of self-concern.
The task provides feedback and, as it does, our attention becomes more concentrated.
And when your mind moves into the old procrastination habit, which it will, because it’s a habit, acknowledge it.
Acknowledge that urge to play a game on your phone (me) make a cup of tea (me again) fold the laundry…I know I know, who would choose to do that instead of getting down to the task in hand?
Oh yes, that would be me again. Acknowledge everything but whatever you do, don’t actually do it. These feelings will pass.
Just settle down, because all you’re going to do is one little thing towards beginning something that matters.
Oh yes, don’t be fooled when your mind says you’d be better off doing another task.
No you won’t, it’s just trying to trick you into sticking with the procrastination habit because it knows it so well and it’s comfortable.
Mihaly’s work shows that when attention is invested in realistic goals, flow results.
And one more gratifying thing is that not only will you discover a deep sense of enjoyment, but you’re practicing controlling your consciousness which leads to all manner of wonderful things down the road.
Does this actually work? Yes, I just did it with this post.
Honest…I spent the morning procrastinating, telling myself I didn’t have a clue what to write today, putting off even beginning, but I’d been imagining, on and off all week, that I tested this flow theory stuff.
Hmmm imagination turns out to be more powerful than procrastination – I like it.
Encourage one another.
Love your technique here! The difficulty with being a writer working from home is that there are so many things to enable procrastination. I love this idea of a timer – am going to give this a go!
As a not so recovered procrastinator Carolyn I know just what you mean. I found the timer worked really well – am going to imagine it works for you too! 🙂
Procrastination is a curse…there’s got to be a big ‘carrot’ to get you moving instead of stagnating. Thankd for this Elle
be good to yourself
Thanks David – you are so right as unfortunately I keep discovering for myself! 🙂
I got distracted so many times today! I’m going to try this tomorrow. Thanks for the clear steps.
Hello Galen, nice to see you again. Let us know if the steps work for you, or you find something else that works even better! 🙂
Proscrastinating is a viscious circle that lessens our self assurance because we realise we’re never able to do the right thing just because our subconscious is confortable with habits that appear to be a security. Complete illusion. This so called security is a prison to the mind .. and the key to freedom and to action is for sure imagination. Visualising ourselves being the one we aim to be and acting the way we should.. so i’ll work on that, imagining myself doing these things i keep procratinating.. i’m sure it will work Today ! 😉
Hello Lilly and welcome to the conversation. You are so right I’m sure your imagining will work too. It really is more powerful than procrastination. 🙂
I am often guilty of procrastination because I often take on much more than I can handle. And that, naturally brings on the inability to say No. Then I beat myself up about not accomplishing everything. But I am learning. And improving.
Great post! Hugs, Vidya
Vidya…that’s me too…taking on more than I really can do and I’m beginning to let go of being that person. It’s not helpful. 🙂