My Grandad had a plate mounted on the wall as I was growing up; a “Round Tuit”. I had an odd fascination with it. I never read the words,. Never understood the meaning, or comedy value!
Now of course, I “get it”. I think many people would really welcome its positive effects! Having (mostly) overcome procrastinating tendencies (starting this blog is another high jump completed!), I decided to start with this challenging topic. It seemed fitting. There are merits to procrastinating, but also some very debilitating effects. I love a definition – so here it is:
To procrastinate is…”to put off (an action) until later; delay”.
Is that good or bad?
Firstly, what purpose does it serve us? For most, there is so much to do, and by delaying until later, we have more time right now, to do the things we love. Next, if the task or action is associated with making ourselves vulnerable, then a delay means we won’t be exposed. When we delay things, we have more time, so we aren’t rushed into doing things. When we do it therefore, it will be perfect, surely? (another story on the connectedness of procrastination and perfectionism!).
Now the downside; the things we delay, sit firmly on our shoulders like a sack of gym weights, a vice on our brain shouting “you should” whilst also fighting with Mr and Mrs “I’m too busy” or “I don’t want to”. It could be something so simple as taking the rubbish out, pay a bill or cleaning the oven, through to big things like moving house, shall I have a baby or changing career (see post on decision making coming soon too!).
When we enlist our “let’s do this” character and do that little job, or make a start on the big one though, we can have a rush of “oh wow, that feels amazing to have got that out of the way” or “so glad I’ve made a start on that” shortly followed by “why did I leave that so long?” and sometimes “I can do more of this!”.
With one job cracked, it spurs you on to do more, either associated with that task or; something completely different, seems somehow easier. A client of mine recently had a light-bulb moment “I have realised that doing nothing whilst worrying about what I need to do, is not relaxing, its procrastination”, which enabled them to separate the two.
This leads to a double win of a) getting things done and; b) actually starting to enjoy and truly benefit from rest and recovery time.
Moving now to action, WHAT COULD BE DONE to crack this?
- Do something small (from your procrastination list), EVERY DAY. Sometimes the job feels to big. “Wipe that smear on the window” is linked to “cleaning the whole house”, so we give up when we don’t believe we have time for the bigger job. Break it apart. What is the smallest job you could do right now, that you’ve been putting off?
- Force yourself to sit. Do and think of nothing. Watch your mind – what is it itching to do, rather than sit still? What is it saying you “should” do? This will give you an insight into things you can hook together and use the “if, then” principle e.g. once you’ve done the “should” job, then you can do the thing you want to.
- Think about tasks that you regularly put off. How could you attach them into something you already do,to make it as easy as possible to get done? e.g. exercise. Choose an activity you enjoy and a time you like doing it. Link it to something else you already do e.g. if its mornings, start saying, when I get up, I exercise (in the same way you automatically brush your teeth). I am sure you hated brushing your teeth once, but here you are, every day, twice a day even – so how did that happen?
So, what is your plan of action now?
Sheela Hobden is a Coach at bluegreen Coaching. Following her own mental health battles, she now coaches individuals, runs training sessions and speaks at conferences. She has a real passion for helping medics and healthcare professionals take as much care of themselves as they do their patients! She has a PGCERT in Business and Personal Coaching, holds ACC member status with the ICF and is CIPD qualified.She challenges herself with ultra distance running and Ironman. Find her at www.bluegreencoaching.com or swimming in the sea, in Poole, Dorset
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