"I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by." ~ Douglas Adams
A friend once said, “I know I’m about to procrastinate when, faced with a task I don’t like, I think, what is Meg Ryan up to these days? And I just have to google her name.” We’ve all been there. For many of us, our house is cleanest when taxes are due. Everything else can seem so urgent when we want to avoid a difficult phone call, an overwhelming project or an uninspiring task. We know it’s not good for us, so why do we do it?
Let’s look first at the behavior. Procrastination is delaying a task or decision, often by replacing these actions with lower-priority tasks. For example, I had a client who would wait to register her car until after the deadline and the grace period expired. Predictably, she’d get pulled over and given a ticket, having to pay more than twice the regular fee. The anxiety was so hard for her, but she’d do it year after year, without knowing why, until we worked on it together. Another client wanted to write a book. He spent weeks organizing his office, buying expensive software for his computer, hiring a book coach and reading books about writing books...and until we started looking deeper, he never wrote a thing.
Have you ever sat down to pay your bills and felt overwhelmingly sleepy? A nice nap may seem more important in that moment than paying bills on time. Or perhaps you’ve heard of a job that seemed perfect for you, but you putter endlessly with your resume, never feeling quite ready to send it out until eventually the job was given to someone else.
How does procrastination affect us? It can take a serious toll on our health, relationships and career. According to CBS news, a study in 2002 showed, “40% of Americans waited until the last minute to file their taxes–and that procrastination cost people an average of $400.” Along with a financial impact, people who procrastinate experience emotional stress in the form of guilt and anxiety. In a study by psychologists Ferrari and Psychyl, “Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those who drink...Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems and...insomnia.”
In our relationships, procrastination creates broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. We may strain friendships by asking too many last-minute favors to complete obligations, we may be late to social functions and miss important events altogether. And what about our relationship with ourselves? Procrastination can keep us from reaching important goals and realizing the dreams most dear to us. We set ourselves up for disappointment, sometimes in our attempt to avoid disappointment. We beat ourselves up for our irrational, “lazy” behavior and the cycle continues.
For many people, procrastination is like driving with your hand-break engaged; by delaying actions and decisions you slow your progression, sometimes to a complete halt. Why would we do this to ourselves?
In Part 2, we’ll explore the reasons we procrastinate.
Do you procrastinate? How has it affected your life? Please leave a comment–they make a difference for all of us!
|Donna M. Johnson
Posted: 5/17/2012 2:00:39 PM
Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow: my unspoken mantra. And I have paid a price in dreams delayed, missed deadlines, added stress, the disappointment of those closest to me, and the sinking self esteem that inevitably follows.
I have tried without success to outwit myself at procrastination--to no avail. Is it fear, lack of discipline, laziness? I need a system!
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