The biggest liar lives in our own head and pretends to be our friend… That sounds scary, doesn’t it? This liar’s name is Procrastination. Detecting these deceptive thoughts can help us end them.
Sometimes, when we feel a bit lazy, all we need is rest. However, being tired and procrastinating is two different things. Procrastination too, can often look like laziness, but has nothing to do with making sure our mind is carefree. When we rest, we can be more productive with our work. Procrastination, on the other hand, neither helps us rest nor helps us be more productive.
So what lies does Procrastination tell us and why is it pretending to be our friend? Not only does it lie all the time, but it does so on a daily basis, which significantly compromises our ability to be productive and feel good about what we do. Most of the lies have to do with what Procrastination is pretending to protect us from.
Let’s take a look at the six major ones, so that we can detect the deception and end it when it happens.
LIE #1: “It’s too hard, too scary, too painful.”
If you haven’t thought of it this way, procrastination has its roots in fear. In this case, it is the fear of displeasure, or boredom, or whatever the reasons may be for delaying that tiny task we could have easily accomplished and gotten out of our mind. Sometimes the vagueness of the task adds to that perception, and so the right way to deal with that is to make the tasks very clear and specific. We know that the hardest part is beginning a task, so we need to make sure we identify the first actionable step.
If you have the skills necessary for the task and devote just the necessary amount of time, it should be very simple to address. What truly adds to its perceived difficulty is how much mental energy goes into it. Not doing a simple task will end up occupying a lot of mental space that could be devoted to other projects, and makes us less efficient overall. Don’t give it that luxury.
LIE #2: “Delaying it will make you feel better.”
This particular little lie that Procrastination tells us may seem innocent on its own, but can quickly add up to a significant mental fatigue over time. While this lie may attempt to make us feel comfortable and good for the moment, the very opposite actually happens. This type of lie hides behind all procrastination and — no — it will not make us feel better.
In fact, the task hovers over us like a cloud, constantly shows up in our thoughts, throughout the days and weeks that it is being delayed, and in this way ends up being a significant contributor to stress and exhaustion. We end up feeling worse and worse about all those things we keep delaying. We get filled with dread because we know we have to do those things, and the list is getting longer…
LIE #3: “Doing it right away is a punishment.”
Actually, it’s the opposite. The sooner we are done, the sooner we get the reward of a completed task and a freed up mind. When faced with an unpleasant task we know we tend to procrastinate on, we really have only two choices. Let’s say it’s a pile of dirty dishes. We can either deal it right away and feel great about our clean sink and dishes, or we can deal with it later, all the while having it on our mind and making us feel bad about it.
In other words, would you rather be almost always caught up or be constantly catching up and tripping over your feet in the process?
Now, maybe it is not a pile of dishes. Perhaps it’s a phone call we delay making. Whatever it may be, it is typically a small task we would rather avoid doing if we could, but have to do at some point regardless of how long we delay it. Dealing with a task like that in the moment we think of it makes us feel great because: a) it is done, b) we don’t need to worry about it, and c) we won a tiny victory over fear.
LIE #4: “You can forget it.”
Things we procrastinate on have a particular tendency to hover over us, never leaving us alone. Knowing how much these thoughts will pester us until the task is done, will motivate us to get it done now rather than later. You will have to do the dishes eventually, but would you rather have a sink that is always clean, or always full of dirty dishes?
Also there are undeniable benefits to having a clear mind over the one filled with guilt (“I know I should be doing this instead”) or anxiety (“I will have to do this at some point”).
As soon as we catch ourselves procrastinating, we can say: “Ah, thanks for reminding me of that, Procrastination! I will get to it right away!” For example, a thought crosses our mind that we need to take care of those dirty dishes. Instead of agreeing with Procrastination that we will feel better if we just forget about them, we can say: “Ah yes, thank you for the reminder! I will do it right now!”
LIE #5: “It’s a small thing. You can always do it later.”
In reality, even a small task will become bigger and bigger the longer we wait. Even if we are not doing it, it is still occupying mental space in our head. The longer we delay, the more space it takes up. The solution is to either do it right away, or to schedule a specific time for when the task will get done. That way we are no longer procrastinating, but assigning priorities.
Developing a consistent practice of executing what we scheduled will effectively take care of Procrastination. Therefore, as much as possible, we need to keep to our schedule and avoid postponing those tasks further. Otherwise, we will turn Procrastination into a game of scheduling, which will further perpetuate Procrastination. Plus, the worst thing we can do is lie to ourselves about what we are doing.
LIE #6: “If you wait, it will go away.”
No matter how long we delay these tasks, we will have to do them eventually. The only way a task can go away is if we have removed from our list of to-do’s. We either: a) decided not to do it because doesn’t really matter (read about the importance of asking the right questions about the items on our to-do list), b) delegated to someone else, or c) actually did it and checked off the list.
If we know this is something we will need to do eventually, then we need to own the fact that delaying those tasks will not make them disappear, whereas doing them will not make us die. Tasks we procrastinate on are perfect for practicing skills required for facing bigger fears. We will talk about fear, its role and how to make it work with us (rather than against us) in future articles. But for now, dealing with Procrastination is a good place to start.
Dealing with these lies helps us feel the power of our own Mind, over the power of Procrastination.
I would love to hear from you — what are your thoughts about these procrastination mind tricks? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. Please share this article with others, who you feel may benefit from it.