In a previous post on The Freelance to Freedom Project I talked all about making commitments – and keeping them. Oh, the irony.
I made a commitment to the wonderful Leah that I would write 3 blog posts for her as a featured writer, and with just a couple of days to go until her deadline for submission, here I am furiously tapping away on my laptop to fulfil that commitment.
Why would I agree to write for this inspiring group of freelancers, and then leave the actual writing to the very last moment? Because I, my freelancing friend, am a master procrastinator. However, as with many things in life, I’ve decided to dress it up and give it a fancy name to explain to you how this actually works to my advantage.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Maybe later, first I have to organise my sock drawer…
Procrastination: (noun) The action of delaying or postponing something. (Oxford Dictionaries)
I’m sure many of you will be familiar with this definition. I have no doubt that we are all guilty of procrastinating from time to time. Some of us more than others. We put off the things we know we should do until the very last moment and then – hopefully – BOOM! Smash that task in record time and wonder what all the fuss was about, right?
But what’s going on here?
I can only speak for myself, but here’s my take on this. Motivation works in different ways for different people. For me, I thrive under a little bit of pressure. I enjoy the challenge, the danger, the risk involved – what if I get caught? Can I really do this? Let’s find out! I can’t be the only one that thinks this way.
Don’t get me wrong – every single time I pull it off I tell myself that I’ll never let that happen again. Next time I’ll be more organised. Next time I’ll set myself a fake deadline and stick to it. Next time I’ll just work on the project for a little while every day and not leave it all until the last minute.
But that never happens. Every single time, like a broken record.There I am working up to the wire.
And as far as I know, there’s only one reason why any of us procrastinate (but a million and one ways how we procrastinate):
the avoidance of pain
Yep, that’s it.
We procrastinate because the task ahead of us will cause us pain or discomfort in some way. Man, it’s uncomfortable sitting here and writing this for you. It takes time and energy, thought, inspiration, determination and a little bit of courage. It sure would be easier to go watch an episode (or 6) of Suits (who doesn’t love a little bit of Harvey Specter, eh? That man is a legend!).
But there is the potential for pain associated with not doing the thing that you need to do, too. In my case, if I don’t write this post for you, Leah will be disappointed, but more than that – there’ll be a hole in her editorial calendar that should have been filled by this post, so by letting Leah down I’ll be letting the entire Freelance to Freedom Project community down. I don’t want that at all!
So what happens? We play a game of chicken.
It’s true. This game of chicken goes like this: at what point does the pain (or fear) of the negative outcome for not getting the task done become greater than the pain of actually getting down to the work at hand? That’s when you kick yourself in the butt and get started. You just have to hope that you’ve judged this moment right so that you have the necessary time to fulfil your obligations.
The problem with this outlook is this: it relies on us remaining in our comfort zones at all times – or at least trying to avoid discomfort at any time. And you know that all the magic happens outside of your comfort zone, right?
Now to close the loop on this so that I can click send and get this into Leah’s inbox before my deadline, here are 7 pointers I’m trying to take on board to stop procrastinating:
- Write a list of all the things you have to do including the people who are depending on you to get them done.
- Write down a statement of intent: what you’re going to get done and by when.
- Set yourself realistic, achievable goals.
- Break everything down into specific tasks, not large amorphous projects.
- Make your task meaningful to you or to others.
- Write down a reward you will give yourself on completion.
- Be honest with yourself and scrap tasks that you are never going to do. Those open loops drain your mental energy.
Now, go forth and destroy procrastination!