Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director
"Let me start by saying, I was supposed to write this article two weeks ago. I didn’t.
Some days (okay, maybe most days), it seemed like I was supposed to do a lot of things that I didn’t. I procrastinated. Why?! Why do I do that to myself and to others who are depending on me? Ouch. This is actually painful for me to write about!
I have a painful memory of procrastinating from years ago. I vividly remember the one and only all-nighter that I pulled in college. I had a research paper due the next day and I had not even started it! I thought it was going to be easy. No problem. Wrong! I didn’t have nearly enough resources and did a terrible job trying to pull things together. I was shocked when the professor had mercy on me and gave me a passing grade. I so did not deserve it! To this day, it is a source of embarrassment to me.
Twenty years later, I was working on my master’s degree. My husband came home from work one day to find me deep cleaning the stove. The first thing he said was, “Do you have a paper to write?” He knew me so well!
Defined, procrastination is: “the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.”1 But this one really gets my attention: “procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the ‘last minute’ before a deadline.”2 And I see it effecting any area of life, whether it’s writing a research paper, cleaning up the kitchen, or talking about a difficult issue with a friend.
Then, there are a lot of reasons why people procrastinate. Sometimes, it is out of arrogance – like, what happened to me with my college paper. Other times, it is because we make assumptions (or presumptions) of grace extended by others for our tardiness; or we view the task as too difficult or too time consuming. We put it off until “tomorrow” because we (erroneously) believe that we will have more time then. Sometimes, it is because we plan to do too much in a day or have unrealistic expectations - we can’t possibly get it all done. Or perhaps, it’s lack of motivation; we just don’t feel like it.
One young lady I knew procrastinated with EVERYTHING. I remember asking her if the consequences of her procrastination just didn’t hurt enough to make her want to change. She agreed - even though she was failing her college classes. She just didn’t care enough.
But what are the costs of procrastination?
It costs me.
When I put off that which I need to do, it causes me a lot of stress – usually unnecessarily! I live off of adrenaline; constantly in fight or flight mode. When I don’t leave myself enough time, I am chronically late (more on that later!). This hurts my reputation with others. I approach deadlines and end up losing precious down time. Important tasks end up not getting done because I am constantly in crisis mode and keep putting things off.
Worse, is the effect of my procrastination on others.
When I am late, I am being disrespectful of others whose time is just as precious as mine, if not more so. Thus, I am communicating that I think my time is more important than theirs. When my task (like this article!) is late, it causes stress for my staff who need me to do my part in order for them to finish their tasks, which is unkind and inconsiderate. When I am working late into the evening, my family misses me, never mind having to deal with my grumpiness! Ugh! Looking in the mirror is very uncomfortable.
Whatever the reason, the truth is: procrastination causes anxiety, guilt, stress (for us and others), failure to succeed, and can leave us feeling bad about ourselves. So now what? What can I do to at least start the process of change?
The first step is to care! I need to recognize how I am hurting myself and others. I have to WANT to change.
The next step is harder. I have to learn how to prioritize and plan well and then monitor my time. I have recommended this resource before, but it is worth mentioning again: The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success, by Peg Dawson, EdD and Richard Guare, PhD. The book is written for adults, to help us grow in skills just like these. It guides us to take one small step at a time as we gain control in those areas that are seemingly out of control.
I need to read it.
1. www.mindfithypnosis.com/what-is- procrastination/
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.