There’s no need to stop. Go on keep going – procrastinate all you want to. Now that’s the permission you’ve been waiting for isn’t it.

Procrastination. It’s one of those words that we hear a lot of. It’s a word that quite often makes us feel guilty and shamed, because all too often we know we are procrastinating about something. How often do we hear ourselves lamenting “this wouldn’t of happened if I hadn’t procrastinated”, or my favourite – “I’d be a better <insert your clinical discipline here> in private practice if only I could stop procrastinating.” We hear the word procrastination and immediately we are filled with all kinds of self-loathing and disappointment in ourselves for what could have been, what should have been. Procrastination has got to be bad, right….

Don’t Stop Procrastinating!

You may remember my video blog from a couple of weeks ago when I quite tongue in cheek (or was it?) simply declared that if you are procrastinating, then simply STOP IT. During the couple of weeks I have been preparing this blog, I’ve been quite intrigued by the people who have commented on various forums helping me to understand how health professionals in particular think about procrastination and like to demonstrate their procrastination.
I don’t think it would be too difficult for us to explain what we do when we are procrastinating – here are the top 5 procrastination activities that were given to me:

  • Facebook and Pinterest tied for first
  • Cleaning
  • Filing and tidying the “office”
  • Baking
  • Watching TV

I love the way many people commented that they were procrastinating by posting on the thread I had started. Yup, I expected that too.
What’s also interesting to note is that there are common themes around why we actually procrastinate and I doubt that any of these are unfamiliar too. We procrastinate because we are:

  • Avoiding
  • Bored
  • Uncertain
  • Scared
  • Dis engaged

Check this out as a definition – pro•cras•ti•nate.

1. postpone doing something: to postpone doing something, especially as a regular practice

To procrastinate is to postpone. And this activity you are procrastinating from is a regular practice. Therefore its stands to reason that we will procrastinate over the same or similar things. You, yes you will be procrastinating over the same activities and tasks. And you know I am right. I’ll bet right now you are mentally checking off a list of at least 3 things you know are the repeat procrastination offenders. Things like: 

  1. sales
  2. marketing
  3. building systems
  4. setting fees
  5. learning business skills

There is always more clinical work, more notes to file, more progress reports to write; more networking events to attend, more baking to be done rather than to focus on what is going to drive your practice forward. But enough of the guilt and shame, we all know it’s not helpful. And guilt and shame won’t lead to lasting change.
What I am keen to explore is why, when we so obviously know we are procrastinating, and how we procrastinate – when procrastination is something so ugly to us, do we keep on doing it?

Well, quite obviously it serves us in some way. Procrastination is a behaviour we perform because it gives us a reward. Something we want, or like or need.

Yep, that woke you up. Much like I have written on overwhelm, procrastination serves us, if it wasn’t serving us is some way then we wouldn’t need, or want to do it.

And the best way I know how to tap into how something is serving me is to ask, “how does it make me feel” because there is something in the feeling that is also serving me.

Let me share a couple of examples from my own experience.
In May I was scheduled to speak at the Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association Conference here in Sydney. I had 3months to prepare for this presentation. I am terribly good at swapping the activity that must be done with another legitimate productive activity. So I was marketing, managing and delivering in my business. All the time I had this nagging little voice inside of me that was saying, ‘wakey wakey Jo, you need to be working on your presentation’.
You see, in this instance I was avoiding. I was actually really scared of being judged by my peers. I had been asked to speak on Intrapreneurship something that I think is vital to the health and development of private practices. However I hadn’t presented to this peer group before and I was intimidated. My procrastination which was acting out the scenario of avoidance was rooted in my fear of not being good enough. I will procrastinate over activities that make me fear that I am not good enough. Yep, that old chestnut came out to play yet again.
However procrastination isn’t always the outworking of avoidance for me. In my clinical practice I write a lot of reports. These are long and often used in medico-legal contexts. I don’t enjoy the process of writing a report, I really wish I could write ”Just Because I Said So”, however I can’t and I choose to do this work because it serves other needs and wants in me. What was really interesting for me to observe is that I will bitch and moan about having a report to write, and create all of this angst and tension because I LOVE the sense of relief that comes with the report being finished. In fact, this sense of relief feeds so many of my core needs that this is now an addiction. I want to feel the immediate flood of good feelings when a report is done, that sense of the weight being lifted , the sense of feeling free. Freedom is such a strong driver for me that I have created this method (albeit an unnecessarily stressful one) where I get to experience the elation of freedom from a task that I don’t really enjoy. If I simply got on with the report and did it the way I teach others to write medico- legal reports, there would be much less stress, much less tension, probably no bitching and moaning and no flooding sense of relief. So procrastination – you serve me so well. Invariably the high of the last minute rush is addictive reinforced by a good result. Just saying …

So, in all of this knowledge and self discovery is it enough for us to change? Is procrastination really the evil behaviour we have made it out to be? If it was then why don’t we simply stop it? If we know that we have the repeat button on and will continue to procrastinate over the same activities why don’t we fix it? Why do we keep going……

Because we want to

Because it is serving us in some way

Because the pay off now (freedom from fear or discomfort) is demanding attention

What to do now? What do we do when a flashlight shines a truth on something for us? Will you just pretend like this blog post has been a nice read and a nice interruption from what you “should have been doing” or will you use it to make change. What will your future self be thankful for?

Here’s to your success
Jo

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