Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Therapy Spot! Today, I want to start off by telling you a secret. I left this podcast on procrastination until the very last possible minute. Why do I tell you this? So you know that, when I talk about procrastination, I speak from experience!
I know we have all done this. When we procrastinate, we voluntarily choose to do something other than the task we need to finish. The further away the deadline is, the easier it is to delay. So we put it off, and put it off, and suddenly, the deadline is mere hours away! This can have negative consequences in your personal life and your professional life. Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves?
As I talk about procrastination, I will refer to it as both a part and as a habit. When you become blended with a procrastinating part, its actions can become habit over time. Many of you already know that when you try to stop a habitual behavior, you need all the support you can get. So let’s talk about how to get to know your procrastinating part, and how to shift your habits.
The Procrastinator as a Part
Our different parts hold beliefs — beliefs we might not even be aware of, sometimes. These deep beliefs often come from childhood experiences. When we get curious towards our parts, we can remember the experiences that helped to create these beliefs. Once we examine our beliefs, we can often replace them with a more current version.
So, what’s the deal with our procrastinator parts? We know from years of research that these parts tend to be:
- Lacking in self-control
- Afraid of failure and feeling incompetent
What else do we know? Just like all of your parts, your procrastinating part only wants to help you. Most of the time, when we procrastinate, it’s for one of two reasons.
- We don’t think we can adequately complete the task.
- We think the work is too difficult or demanding.
Don’t think you have the skills to do something? Your procrastinating part wants to save you from embarrassment or ridicule. The work sounds too difficult? Your procrastinating part just wants you to have fun and feel good instead!
When you get to know your procrastinator part in a curious, compassionate way, you can understand its motivations better. Interview this part of yourself. What you learn might surprise you! Ask it:
- What is it concerned about?
- Does it feel afraid of something?
- How did it learn about procrastinating?
- What does it hope will happen if it procrastinates?
- How does it think it is good for you?
- Does it know what happens in your life when you procrastinate?
The Procrastinator as a Habit
Now that you know more about what makes this part “tick,” you can work on shifting your habits. Remember: procrastination doesn’t need just to be pushed aside by strategies. It also needs you to listen. What does your procrastinator need?
- Maybe it needs to learn more about the topic before it can work on the project.
- An impulsive procrastinator might needs another, more responsible part to set goals for it to follow.
- Maybe, like one of my clients, it just needs more time to think.
Find ways to meet the needs of you procrastinator part, on your terms. Does your procrastinator get distracted easily and enjoy play? Enlist a manager part to organize your time more effectively. Schedule short “play breaks” into the work period. Do you need to learn certain skills before you start (or complete) a task? Get support from someone who knows the ropes.
When your other parts take the lead, procrastination can take a seat.
Your Procrastination Toolkit
The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle gave me some ideas for a “procrastination tool kit.” The author, Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa. These strategies will work alongside your deeper understanding of your procrastinator part.
Watch for interruptions and give yourself points for avoiding them.
Break the tasks down into small pieces. This way you won’t feel so overwhelmed. Give yourself small rewards for completing each step of the task.
Do the more boring parts of the task first. Most tasks have steps we enjoy, and steps we don’t. I like to think of this as the “eat your peas first” strategy.
Plan a completion day. This is a day where you don’t start anything new — you only finish things you previously started.
If you’re having a rough day… Don’t be afraid to call a “do over” after lunch or a caffeine break.
“Procrastination is not what it seems… What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and a central struggle with the core realities of any endeavor to which we have set our minds.”
When your procrastinator part stops leading your life, you’ll have less guilt over incomplete tasks. You’ll feel less stress about looming deadlines. Best of all, you’ll have more confidence in yourself!
Heads Up, Patrons!
For those of you who support me on Patreon, you can look forward to a patron-only post later this week. I’ll walk you through an inner dialogue with your procrastinator part, to help get the discussion going.
If you haven’t yet become a patron, you can do so right here. Through Patreon, you can help me continue to help you, through podcasts, blogs, and much more to come.
Thank you again, to all of you. Until next time!