Have you ever told yourself that you should be doing something, but decided not to do it anyway? Have you ever put off something that you didn’t like doing? How about putting off something because you were afraid you were going to fail? All these things are procrastination.
Personally, I’m so bad about it. It eats away at my pleasure at doing just about anything. There’s always something else I should be doing that hangs over my head whenever I’m doing something else. Usually, it’s cleaning, but it can be a number of any other things.
I read an article on the site Medium the other day about procrastination and it postulated that procrastination is more of an emotional problem than a problem of time management, which I thought was an interesting approach. It gave what I thought to be an intriguing (and somewhat liberating) quote from a professor of psychology at DePaul University, Joseph Ferrari – “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
The article listed four different feelings associated with procrastination:
- Fear of failure – fear that it won’t be perfect
- Impulsiveness – deciding to be distracted by better things to do
- Denial – ‘I don’t like doing it, so I ‘forget’ to do it’
- Rebelliousness – ‘Don’t force me’, ‘Don’t tell me how to live my life’
I can personally identify with all four of those when it comes to cleaning my house. See, I had a very ‘Cinderella’ type upbringing. My step-father was very verbally and emotionally abusive, and his favorite vehicle of abuse was to berate me and my siblings while we were cleaning the house. There’s not a Saturday morning that went by where we weren’t left in tears from the constant nagging about how we were doing it wrong, how we had to do the work over and over again, how we were grounded because we ‘sassed back’ trying to defend our egos. It was a very traumatic time.
So now, when it comes to cleaning the house (in particular the bathroom, as that was the source of most of the abuse) I procrastinate terribly, because of the trauma. I know that I do this, I am cognizant of the reason, yet I persist. I experience all four emotions at varying times and the bathroom goes uncleaned until it looks as bad as a gas station, or company comes over. This is my greatest procrastination weakness, and something I constantly fight.
Oh, I have others that aren’t as strong. I procrastinate on getting a day ahead of this blog so I don’t have to scrape something new together every day, I procrastinate on getting to the bank, getting to the DMV, typical things like that. Those things I put off because of ‘impulsiveness’ and ‘denial’. I just have other things I’d rather do instead. Again, I know that I’m doing it – it’s just a habit that needs to be broken through awareness.
I know there’s no ‘cure’ for the procrastination habit. Only a conscious effort to control those emotions that are controlling me into not performing. And being aware of them is half the battle (cue ‘GI Joe theme here). I know that one day I’ll get better on overcoming the cleaning thing because that is also an issue of therapy and I’m addressing that part of it to become more emotionally healthy. I think the over-arcing resolution is for a person to really commit themselves to change and decide to overcome the emotions that are binding them from living a more balanced life. And that in that commitment, they should ‘just do it’.