The Evil Mr. P…….Or Is It?

PROCRASTINATION.

When it comes to self-treachery, he is the Master of Ceremonies, the Big Kahuna, the “He Who Will Not Be Named,’ of nearly all that is unholy.

Yes indeed-y.

And it’s not like we shouldn’t have sussed out by now that when Mr. P comes knocking at our door, (like a scene out of a Wes Craven film) We. Should. Never. Let. Him. In.  NEVER.  We know better.  We know we know better.  But just like that ‘her life obviously isn’t going to end well’ babysitter, we do.  Time and time again.

And we’ve tried everything to keep the evil Mr. P away.  We’ve set-up convoluted little motivational tricks; had countless ‘I really mean it this time’ self-talks; beaten ourselves over the head like Vince Lombardi during a losing game.  From bashing to bartering to bribing, we’ve tried it all.  Still, no matter how much we resist, procrastination persists.  (Even though we know––and this is what’s crazy––that the worst part of any task is never the task, but the angst that comes from avoiding the task.)

“Why, why, why,” you may very well ask yourself, “is procrastination so hard to beat?”

Bottom Line?  Procrastination is hard to lick because it’s a complicated little devil––a virtual multiple personality disorder of self-affliction.  There are so many combinations of drivers and causes, it’s nearly impossible to keep track.  Everything from situational (such as fatigue, temporary emotional turmoil, ‘first timers’ fear); to skills and habit-driven causes (such as task planning and organization); to chronic procrastination (such as the kind caused by perfectionism).  Add conscious versus sub-conscious ingredients to the mix, and pretty soon, you end up with a mighty bitter stew.

Depressed yet?  Don’t be.  If you want to beat it (and I mean really want to) and seriously commit to doing so, procrastination can be conquered.  There are strategies and resources galore to help you on your way––to insure that the next time Mr. P comes knocking, that door of yours will be bolted shut.  Coated in Kevlar.  Covered in Steel.

But that, my friend, (and sorry for this little blogging bait and switch) is a topic for another day.  What I really want to talk about is when procrastination isn’t procrastination.  The times when the subconscious forces that won’t let you write that book; or finish your medical school application; or say yes, even though he’s told you, ‘he’s asked for the very last time;’ are something different.  When the resistance comes from a place deep within you that knows––with every fiber of it’s being––that the course you’re currently on, is not the right one for you.  The times when procrastination is really…….wisdom.

“Great,” you say, “Thanks for the  eleventh hour monkey wrench…..Just one thing…..How the heck do I know whether it’s wisdom knocking or simply procrastination trying out its latest little trick?”

Well…..as with most things of a more metaphysical nature, the answer is rather…..how do I put this…..well, it’s actually rather annoying.  Because really, “You’ll ‘know when you know.”  Intuition and wisdom are a meta-cognition thing––a ‘knowing about knowing’––and meta-cognition is a skill that develops over time, as you become more attuned to your inner-self.

“Yeah, great,” you say, scratching your frustrated brow.  “But what do you do in the interim––before you’ve developed discernment skills?  When you have a hunch that your procrastination is actually your wisdom talking, but you don’t know for sure?”

Well, there are many things you can do, but here are a few of the more important ones to get you started:   (Number One is KEY.)

1) Don’t make any rash decisions.  Until you know whether you’ve got a case of procrastination wisdom, or just plain procrastination, make sure you leave every door open.  Think:  Insurance Plan.  Submitting your medical school application does not mean you actually have to go to medical school, but at least you’ll have the option.

2) Create a checklist of procrastination drivers and walk your ‘procrastination challenge’ through the list.  Are you not filling out that application because you are scared you won’t be accepted?  (Fear-based procrastination.)  Or, are you’re letting your Facebook crack habit get in the way?  Or, do you really, really, REALLY not want to go to med school?

3) Detail all your options.  If you are having a difficult time completing ‘this’ book, perhaps it’s because you have a hunch that there’s a better book you could be writing.  Do a creative brain dump and see what emerges.  Be forewarned though––project fatigue can be a bit devious.  Make sure you’re not falling in love with the ‘new idea’ simply because it is the younger, sleeker, less troublesome (for now) version of what you’ve already got.

4) Keep moving forward.  Don’t let this period of assessment morph into a justification for inaction. (Doing nothing will only cause you to feel badly about yourself.)  If you suspect the reason you constantly battle procrastination at work is because you’re in the wrong field, don’t stop performing.  As difficult as it may be, keep pushing forward while you explore options.  Reward your perseverance by getting creative.  Take skills tests; look at job postings; talk to the pros who can help you finally find what it is that moves you.  But whatever you do, just make sure you keeping doing.

5) Consult your trusted advisers.  Lay out the issues and detail what you’ve already done to ‘stop what’s stopping you.’  You may just find you’ll get to the answer on your own––just by talking it through.

6) Meditate, get outdoors, get physical.  Find the place that allows you to connect (without distraction) to what is going on inside you.  And remember to listen to your body––it always ‘knows’––often way before you do.

7) Stay positive.  The answer will become clear.  It always does.

Finally, remember that procrastination––no matter what its form––always has something to teach us.  By confronting procrastination (versus running from it) we uncover tremendous opportunities for growth.  Everything from learning better project management skills; to developing strategies to conquer fear; to dissolving the root causes of perfectionism.

As long as you’re prepared, (as long as you do the work) you’ve got absolutely nothing to fear.  The Evil Mr. P is not nearly as bad-a** as he thinks.

One Response to The Evil Mr. P…….Or Is It?
  1. Kelly G

    I love the way you break down all of these big ideas into small, understandable ones and then enlighten us on how to approach and conquer them calmly and rationally.