By Katie Marshall
Procrastination is the act of delaying and postponing. That much you probably knew. It’s also code for “resisting what you want,” which you probably didn’t (or, more honestly, didn’t care to admit).
Inertia is the resistance to change, the tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged. It’s the fear of the unknown, it’s why a mind in motion stays in motion, and if you’re not careful, ends up where it’s headed.
The biggest fear on the table, though, is vulnerability. Because when you stop delaying, and stop postponing, and stop resisting, you create the real possibility that you could be hurt. Our brains can’t tell the difference between physical and emotional danger. It’s all feels the same.
Procrastination is really just the process of waiting for something or someone else to fix the problem at hand, even if that “something else” is nothing but our panic response. We wait until it’s urgent, then use that sense of urgency to propel us into action. But this is no way to live.
At some point or another, we have to recognize that intense resistance and procrastination is a signal, it’s a warning sign. It usually means that we’re not trekking down the right path. Or, at least, we’re not traveling in the right way. But before we can know that for sure, we have to at least try. Often most people’s anxiety surrounding anxiety and resistance is just not knowing whether or not they’re telling themselves this is or isn’t the “right way.”
So we’re going to figure that out together. Here, 8 ways to get smarter about procrastination, and maybe even learn to use it to your advantage.
1. Get better at telling yourself no.
Learn to parent yourself the way you would a child. Oftentimes, it’s adults who need it the most.
2. Learn the difference between your “reading” brain and your “action” brain.
There are times when “procrastination” isn’t procrastination at all – it’s a healthy postponement until you have more information or are better equipped to handle the issue. Recognize when this is the case, and do what you need to prepare.
3. Make your goals small actions, not completed projects.
It’s the best way – and sometimes only way – to get it all done well and while remaining sane.
4. Get honest with yourself. Accept your actual work style.
We all secretly want to be the overachiever who gets it all done, or the natural who can perform effortlessly, or without much practice. But these are ideas of people, not actual people. The average attention span is 3 minutes long, for an adult, on a good day. Accept that you sometimes don’t want to do the thing in front of you. Accept that you need a good night’s rest and at least 30 minutes of internet scrolling before you can really reach your groove. Cater to your own work style. You don’t expect a bear and a squirrel to climb a tree the exact same way. Don’t expect yourself to work in a way that you do not. It’s cruel and unhelpful.
5. Give yourself two choices, and only two choices.
This is a trick I learned from a friend of mine who has kids: you don’t ask them the open question of “what do you want to do?” There are far too many options and their imaginations are way too huge. Instead, you give them two options. Do you want to sit in time out or join us while we play Wii? Do this to yourself. Do you want to pay your bills now or pay the late fee when you push it off and forget?
6. Give yourself a break.
So you only got 9 out of 10 things done today. Or maybe you only did 4. Did you make a positive impact on your world today? Did you fight through the battle at hand? Yeah? Good. Do it again. No? Ok – try again tomorrow. (Motivation is like showering; we recommend it daily.)
7. Relieve some pressure.
Remember that your goal is not to disappoint yourself. Beratement and rough pressure will not inspire you to actually get the work done. Encouragement almost always will. Also, please remember that in the grand scheme of things, whatever in front of you is manageable. You can do this. So do it.
8. Remember that a body in motion stays in motion. Remember to be gentle with yourself.
In the words of self-awareness prophet John Mayer, “If you had started two weeks ago, you would already be two weeks in.” Get moving, but stay nearby. Remember that it’s not the singular, major actions that define our lives, but the ordinary, everyday habits.
Image: Franca Giminez