Beating Procrastination

Monday morning started out wonderfully! After a restful weekend and a good night’s sleep, I felt refreshed.

As soon as I rolled out of bed, I grabbed my coffee and did my usual morning writing. Perfect! This is a routine that rarely gets altered. It’s a habit I’ve created.

Remember the habit loop? Cue -> Action -> Reward. I was off to a great start!

It was one of those rare days when I didn’t have any appointments. I intended to get a lot of writing done!

What did I do instead? I procrastinated.

I showered quickly and headed out. I’d been out of town and wanted to reconnect with my friends at the neighborhood coffee shop.

None of the usual cars were in the parking lot, so I drove on down town for breakfast. I was halfway downtown anyway, right? And, I could swing by and pick up the mail.

After a conversation with the restaurant owner, and too much time reading the newspaper, I walked up the street to an art exhibition. Since I was in the vicinity, I’d snap some pictures of my friend Leonardo’s art. He’d asked me to.

Torcuato painting
Courtesy of the artist, Leonardo Torcuato Ortiz

I posted the pictures on social media, then walked over to the market to see if my friend Matt was working. He wasn’t, so I headed home. Work to be done, after all!

Pulling into my driveway, I noticed some weeds growing between the slabs of cement. I parked in the garage and walked out to pull the weeds.

While dumping the weeds in the compost, I spotted two fawns lying in the shade. I stepped up onto the deck to get a better look.

My neighbor was working in his back yard, so I went to say hello.

This is beginning to sound a lot like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff. If you haven’t read it, you should. But I digress….


Back on the deck, I watered the tomato plant and pulled the spent blossoms from the petunias… then decided to make some coffee (it helps me write? right?)…. while it brewed, I washed a few dishes and changed the light bulb above the sink…. I took my coffee into my office, sat down at my desk….and emailed a friend, and my editor, and a client…I sent a couple of texts…I noticed that Leonardo had responded on social media. We chatted.

And by then, it was time for lunch. Sound familiar?

Some people call this “flow”, doing things that need to be done as they present themselves.

But I know procrastination when I see it!

There is nothing wrong with any of the activities above. They all have merit. But they weren’t my top priority. They were diversions, excuses. Avoidance.

We Choose Procrastination

When we’re in resistance, avoiding something that needs to be done, we are choosing procrastination.

We may use other labels: reasons, excuses, justifications. We may even put the blame on others.

Blame? Yes. Using someone else to justify our actions (or inaction) is blame. Use the word “reason” if you’re uncomfortable with blame. The result is the same.

“…I had to take the kids to the pool.” “…my husband wanted to go to the movies.” Or, in my case, “It would be impolite not to go talk with my neighbor, especially after he waved at me.”

Playing To Win

Step one: Awareness. Admit that you’re procrastinating, that you are choosing to engage in other tasks, that you’re avoiding what really needs to be done.

Step two: Don’t lose your sense of humor. Everyone procrastinates! Don’t beat yourself up.

I procrastinate a lot, so I use this as a reminder to – Knock It Off!

Step three: Find the fear at the heart of your procrastination. Yes. Fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being criticized, of not being good enough, of not being perfect.

Reality check: Failure is learning. I fell off my bike many times before I mastered staying upright.

Reality check: Success taught me to set boundaries. I succeeded so much at work that they gave me more and more and more work. I learned to negotiate. And how to say no.

Reality check: Perfection does not exist. But trolls are real! Trolls are stubby-legged, ugly creatures that hide under bridges (or on twitter). They rarely come out into the light. Your success is their kryptonite. Stay on top of the bridge and do not fear the trolls.

Step four: Begin. Get to work! You can’t finish if you don’t start. You might find that the task wasn’t as bad or as difficult as you thought. But even if you don’t, you’ll be glad when the task is behind you.

Make a game of it! Challenge procrastination to a match. Let him know that you see him, and that you’re not going down without a fight! Play To Win!

Share with us! What do you do when you find yourself in avoidance? How do you beat procrastination?

4 thoughts on “Beating Procrastination

      1. Excellent advice. But most of the time for me, it’s time to get things done. I’ll renew later. I tell myself I have to “earn” my breakfast. I don’t eat it until *after* I do my writing for the day. I know it sounds like I’m a bit hard on myself, but … oh well. 🙂


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