I’ll start with an admission: I’m a major procrastinator. If there’s a boring, unpleasant, long or frustrating job on my ‘to do’ list, then you’ll find me polishing doorknobs, bleaching dish cloths and alphabetizing my bookshelf.
Throughout my life, I’ve thought of this as being a rather amusing personality quirk. But the older and wiser (ha!) I get, and the more I push myself out of my comfort zone, the more I see that it’s actually not very funny. In fact, opening up my own business recently has shown me how incredibly harmful procrastination can be.
Clearly there are layers to this. You’re not going to be sent to hell and damnation if you choose to rearrange the living room instead of cleaning the bathroom. Sometimes hardworking people need a bit of happy, useless pottering time – they need a pass to be unproductive. And the bathroom will get cleaned eventually.
When I talk about potentially harmful procrastination, I think to some of the things that I’ve been guilty of throughout my life and still today. There’s times when I’ll find any excuse not to: start an important work project; have an uncomfortable conversation (still my biggest weakness to this day); exercise even though I want and need to; perform monotonous admin jobs.
So what? You’ll get round to it eventually! What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that I don’t fully enjoy my procrastination-pottering, because my mind reminds me every few minutes of that thing that I haven’t done. It looms above me like a dark cloud. The longer it goes on, the more my feelings go to shame, guilt, self-hatred and then panic. Plus, the actual thing doesn’t get done. It’s lose-lose.
I build up tasks in my head by purposely avoiding them. Potentially awkward social interactions becoming terrifying when you’ve put them off for a fortnight. Of course, when you eventually do have the conversation, they’re never anywhere near as awful as you imagine – unless of course you’ve really worsened the situation by postponing it.
I’m effectively self-sabotaging. I definitely believe that people are more frightened of success than failure, even though many aren’t even aware of it. I realised that my time-wasting went hand-in-hand with my inferiority complex/impostor syndrome. I wrapped avoidance around myself like a comfort blanket, telling myself it was all ‘OK’… that success just ‘wasn’t meant to be.’ I was just scared – I still am! The confident, assertive, powerful version of me who runs a successful business terrifies me. It’s closer now to reality than it ever has been before, but underneath it all, the fat, socially awkward misfit is freaking out! That girl always talked the talk – she always wanted big things – but deep down, she always thought of herself as a coward, and unworthy, and someone who ‘talked the talk’ without ever actually doing anything great. My procrastination was reinforcing this negative ‘story’ of myself while pushing away the ‘successful’ fairy-tale.
Once I acknowledged this, I knew that I needed to have a word with myself. I reminded myself that everyone is afraid, only some people are better at covering it up; that many people who I’d consider to be assertive, confident and successful have admitted to feeling like impostors; that you become less scared by doing the scary things in the first place.
Running a business has forced me into being more assertive and into procrastinating less. If I don’t, I’ll lose opportunities and doom myself to failure – imagine if J.K.Rowling had never gotten around to writing Harry Potter because she was too preoccupied with Candy Crush?!
And I’ve noticed that each time I do act, the butterflies in my stomach perform a little ‘happy dance’. Each challenge faced is another baby step towards that shiny version of me. In fact, getting things done feels great. It feels SO much better than sitting there worrying about what I haven’t done. Plus, once I’ve ticked things off my jobs list, I can really throw myself into some hardcore Netflix binges, minus the guilt or worry!
*Tomorrow, I’ll share some anti-procrastination tips that have worked for me.*
Can you relate to the things I’ve talked about here? Do you admit to being a mega-procrastinator like me? Are there certain things that you’ll put off at all costs? Share below: