Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination

By Gwen Randall-Young – Psychology for living

Do you procrastinate? Interestingly, it may seem like we procrastinate when we really do not want to undertake a particular task. Actually, this is not exactly true. If we truly, absolutely did not want to do something, we likely would not do it at all, nor would we worry about it!

Procrastination occurs when there is something we feel should be done, or that a part of us really wants to do, but another part is resisting. Perhaps there is an important project at work. You want to get it done because you want to keep your job. Another part may be resisting because it is afraid you cannot do the project well enough.

You may want to take the children shopping for school clothes, but another part may resist because it knows what that will do to the family budget. You may be very attracted to someone and want to ask for a date, while another part may resist out of fear of rejection.

Procrastination creates anxiety, as the two opposing parts stage an emotional tug-of-war. The best way to reduce this anxiety is to make a plan to take some action. If you know that you ultimately must complete the task, or want to ask someone out or take a course, then see what it feels like to make a plan. If you plan to spend a few hours on the project tomorrow, set a time to go shopping, make that phone call, or send for a course catalogue, you will likely experience a lightening in your energy. This is because when you procrastinate, you are blocking energy. Something is wanting or needing to happen, and it’s like you are standing against an overstuffed closet door to keep it closed, when pressure from inside is pushing it open.

Once you let some of that energy move, you do not have to keep holding it back. Imagine the energy tied up when we procrastinate in several areas of life. I have developed a habit which works quite well for me. As soon as I suspect I may be procrastinating about something, I make it a top priority. If I can, I will take action immediately. This always feels so good, and since I feel like I’m on a roll, I may tackle two or three other things while I’m at it. Then I can do the things I truly want – and enjoy them- without the lingering feeling I should be doing something else.

Try this the next time you hear yourself telling someone what you should be doing. If you should be doing it, then do it! It will feel so much better than talking about it. Trust me. Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.