“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” –Frank Tibolt
Many of my clients label themselves “procrastinators.” When I ask what this means they say, “I wait too long to do things” or “I wait to the last minute” or “I put things off.”
Digging deeper though are the behaviors behind the label. “I feel like I have too much to do.” “I need to get this thing done first.” “I don’t feel like it.”
I have two thoughts for you to consider.
1. The Effect of Labeling Yourself or Your Behavior
Behind the label “procrastinator” are behaviors and beliefs. The belief “I am a procrastinator” brings with it a myriad of behaviors. If your belief is you are a “procrastinator,” your likelihood of demonstrating non-procrastination behaviors is very slim. We tend to behave in line with our beliefs.
What if you decided not to use that word – “procrastinator” – any more? What if instead, you described the behavior? Of course, in doing that you might say, “I always wait until the last minute.” But do you always? And if you say you always do, then isn’t this similar to calling yourself a procrastinator? So try this – just describe the immediate behavior. And be very specific. Don’t say “I put it off.” Say, “I got the project on Monday and it was due on Friday and I started on Thursday.” Say, “there were times before Thursday when I could have worked on it but I chose to do something else.” Now you have the opportunity to learn about yourself. What did you choose instead? Another more pressing project? A conversation with your wife? A nap? If you look at what you chose, then you can figure out what got in the way of timeliness in this situation. Once you figure that out, you can decide how to handle things differently in the future. Do you need to get more sleep? Schedule specific times to talk with your wife? Learn to manage your time better?
2. Just Start
I heard a speaker once say procrastination isn’t putting off projects. It is putting of starting on projects. Often we think about how long a task will take and it is so daunting that we don’t want to start. It can help to “chunk it down” into pieces and then do the first piece – just do one thing. Doing one thing will often lead to doing another thing and then another. There is great value, mentally, in having started something. If you have started, you are on your way. You are not procrastinating. Many of my clients have reported that “just start” often leads to continued work and sometimes to momentum and working on the project much longer than they thought they would.
Give it a try.