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Do You Ever Procrastinate?

As long back as I can remember I’ve always had a mess-drawer or mess-cupboard in my home. It’s my procrastination area. When there’s some object or piece of paper that needs to be filed, tossed or dealt with in some way, if I can’t make a decision on what to do with it I add it to my “mess-area” with the knowledge that I’ll come back and deal with it later.

The definition of a procrastinator is someone who habitually puts off doing things. For me however, it’s not habitual, it’s selective procrastination. I’m pretty good with getting most things done promptly. I’m reliable both personally and professionally. I only procrastinate when I’m feeling emotionally exhausted and find decision making challenging. At these times, I tend to the decisions that can’t wait and delay the rest.

I’ve always done this, and I don’t feel bad about it. In fact, it’s my way of being kind to myself. I know that when I’m in that particular head space (or heart-space) I have limited capacity for making wise decisions, so I selectively put off whatever can afford to wait rather than risking making the wrong decision.

I also know that I always come back to my mess-area and sort through it when I have the emotional capacity to do so. Perhaps not everything at once, but it all gets done eventually. So I don’t beat myself up for delaying (procrastinating), because the guilt would only further exhaust my already-depleted emotional reserves.

Do you procrastinate? Is it selective or habitual? Are you kind to yourself or do you make yourself feel bad about it? If you do procrastinate occasionally (and let’s be honest, most of us do), you might find that when you give yourself permission to put off acting on something that can afford to be delayed you’re more likely to complete it sooner rather than later.

What if it’s habitual? We think of habits as something in our head, but the cues for our actions, lack of actions or thoughts are located in our body. This is true of all habits: procrastination, snacking unhealthy foods, drinking too much alcohol, over-eating, gambling. Habits happen when we go into autopilot and walk the path of least resistance. It has least resistance because we’re used to doing it a certain way, so we don’t think about what we’re doing. But we can feel it.

If you’re a habitual procrastinator and wish to change this habit, tune into what your body feels like when you’re putting off doing something. 

You may find that there’s a sense of resistance, an internal struggle or conflict with what you need to do. If so, explore that feeling. Where do you feel it? What is the feeling, the struggle about? Does it feel like the task is difficult, boring, something you “shouldn’t have to” do? 

Once you’ve identified what the feeling of this struggle is about you can further explore it by asking yourself more specific questions like, what does boredom, difficulty, “shouldn’t have to” feel like? It’s likely to feel unpleasant, but can you locate the exact place of that feeling in your body? Your belly, your chest, your head? What would happen if you allow yourself to experience the unpleasantness of this feeling with full awareness? Can you be ok with it? It won’t last forever. All feelings pass eventually. Can you be present as you ride the wave of unpleasantness till it passes?

Bringing awareness to unpleasant feelings, without judgment, without trying to change anything, is like looking your demons straight in the eye and saying, I’m not afraid of you. This observing of one’s experience, pleasant or not, is what mindfulness is about. And all the latest science shows us that mindfulness practice is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to change an unhelpful habit, including procrastination. Learn more about mindfulness at https://mindcoachingaustralia.com.au/event/mindfulness-skills-for-a-balanced-life-weekend-workshop-8/

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