I Know I'm Procrastinating... But I Have Several Good Excuses
by Gary L. Parker
It's so easy to create legitimate-sounding excuses why something can't be
done now. We convince ourselves that we are too tired, too hungry, or
too busy to tackle even simple tasks. The weather is too hot, too cold, or
too nice. And things come up that need to be done first. First, I will clear
off all the papers on my desk. First, I will read through the mail, read the
newspaper, cut my fingernails, water the plants or clean the refrigerator.
Why do we do this?
Feeling guilty about something you're putting off is a sure sign of
procrastination. That's because our inaction causes us to break promises.
We break promises to others and to ourselves. How can we stop feeling
guilty and overcome procrastination?
If we think a job will be unpleasant, we avoid it. It's human
nature. Who wouldn't rather spend time doing pleasant stuff? Most of us
welcome challenging assignments. But there is a big difference between a
task that is challenging and one that is unpleasant. Compared to an
unpleasant job, we would rather do most anything else. Who would want to
start the day having to fire someone? Who looks forward to with an
insurance claim? Unpleasant tasks get in the way. They can ruin your day
if you let them.
We postpone anything we think takes too long. The more time we estimate
a job will take, the better the excuse for not doing it now. It is common
to overestimate the time necessary to accomplish unpleasant things. On the
other hand, we tend to underestimate the time it will take to do pleasant
things. In this way, we have a rationale for doing pleasant tasks first.
Being unrealistic about the time it takes to get things done can cause
If we think something is difficult we put off doing it. This difficult
job may not be unpleasant. In fact, this difficult job may be something
you would really like to do. The end result is appealing. It may advance
your career, improve your home or just generally make you feel good about
yourself. A good example of this situation is writer's block. A writer
can have the idea in mind and interest in the subject, but the project
can appear overwhelming.
Fear of failure causes delayed or abandoned projects. One way to
avoid failure is to never start. Otherwise you may learn something you would
rather not know. For example, you may think of yourself as an artistic person.
If you never try to paint a picture, you don't risk learning the truth.
Perhaps you could have become a great artist. Fear of failure prevents your
from finding out. Fear makes anything you want to do appear difficult and
Visualize how you'll feel when it's over. No matter how unpleasant
the job, you can tolerate it for a little while. Get it over with. Work in
segments if necessary. You'll feel great when it's done. Focus on end
results. Think about the payoff. You will build enthusiasm. Enthusiasm
Make a list of every step involved. We tend to view large projects
as a single task. Instead, break it into manageable parts. Then, plunge
right in. Don't wait for inspiration. Take each step one by one. As you
complete each part, you'll gain momentum. Half the battle is getting
Learn to say no. The advantage of saying no is you won't have to
do it. Duh! Most social and civic obligations are self-imposed. Choose
wisely. Be polite, yet be firm. Saying something like, "I have a conflict"
is unoffensive. And no further explanation is necessary. Saying no makes
it possible to say yes to things that matter most to you.
Discover the power of appointment with yourself. It's common for us
to schedule appointments with other people. We record the day, time and place
so we won't forget to be there. Why not do the same for yourself? Schedule
time to accomplish important projects. Be specific about start and ending
times. Scheduling legitimizes any activity. It reduces interruptions
and increases the likelihood you'll actually do it.
When you raise your awareness of what causes procrastination, you are
better able to catch yourself doing it. Identify what is holding you back.
Then, use these techniques and do something about it. What's stopping you?