My mother always used to say, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Looking back at my undergraduate career, I would definitely agree. I spent countless hours staying up all night writing papers and studying for tests. By the time I was a senior, I was engrained to study the night before a test or to start a paper a few days before it was due. I grew confident in my ability to procrastinate, plus it let me do all of the other things in my life (fraternity, work, social life, etc.)
Despite this “confidence” I never really liked my work. I always thought: “I would be a better student if I had more time to study” or “I could have gotten a higher GPA if I tried harder.” Having developed a tendency to procrastinate during my undergraduate years, I have begun to see it negatively affect my current role as a leadership consultant.
Having read Mandy’s previous blog posts and really enjoying Brené Brown’s talk on shame and vulnerability (I even bought her book to further explore them) I wanted to spend my time focusing on something concrete, something that I could “fix” in a short amount of time. I bought the book Procrastination written by Jane Burka, PhD and Lenora Yuen, PhD on Amazon because it had the highest reviews and was about, you guessed it…. Procrastination. I was on page two when I realized this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. It took me until page 20 to realize that what Mandy had blogged about last week was in every single way relevant to my problem with procrastination.
To quickly summarize the first part of the book, we have to know ourselves and understand why we procrastinate before we can begin to address it. The authors break procrastination into four categories:
- Fear of Failure: The Procrastinator on Trial
- Fear of Success: Hello Procrastination, Good-bye Success
- The Procrastinator in Combat: Fear of Losing the Battle
- The Comfort Zone: Fear of Separation and Fear of Intimacy
For me, fear of failure is what really makes me procrastinate. I suffer from perfectionism: I want everything to be perfect, if it is not perfect then people will judge me, and then I’ll be a failure. Here is a simple equation of the predicament:
Self-worth = Ability = Performance
In order to protect myself from failing/ not being perfect, I procrastinate:
Self-worth = Ability –(Procrastination) – Performance
By purposefully procrastinating I was giving myself a safety net in case any of my work was not perfect. This brings us back to my previous comments, “I would be a better student if I had more time to study” or “I could have gotten a higher GPA if I tried harder.” I was sabotaging myself because I was deathly afraid of being judged, of not being perfect. If I tried my hardest and still fell short I would be a failure, no matter how trivial the task.
This brings us back to the previous blog posts. In order to stop procrastinating, I have to know that I am enough; that the work that I produce is not a direct reflection of who I am as a person. I have to have courage to get my work completed and know that if it’s judged, either good or bad, I will be okay.
Procrastination is exceedingly complex and there are many aspects that contribute to it. Beating procrastination is a constant work in progress. The individual has to become mindful of his or her actions in order to overcome it.
If you struggle with procrastination and it causes you stress and or anxiety in your life, I highly recommend this book. It offers great insight and poses a lot of great questions. It should also be known that I am still working through my procrastination, I was asked to guest write over 2 weeks ago and I completed this the night before it was due. It’s a work in progress…. =)