Terrific article in The New Yorker about procrastination. Since this is something I’m a world champion at, it’s interesting to see a bit more about the psychology behind it.
One thing I find interesting, and makes me want to explore it further, is that I often feel more guilty *after* I complete a task I’ve put off too long. It’s like I’m still trying to castigate myself for the delay, even though I’ve finally gotten around to doing it.
What we can learn from procrastination : The New Yorker
Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off. In other words, if you’re simply saying “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” you’re not really procrastinating. Knowingly delaying because you think that’s the most efficient use of your time doesn’t count, either. The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make people happy.
When I work with clients who are putting off marketing and sales work, one question I ask them is “What are the *benefits* of putting off a specific task?”
Those benefits can be a bunch of different things, such as giving yourself permission to complain about it, using not doing as a way to distract yourself from other things, not having to face a specific thing/realization that may or may NOT be true, not having to deal with a specific person, the rush of satisfaction once you finally do take care of it, etc.
It may or may not result in the person actually doing the task, and it helps establish that *not* doing it is a choice onto itself. Also this exercise may establish that this task isn’t that important or there are other ways to take care of it (i.e. asking for help from others, hiring a professional, doing one small step at a time to avoid feeling buried/overwhelmed, etc.).
Just my two cents 🙂