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Patterns of Procrastination

For years I have beaten myself up over the occasional tendency to procrastinate on certain tasks. So when I heard about the book The Now Habit, I was eager to read and learn not only why I exhibited that tendency, but gain a framework for dealing with it. Fortunately, this book lived up to both of those traits – but it takes a lot of work on the part of the reader to reach these outcomes. Tonight, I realized that I had reached a turning point in my own thinking when I saw witnessed a fellow human procrastinating over homework. She was looking at her assignment and saying “Then I have to do this, this, and four more things. I’ll never be done!” I know the feeling.

The book quickly points out that we are not born when the instinct to avoid, or put off doing work. Procrastination is a technique we use to avoid the feelings of being overwhelmed or imperfect. I personally find myself with those feelings routinely. Sometimes there is a task or project so daunting, that I lose sight of what I can do TODAY to move it forward because I’m overwhelmed by ALL of the work that has to be done. I’m also very critical of my work – not to mention that I work with a bunch of critics, too! When you are afraid that your work isn’t going to be good enough, to be perfect, a typical pattern is to put off doing it. In my example above, Madison wasn’t worried about perfectionism (although her mom told her to take her time, don’t feel rushed, and do it right) – but was definitely overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done. I told her to focus on the one task she was working on and not worry about the next one until this was finished. It seemed to work in terms of getting her focused. I guess that book learnin’ is paying off!

So if you find yourself procrastinating, or think you are a chronic procrastinator, take a step back and look at your situation. Maybe even check out this book. There is no magic pill, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction!

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