Procrastination or Processing?

There’s alot said about how procrastination gets in the way of achievement. That somehow anything we do that is not goal focused will undermine our capacity to move forward. Seems obvious.

However…….. over the years of working with people who feel stuck for whatever reason, I have come to question this.

In fact I have reached the conclusion that many of us actually need to distract ourselves from our goals to get the mind to work on our objectives more creatively. For example how often have you heard the advice ‘sleep on it’ when you tell someone you’ve got a problem? How often do we feel uncomfortable jumping in at the deep end without adequate thought or processing of an issue? How often can you recall wishing you’d waited and thought stuff through more or given yourself a break from worrying over a problem, because the immediate response you gave just wasn’t good enough!

When people are studying for exams they are advised by experts not to just sit down and plough on for hours on end. We hear that every 20 minutes or so we should get up and change our attention focus to something more action orientated (making some tea or going to the loo). This is so that the mind can refresh/re-boot/re-apply.

A substantial number of people label themselves as ‘procrastinating’ if they notice themselves going ‘off course’, particularly when they are telling themselves ‘they should’ be getting on with that tax form or that essay. They tell themselves they are guilty of ‘just avoiding’ doing something they don’t want to do by replacing it with something else that’s more pleasurable or easier. Their guilt makes them feel bad and their levels of self-confidence (needed in larger doses that normal in fact to tackle the apparently tricky job!) are reduced. They are weakened by self-labelling as ‘procrastinating’.

Many of us in fact need to approach our more difficult tasks in stages. By difficult tasks I mean not only those we don’t like doing or that we find hard but also those we want to do but need to motivate ourselves to do them, say write that book or paint that picture., which can be hard!

On the basis that we need to believe in our capacity to do a hard job well, we need to feel relatively confident, or in the right mood, to do that job. It follows that if we don’t rate our levels of self -confidence very high at the time, we need to raise them. And we can do this by getting tasks done that we find easy and/or completing or even starting a number of tasks that need doing. Some people actually seem to need to go around the house starting jobs and leaving them to move on to another, ending up with a number of jobs on the go. It’s as if they are alerting their minds to imminent important application by testing and practicing first!  Completing all these tasks brings a sense of achievement and confirms how able and competent they are and this obviously raises their confidence levels.

Admittedly all this practicing/processing may end up in there not being enough time to apply to the hard job and end up being justifiably labelled as procrastination – but what if this stuff was identified as a necessary part of someone’s approach method and was therefore factored into the bigger plan. So if you know you need time to alert your mind and practice starting things, even if you don’t even finish them! – plan for this. For example on the day you are working at home give yourself plenty of time to stage your approach.

By licencing yourself to do this as part of your intrinsic style in order to achieve, your self-confidence and self-belief will increase as will your control over your life and your overall effectiveness.

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