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Today, September 6 is Fight Procrastination Day
Posted: 9/6/2013 | Personal Development Comments
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I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.
––Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

We’ve all done it; we’ve put off until tomorrow what we certainly could have done today. That’s a reference to a Greek poet, Hesiod, who wrote it in 800 b.c., before cable television, cell phones and the internet. Humanity has been plagued by procrastination a very long time. You can see it all around you, as evidenced by that basket of clean and wrinkled laundry, the bills stacked on the kitchen counter, or the gas tank that’s nearly empty, even though you drive right by the pumps twice a day.

Of course we procrastinate about
much larger, more important things, from finding a new job to finding the love of our lives, paying our taxes to paying our respects. It creates stress, anxiety, resentment and overwhelming guilt. Why in the world would we do this to ourselves, and how can we stop (or go) procrastinating?

Procrastination is a complex issue,
and I’ve written much about it here. Most people feel frustrated and ashamed of their procrastination and take a behavioral approach. They push, threaten, promise and punish themselves into action. Time management and organization books accumulate on the bedside table. They are essentially resisting their resistance, and it’s not always the best way to move forward. What if there was another way to view procrastination? What if we asked, “What’s my procrastination trying to tell me?”

Sometimes, when we find ourselves procrastinating, there’s a pretty good chance we’re not listening to our inner wisdom, that still, small voice within us. If you take the time to just be with your feelings and avoidance, noticing what arises in that silence, you might learn something important.

Here’s a few questions to begin the conversation:

1.    What will happen if I don’t complete this task? It’s often our hidden fears that hold us back. You might find thoughts cropping up, like, “It will never be good enough. I’ll never get everything done anyway, so why try.” When we shine a light on our thoughts we can see how our fear of a negative outcome holds us back. Of course it’s hard to get started on that big report when you suspect it will lead to failure or maybe worse, success. Which leads us to the next question:

2.    What happens if I complete this task? Sometimes we fear whatever happens next. Maybe it’s another dismal task in a sequence of dismal tasks, and it feels like it will never end. Maybe a successful completion means you have to step up to a new level of skill, accomplishment and responsibility, and that feels scary to you. Again, externalizing this belief is the first big step to dispelling the fear.

3.    Why don’t I want to get started? You might find there’s a great reason you don’t want to do this task and you’re afraid to face it. Maybe your resistance is telling you that this isn’t the job for you and it doesn’t fulfill your potential. Maybe it’s an indication to stop moving in this direction and turn down another road. You could be getting the nudge to alter your life course, and that can bring up a lot of fear.

4.     What would I rather be doing? Sometimes what looks like procrastination is a hidden desire for another activity. For example, if your laundry is backed up and you’re out taking a walk, you might be responding to an internal directive to nurture yourself in this way. If you haven’t gotten around to choosing that new car, you could unconsciously recognize it’s not the right time for that purchase. It’s possible that what you’re doing now, instead of what you “should” be doing, is exactly the right thing.

5.    How can I  move forward now? When you’ve tapped into your inner wisdom and examined your fears and other messages you may have ignored, ask yourself, what’s the very next step? It’s easy to get overwhelmed when a project looms large and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. Listen for direction and follow your impulse. Take the next right action. Even a small step is movement forward.

Most importantly remember you’re not alone. We all procrastinate occasionally, and it just might be a gift. It could be an opportunity to forge a stronger relationship with your Self, your Essence, and listen to your own profound wisdom. Every time you pause and go within, you clarify and strengthen your personal guidance system. Trust yourself to know what’s next and the right action will present itself.

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