2. Taking corrective behavioral action is a second step, but you can make this step one. By taking on what you feel tempted to put off, you can tune into task-blocking emotions and thinking. The corrective actions that you take can lead to a can do thinking.
Here are three awareness and action examples that point to ways to free yourself from procrastination thinking. As a byproduct, you can get more useful things done and enjoy your life.
Classic Procrastination Thinking
You have an uncomfortable priority. You don’t want to do it. You decide that later is better. Following this tomorrow or mañana line of thinking, you sidetrack yourself into “safer” or more pleasure activities. Mary Todd Lincoln understood this thinking and expressed it in this phrase: “My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ’till a more convenient season.”
Contingency tomorrow (mañana) thinking adds another complication. You decide to combat procrastination. You con yourself into believing that you need to read up on procrastination first. So, you buy books on how to end procrastination. You put off reading them. You may, however, read them and then wait to feel inspired before you use your newly acquired scholarly knowledge. Waiting for inspiration is a form of contigency thinking.
Here are two awareness and action techniques for rejecting procrastination thinking: (1) When you feel tempted to procrastinate, boost your awareness of procrastination thinking by recording what you’re thinking in a procrastination log. (2) Teach yourself to test procrastination thinking by raising questions about its results. Why would you expect to do better later? How does setting an interfering contingency ploy help? By asking and truthfully answering these questions, you exercise mental muscle as you act to power down your procrastination impulses. By engaging the delayed action, you can change your thinking from procrastination to an action direction.
Beat the Wheedler
Wheedling involves using guile and flattery to persuade. What does it mean when you wheedle yourself into procrastinating?
Your inner Wheedler is a con-artist. The Wheedler has many tricks up its sleeves. Upon learning that combatting procrastination takes work, you may hear an angry and defiant Wheedler: “Screw this BS. I’m not going to do it.” A Wheedler whines: “Oh, life should be convenient and easy. It’s awful when it’s not.” Abraham Low, the founder of Recovery Inc., described this boomerang effect: “It is the anticipation of discomfort and nothing else that causes the apprehension.”
Discomfort dodging is a common motive for procrastination.
The Wheedler lacks foresight. Nevertheless, this impulsive thinking is influential. Larry tells himself: “I’ll be good forever after this one last ice-cream and pizza feast.” Later he repeats the same pattern. Chalk up another victory for the Wheedler.
How do you beat the Wheedler? Well, you don’t escape human nature (see May 24, 2010 blog). But you can strengthen the reasoning and resilience-building part of your human nature with awareness and action: (1) Wheedler recognition is a start. (2) Follow this recognition by debunking toxic Wheedler logic and simultaneously by stretching to follow enlightened choices.
Where you choose to reject Wheedler logic, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky offers an alternative: “Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”
It’s easier to joke about procrastination than to take procrastination antidotes seriously. How do you tell when procrastination joke is a sign of good humor or reflects a resistance to change? The answer is simple. You can tell by the results. When jokes detract from addressing performance anxieties, aversion for inconvenience, or other preludes to procrastination these results suggests that the joke is defensive.
Most people can joke about procrastination as they might about the weather. However, jokes are a cult phenomenon to a sub-group who procrastinate, who downplay their serious problem habit, and who seem frustratingly stuck in a procrastination rut. Such procrastination jokes have a distancing effect.
Procrastination jokes, such as “I’ll read this procrastination book later”, can echo a feeling of helplessness. Helplessness thinking muddles positive changes. This form of procrastination joking reflects defensiveness.
You can decrease defensive joking with an awareness and action approach: (1) Do you downplay procrastination by defensive joking (i.e., “I’ve put off filing my taxes but don’t I get credit for applying for an extension, ha, ha, ha.”) (2) If so, ask: “Where do these junk jokes lead?” Do you tangle yourself into a pattern of delays? If so, force yourself to take corrective actions, profiting from feedback, and express and extend your positive abilities.
Ill-conceived procrastination joking is not the only form of defensive distancing. If you can marginalize a tested process for positive change, you can justify avoiding doing the work to do better. As a defensive action, you complain that helpful resources are inconvenient to use, or that an author didn’t funnel motivation into your brain. You whine about a sentence in a self-help procrastination book you don’t like, or you find a concept that doesn’t apply to you. You overgeneralize and disregard the entire corrective process because of miniscule stuff.
When you stop joking about procrastination and take responsible corrective actions, then your procrastination jokes may no longer serve a defensive purpose and can be humorous.
If you want to know more about how to recognize and combat procrastination thinking, see:
The Procrastination Workbook and\or End Procrastination Now
Dr. Bill Knaus
Author of 5 books on procrastination, including the original psychology self-help books on this topic.
with passion & gratitude — jennifer