I have Cornish roots and I have a lot of time for the Cornish word – ‘drectly’; a couple steps on from the Spanish term, mañana (tomorrow). ‘Drectly’ means even tomorrow is rushing it.
On a more serious note, I see procrastination as an issue for a number of people. So let’s consider how some have responded to it. Procrastination appears to arise from the fact that our time on this earth is time-limited. Some of us find it easy to fit things into our allotted ‘time’ and others struggle. For the latter group, life becomes a race against time but time doesn’t have to be your enemy.
Using the Transactional Analytic model (TA) or any other ego state model, it is evident that different ‘parts‘ of ourselves struggle. They can pull our available energy in different directions. This tendency generates confusion and ambivalence – keeping us in two minds about something. That inner conflict can create the behaviour “shall I, shan’t I” or procrastination. The circle continues to turn and any change does not materialise.
The overall aim of any experiment to manage procrastination is to bring about some harmony between those conflicting inner forces. Experiments can focus on:
- how to slow ourselves down via controlled breathing;
- how to relax enough to listen;
- how to chose a workable form of transport through life;
- how to listen attentively to our different ego states, and
- finding the smallest possible safe experiment.
- In time, safe experiments will enable us to meet different needs, without neglecting one or more ego state. Experiments will help you develop the ability to be act with care and to manage your own life in a balanced way.
There are a number of ‘Stoppers’ to address if that ambition is to be attained:
- the existing thought, possibly now well established, that you are a procrastinator. This needs to be replaced with observation that that you sometimes use procrastination as a behaviour to cope with an aspect of your past or current way of life. You are not procrastination-personified. Who is to say procrastination is not a balanced and beneficial decision? After all, we’ve delayed international nuclear war up to now.
- the tendency, over the years, to become more disciplined, to try harder, get organized. This sounds good, doesn’t it! However, such get-tough schemes can cause a backlash over time. This will dry-up your motivation and, possibly, in time, create burn-out. We can lose the will to go on.
- a personality driven by a ‘Be Perfect driver‘ that fosters the view that states ‘second-best’ and ‘good enough’ is no longer work for you. If your results aren’t perfect, you will withhold effort to hide an imperfect self.
Most of the experiments that will help will foster ‘small’. Also, it pays to take care with the language you use – either in your head, or in conversation with other people. Such key differences include:
* replacing “feeling obliged” or “must do“, with choosing to do.
- replacing “when I’m done” with “I will start with”.
- big ideas replaced by smaller, do-able actions. This means working safely, not over-reaching yourself. This will challenge your patience with thoughts about “why bother”. so the next item might be relevant.
- replacing perfect with “good enough“. This is easier said than done. For some, ‘good enough’ is simply not good enough and the next statement may help.
- replace “living to work” with “I work to live“. This involved committing yourself to a better quality of life, not mere existence. This begs the question of what is ‘better’ and you are in charge of that question. Consider your present scenic route, and and ask yourself: how might it be better (or simply different)?
- visit affirmation as a way to change a habitual way of thinking and acting. This a strategy to use frequently, briefly and randomly to connect your view of your world differently – if that is what you want.
Any of the breathing exercises can help manage procrastination; when it comes to body scanning, look out for the negative thoughts. In particular, listen out and edit those thoughts about not wasting your time meditating and relaxing!! Look out for the Core Belief that the thought are supporting, e.g. Work Hard To Live or Life is not for Enjoyment. Consider what alternatives are available to you, even though you may not believe them. If you persist, you may come to believe them, and then you can act differently.
Compare the alternative beliefs available and consider which one might be most helpful to you. What actions will be required to make an alternative belief work.
EXPERIMENT: exploring some common beliefs
Often it is difficult to separate out our beliefs from things we accept as ‘fact’ or simple ways-of-the-world. Looking at some of your beliefs may help make the distinction:
On a scale of 1 – 7, how much do you believe the following statements (where 1=hardly at all, and 7=absolutely).
I can be liked or accepted by every important person in my life.
I can be successful and competent in everything I do.
It’s bad when things are not the way I would like them to be.
Unhappiness arises when things are beyond our control.
Now, all these items are beliefs. Each one allows us to say ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to varying degrees. Some folk reckon that beliefs can only come true if you stick with a score of 7!
Beliefs raise more questions, than answers. What do we mean by ‘accepted’, ‘successful’ or happy’. A dozen people in one room, might well come up with more than a dozen answers to the question.
By contrast, if I say that I did a certain thing, on a certain day, at a certain time, in the presence of certain people, then the statement can be verified or contradicted. This does not mean that everyone will affirm every detail; police studies regularly demonstrate that witnesses vary considerably from one another when trying to describe an event. However, for practical purposes, enough affirming evidence can be gleaned by a systematic recording of events.
That’s one reason why I have encouraged the regular practise of systematic recording of your safe experiments.
Through these experiments it may be easier to use the time available to you to your advantage, with time no longer working against you.
At this point, I am going to introduce the complication that arises when you ask some-one else to join you or, at the very least, to help you out.
SAFE EXPERIMENT to interrupt any downhill shift
This is best achieved by limiting the time spent in a safe experiment – particularly experiments that involve other people. Even so, there are ways to stop something, and to start something else.
Review the ‘interrupt‘ strategies recounted elsewhere.
Then take time, by agreement, to negotiate a neutral word that will permit the two of you to stop in the future – for a moment, just a brief moment. In that moment, other things to start include Body Scan to identify the current FEELING behind the words.
We can only identify our own feelings – others cannot do this for us. Hear what the other has to say and speak out about your feelings. What are the similiarities and differences and what are the implications given that – most often – you will find that each of view is in a different place.
With luck, that material will provide an opportunity for some Special Time.
Other leads to consider
Making meaning: Making My Own Meaning
Responding to helplessness and hopeless: Learned Helplessness
State (or mood) dependent dilemmas: State Dependent Learned Behaviour (SDLB)
Locus of control: Locus of Control (LOC)
Lies we tell ourselves: Lies we tell ourselves