The power of naming procrastination

Have you ever procrastinated for a significant period and then, when you’ve finally done the thing you procrastinated over, wished you’d done so much sooner?

We’ve all been there at some stage, some more than others.

You know that task I mean – that one that had you cleaning your house AND doing your tax paperwork, anything simply to avoid that which you need to do. (On the upside at least your house is sparkling and your tax paperwork sorted.) [Feel free to substitute any tasks you hate into this scenario if you are one of those people who like housework and tax paperwork.]

It might be over little things or it may be that it crops up more for major changes or tasks.

Whether it’s taking the plunge and starting that project, upgrading that PC, laptop or other device, calling in that plumber, culling the gear in that drawer or cupboard where you can longer find anything, contacting that friend with whom you’ve been out of contact for far too long or changing your hairstyle, diet, job or even ending a relationship … knowing we should have done it sooner can be frustrating.

Why do we do it?

Is it that we:

  • Are unsure where to start?
  • Make a start but give up too soon?
  • Don’t break the task into manageable chunks?
  • Go in the wrong direction or pursue dead ends?
  • Overcomplicate what needs to be done?
  • Are scared of finishing?

It could be any of these things or a combination, and it may be different things for different tasks, but sometimes procrastination does serve a purpose.

There are valid reasons we may delay, such as:

  • We may need to be sure
  • We might need to prepare ourselves
  • The timing may need to be right
  • We perceive that staying as is easier (at least for the time being).
  • Or sometimes it is avoidance. We may actively resist the things we most need to do, and at the heart of avoidance, fear often resides, although guilt and/or anger can have a bearing as well.

Sometimes we do need a little time to be sure we are making the right choice or working out the best way to tackle something, but all too often we expend unnecessary energy or waste valuable time. It might be occasional but it can become a habit, and it can have huge impacts.

Jacquie's Crabapple blossom

Crabapple blossom © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith

How can we gain power over procrastination?

Name it.

  • What do you need to do?
  • Why do you need to do it?
  • What is stopping you? If you are stuck for ideas, hunt for any aspects about which you feel worried or fearful, guilty or even angry.
  • What is the impact of not doing it?
  • What would be most helpful for you to do now? This may be a conscious commitment, taking a first step, developing a plan or even consciously deciding the time is not now.

Although I am most interested in “creative procrastination”, the things I have been known to procrastinate about are wide-ranging and so I have kept this post broader. This is what works for me but I am sure there are many approaches.

What is your experience of why you procrastinate?

What do you find most helpful?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other related posts include When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world and Is excitement a new strategy for writers?

Or you may also be interested in What are the synergies between mindfulness and creativity? and Where health and creativity intersect.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.


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© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith