So....weird thing happened this morning.
I took one of those emailed-online quizzes entitled “Are You a Procrastinator?”
It’s a sore subject with me, since in my opinion, it’s something I do way too much. Four pages of Q&A later, I got my score, and whoa, what a surprise.
But I’m not going to share the number with you...yet. First, I’ll share some stuff I learned about procrastination:
The word, as you likely know, comes from the Latin procrastinare, and literally means “to delay or postpone”. Think Scarlet O’Hara, whose personal mantra was “I’ll just worry ‘bout that tomorrow.” At the opening of Gone with the Wind, the dark-haired beauty had a parade of servants to help her tick things off her to-do list. As war raged around her and her life was big-time rearranged, her attitude toward leaving things undone changed. Dramatically. Yet she still found opportunities to spout the famous quote a time or two…
Shrinks agree that one of the main reasons we procrastinate is fear. (If we don’t do a thing at all, how can we fail at it?) Trouble with that mindset, though, is procrastination is self-sabotage. Every action or thought that keeps us from performing becomes an obstacle, blocking forward motion…and our attempts to succeed.
A few interesting tid-bits about procrastination:
Procrastinators are made, not born. Maybe we watched Mom and Dad put stuff off, and picked up the bad habit as kids. And maybe we developed the habit to rebel against ‘by the book’ parents.
Procrastinators actively look for ways to avoid ‘stuff’. If we’re distracted by barking dogs or blaring sirens, well, is that our fault? If we don’t feel like doing…whatever…we substitute other chores, then tell ourselves “At least I wasn’t just sitting around, wasting time!”
In general, people don’t take procrastination seriously. At least, not seriously enough. If somebody promised to do something for us, but let us down? We accept their flimsy excuses, even when we don’t believe them. Which means we've granted them permission to behave irresponsibly, and absolved them from feeling accountable.
Statistics show that more than 20% of Americans feel they’re procrastinators. They’re late with their bills. Late to work. Late sending cards and gifts. Late turning in projects. Are they lazy? Deluded? Selfish and/or self-centered? Crazy? (All of the above?)
Procrastination forces prevarication. That is, in order to continually excuse our own bad behavior, we have to lie, not just to the people we’ve disappointed, but to ourselves. And the worst kinda lie we can tell is the one we tell ourselves.
Perfectionism and procrastination are bunk mates. Dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ is just as good a reason not to deliver what we’ve promised as alphabetizing the spice rack or color-coding the closet. (A neat house might be easy on the eye, but it doesn't get the bills paid!)
And did you know that procrastinators have a much higher incidence of alcohol and drug addiction? Couple of possible explanations for that: One—we tell ourselves we’re gonna quit ‘after this next one”. And two (and I think this is the reason)—we 'partake' to hide from overwhelming guilt, shame and self-loathing. And why wouldn’t we feel that way! It isn’t as if we can hide from ourselves…and the damage we’ve done or the hurt feelings our procrastination has caused.
So what do we do about it?
We get tough on ourselves, that’s what. We decide what we really want out of life, then figure out how to make it happen.
We write serious To Do lists that are physically and mentally do-able.
We admit we’re human. As such, we’re not perfect, and we never will be.
We start a journal of sorts, so we can track our progress, so we can see in black and white how many tasks we’ve completed…and how few people we’ve disappointed.
Now back to the procrastination quiz.
I scored 32 out of a possible 100 points which, according to the pros who crafted the test, means I don't procrastinate very often, after all. That got me to thinkin’ about why I thought I was guilty of frequent procrastination, and 'me-n-it' coexist on a daily basis. Yeah, I sometimes put stuff off…but never if it’ll cost me. (I’d rather eat razor blades than break a promise. To anyone. Turning a project in late wouldn’t just disappoint my agent and editors, it’d make me look like unprofessional. And I’d just as soon swallow molten lava as have that said about me. By anyone.)
But human nature being what it is, I saw that 32% nearly every time I blinked. And thought to myself, ...lotsa wiggle room between there and 100%....
Then reality smacked me up-side the head, and underscored why—though I would’ve bet my shiny new laptop that I’d be labeled a procrastinator with a capital P—I’m not as bad as I thought I was.
The final line of my score is what I’ll focus on: “Procrastination can be a major setback in reaching your goals. With 32%, there is still room for improvement, so be conscious of the times that you do procrastinate and make an effort to stay on track.”
Excellent advice. And it'd still be excellent advice, even if I’d scored 75%...or higher.
So go forth, m’friends, and do not put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.