I work part time as a teacher and so I am fortunate to get the long summer holidays; this year I promised myself that I would decorate the hall. I had loads of time and this would be an easy project, but suffice to say that come the end of my six weeks I had managed to sand down two doors and had filled in some cracks in the walls with Polyfilla. I started to paint the Saturday before I started back at college.
If procrastination is the thief of time them I was robbed blind? What was the problem? Why did I leave it so long? It was not a difficult job, in fact it should have been quite easy. Procrastination is one of my weaknesses– I crack the old joke to friends that I have a book on the subject but I haven’t got round to reading it.
Are you somebody who procrastinates? Do you delay doing things, be it household chores, or contacting friends? Perhaps you defer making change in your life like getting a new job or losing weight or taking more exercise. Perhaps you are unhappy with your life circumstances but you never quite get around to seeing a coach or a counsellor?
If you are like me you move through life telling yourself that you are going to start the diet next week or sort out your CV once you get time and then suddenly another year has gone by.
As I contemplate my decorating progress (or lack of it) I came up with three reasons that I think contributed to my procrastination perhaps these might apply to you?
- Starting is difficult
If it was just the painting I would be ok, but I had to clear way furniture (one small book case) and then prepare the woodwork by sanding off the gloss paint and filling in cracks in the wall before I could start on the actual painting. There was something about the preparation that seemed overwhelming. The initial tasks were unpleasant so in comes a multitude of excuses at this point; I didn’t have a face mask for the sanding, I needed eye protection, and of course it makes a mess, there’s going to be dust getting on the carpet.
Sometimes we simply feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of instigating change in our lives – we don’t know where to start. You start one step at a time, do one little task and don’t look too far ahead set small intermediate goals with reasonable deadlines. Perhaps it’s because we fear the upheaval it will bring; ask yourself – am I apprehensive about the disorder that might ensue? When people start to make changes in their life particularly through counselling they may fear the upheaval that ensues. The upheaval is less of a bother when we know our endpoint and sometimes small changes incentivise us to move forward.
- Easily distracted
When I am dreading the upheaval of decorating, I am easily distracted. The dog needs a walk, it’s a sunny day so I should be out enjoying the sun or I could get a washing done. The most mundane task will suddenly become high priority.
What is distracting you from making change in your life? If it is important then you may have to focus on that task first. But be honest with yourself can it be postponed? There are often legitimate reasons to postpone something but we normally know what is a high priority and what is not. That is why deadlines are useful; if I know I have to have something done by a certain date then I can normally get my act together to finish on time.
- Not seeing the endpoint.
When I went along to the DIY store and had a look at the paints and the fancy furnishings I felt really motivated. I could imagine what the hall will look like when I see the paint colours and the new pictures I want to hang. Once I painted fresh white paint on the doors and skirting I could see the dirt on the walls and it becomes more important to move ahead with the decorating.
However, in life we don’t often know what our endpoint will be. We have perhaps a slight inkling that all is not well but when it comes to personal change we are often unsure of what the change will look like. Sometimes we have an idea of the change we want to make in our lives or we know what type of person we want to become but that “new me” is scary. It’s a bit like deciding to paint your walls bright red when we have been used to magnolia. What if it looks awful and I’ll have to go back to the beginning?
Sometimes I work with clients that want to make change but they get worried that if they instigate change then they will become this completely different individual who will be unrecognizable and unacceptable to friends and family.
However, once they start to make small changes they realize they can’t go back and they don’t want to go back to the way they were and the changes incentivize them for more change.
If we trust ourselves to know that what we are doing will benefit us then we may be keener to move forward.
In the end, I eventually got my hallway finished; I set small achievable goals and deadlines, I prioritised the work and did it when I knew I would be free and available and as I saw the place brighten up I felt incentivised to carry on. Now the question is why has it taken me so long to write the accompanying blog!