The Burden of Procrastination – or is it Art?
‘Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin’ Victor Kiam
As I sit this morning looking out of the window at a dark sky on this mid summer’s morning, I find myself asking the same question I have been asking for the last three weeks – how do I get out of this feeling of ‘meh’-ness and putting off certain important tasks? Don’t get me wrong, I am still working, performing and delivering, but in the back of my mind, my particular genre of ‘pizzazz’ and vim & vigour has lost its fire.
As an executive coach, clients often talk to me about the loss of motivation, the hesitation, the vacillation, the delaying tactics for actually delivering on something major. I fully sympathise.
There are many kinds of procrastinators, here are some of them:
- Perfectionists – the thought of doing something is tough because the whole endeavour is overwhelming and getting it right is nigh-on impossible. And even if one does start it, it has to be perfect, if not, why bother?
- Fantasists – this is SO exciting but so is that, and that and that - and quite frankly, reality isn’t quite as invigorating. But it is also scary…!
- Overwhelmed – when it is ALL. JUST. TOO. MUCH
- Imposters – when you think it’s not your place to do this because you’re not qualified or experienced enough to do the job well
- Crisis-Thrivers – performers under pressure who produce best work armed with adrenaline rushes, mainlining caffeine into the early hours of the morning
- The Rebel – who finds it all pointless, dull, parochial and zzzzzzzz………
And the list goes on.
For me, most of the items listed are pertinent and nearly all six examples resonate, and possibly more, at different times. So here are some things I asked myself in a quiet moment and I encourage you to do the same:
- Are you worried about it? Should you be worried about it and why?
- What is really going on?
- Is there anything obvious creating a block? Can you do something about it?
- Is there anything less obvious creating a block? Can you do something about it?
- Do you want to do anything about it? Is it important to you?
- Is this a short-term thing? Or has it been for awhile?
- Is there anything you can think of or do to change your perception of the block or your objective, in order for you to move forward?
- Do you just need some time out?
Perhaps as you think about your answers, don’t be too rash in answering them, and try not to judge your answers. Interestingly enough, the more you do so, the more your procrastination may last. The theory being that you’re putting ‘the fear’ and walls up before starting the task, so more walls won’t work. (I feel that last phrase should be aimed at a very senior leader over the pond… I digress).
As the eternal rebel without a cause, I sometimes prefer leaving things to the last minute. Additionally, I am currently very unsettled by a very real and new challenge that I have to undertake. A frightening prospect, for it’s in an area in which I am very definitely weak. As such, I have decided to make hay while I procrastinate. So, having procrastinated about writing a regular blog for many years, I am now writing said blog, as I continue to procrastinate about the new challenge. Although this may seem ridiculous, I’m genuinely really pleased to finally be writing and sharing my thoughts with you (thanks Mum & Dad – I’m glad you’re still the only ones reading my writing!!). In addition, the blog writing will help warm me up for my new challenge – so that’s two birds maimed with one stone.
The oft quoted expression about life giving you lemons and one making lemonade really does apply here. Think creatively about your dilemma and block and perhaps one will not only have lemonade but sorbet, tea, cake, limoncello, a chemical free household cleaner etc etc etc but definitely not that horrid lemon flavoured Coke (see how my mind works – it’s all about exciting possibilities and opportunities…!). So rather than beat yourself up with self-flagellating quotes like the one I opened with, perhaps think about these instead.
‘Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you’. Hilary Mantel
‘My life is a monument to procrastination, to the art of putting things off till later, or much later, or possibly never’. Craig Brown
Clearly not all procrastination can so easily be dealt with. This introductory blog on the topic is just that. I will continue to explore this theme and others as I continue my de-procrastination exercise. Off to make some lemon posset now….
I look forward to hearing your constructive comments, observations and feedback!
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Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org