When Procrastination is A Sign You Should Quit
That monkey on your back? It’s trying to tell you something important!
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” or so the saying goes.
Whenever we’re faced with a massive project, we know we should hack away in small steps. It’s easier to get things done now than it is to wait for the deadline.
But sometimes we become so overwhelmed and push everything at the last minute. When the tasks begin to mount, we’re left with the real elephant in the room: procrastination.
At one point or another, even the most productive people have procrastinated. Everyone does it, yet the shame and guilt experienced often isolates people. When a task isn’t completed, it’s easy to imagine how we could have done better.
We’re plagued with the idea that we’re the only ones falling behind. Instead of openly expressing it, we tend to keep these thoughts to ourselves.
Willpower as the band-aid solution
During a Ted talk, Tim Urban shows how a procrastinator’s brain is run by an instant gratification monkey. As the deadline looms, a panic monster scares away the monkey allowing the mind to make rational decisions again. Fear is often the main driving force.
But what happens when there is no panic monster?
People force their willpower, but eventually, they still fail. They stretch their limits and wear themselves thin.
Full speed ahead with a broken compass
Procrastinators rarely do nothing. They’re busy sharpening pencils, tinkering with objects, cleaning the room and a list of other things. Ironically, some of you may even be reading this article instead of doing work. It seems anyone can be productive for as long as it’s not what they’re supposed to be doing right now.
We’re willing to do things we normally despise to avoid dealing with something worse. This is the very reason why willpower alone isn’t enough.
Procrastinators aren’t necessarily lazy. They have boundless energy to accomplish things but with no sense of direction.
Falling behind can propel you forwards.
At its core, procrastination is a symptom of growth.
According to Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, people always procrastinate for intelligent reasons. We often put things off when we’re uncertain. Procrastination is our mind’s way of recognizing new challenges.
If we look deeper, we find we’re just avoiding the issue because it forces us to grow. In order to succeed, we need to learn new things or develop our skills, and this isn’t the easiest thing to do.
We’re often afraid of failing and letting others down. All these expectations weigh us down and paralyze us.
Practice positive procrastination.
Quit fighting the urge to procrastinate. Instead, use it as a tool to assess yourself and your situation. Why is this uncomfortable? Why do you feel incapable? How can you face this challenge with courage? Dig deep, and target the root of the issue. Then focus on the payoff you get once the job is done.
When used correctly, it can be a valuable resource signalling whenever you undergo change.
Procrastination isn’t a sign that your energy is wasted. Rather, it’s a sign that it’s being blocked. The moment you take the bull by the horns you can get things done faster. If you let it work for you, it can reveal the most important things you need to prioritize. It’s an opportunity to plan ahead, strategize, and work with other people’s strengths.
“The only way to truly stop procrastination,” Dan Sullivan notes, “is to stop having any personal ambition of a bigger and better future.”
For as long as you envision positive outcomes, you are always going to be challenged to grow and tempted to procrastinate.
The good news is you can use it to your advantage.