Overcoming My Tendency to Procrastinate

Image of a sprinkler head watering a lawn

OK, I admit it, I am a procrastinator. It feels so alluring to put things off to a time when it will be much better to address them. I will have more time, be in a better mode, fill in the blanks. Is this familiar? Moving into our new house has given me plenty of opportunities to procrastinate. I have a myriad of things to do, almost all can be delayed without serious consequences. Rather than accept my tendency to procrastinate, I’ve decided to challenge it and here is what I am learning.

Set a Long Term Goal

For whatever reason, having a goal helps me. It feels good to see the path from where I am now to the future I want to create. Here’s the surprising thing. Giving myself plenty of time to achieve that goal eases my anxiety and encourages me to get started. I would have assumed a more aggressive goal would have encouraged more action but for me it has been the opposite.

Make a Start with a no-excuses deadline

I had a work assignment that wasn’t time critical but needed to get done. I wasn’t excited about it, but I didn’t want to let down my colleagues. I could feel a growing desire to procrastinate. Scheduling a no excuses deadline got me started and once I got into it, the time flew by. It took me twice as long as expected to complete it, but it was done and I was happy. Once I started, my feelings of hesitation disappeared.

Take it one small bit at a time

This is my biggest ah ha. I have been installing a new garden sprinkler system. It has been a lot of work. I’ve never done this before and I had a lot of self-doubt. Was it really going to work? Would I get to the end, turn it on and find out it didn’t work? I sense some of my procrastination was grounded in this fear. By putting things off I could avoid the eventual risk.

Interestingly, the thing I delayed the most was the final wiring of the system. After all, this would truly determine if the system works. It also involved wiring lots of cables together; tedious work and not my forte. I set aside a whole day and decided to plod along one wire at a time. Not looking ahead and getting despondent. One by one until all were complete. What did I learn? Once I got started and learned how to do it, it wasn’t too bad. And it got done much quicker than I expected.

The most surprising thing, my new irrigation system works!

Comments (2)

Well done, Andy.
I wonder if one aspect of the procrastination you’ve been exploring here is tied to the need to learn, that is a situation in which not knowing if it will work is more present than usual. In a way, it’s not being acquainted with the process that might be the challenge and make things feel overwhelming (if that was involved).

And looking at your long-term goal, what type of goal did you choose? Was it one of purpose or more of a SMART goal? I’m wondering as purpose goals don’t need to know the timing and usually have a more qualitative assessment.

Thank you Françoise. It may be learning but not knowing comes to mind. Lacking any experience of success definitely increases my fear of failure. Good question about goals, I see it as a combination of both purpose and SMART.

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