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Procrastination is making me wait - 6 steps to move forward

[ Jan 7, 2016 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]

So here we are again - another January -  the top of a new year shiny with possibilities - time to press our reset button. 

So what did you sign up for as the old year slipped into history?  Losing those extra ten pounds; going to the gym three times a week; walking that 10,000 steps, developing a budget?  Are you solidly on your way, or will you be resurrecting last year's resolutions? 

We juggle an enormous amount of things and get a lot done in the natural course of events.  Typically we turn our attention and energy to the most important things while the shiftable things dance in the background waiting to rise to the surface of our to do list.  Not problem, right?

But when you see yourself dilly-dally, shilly-shally, delay and defer, what do you say about that?  Are you happy to go about your business, knowing that you'll get to it when you get to it?  Or, do feelings of frustration cause you to shove that to do list under the rug.  Later, I'll think about it later.

Why do we procrastinate and how do we stop?  If you're loitering in the procrastination zone more than you'd like, consider this. There is nothing wrong with procrastinating.  But if you'd like to be more effective in getting things done, the sooner you move on, the better off you'll be. And the happier you'll feel.

Here are some helpful steps to help you on your way.

Step One: Understand what you mean by procrastination.

We have things we want to do. We do some of them and not others.  And then we do the other things or we don't. That's life. No problem. Do we say we're procrastinating?  Not yet.  The feeling of procrastination comes when we say something like the following – "I'd really like to be doing that but I'm not."

For example, "I'd really like to go the gym, but I just never get around to it."  Or, "I feel bad that I never get to the gym."  Or we may just find ourselves being angry, frustrated, or guilty about not doing the things we say we want to do.

Procrastination can be an endless cycle of making and breaking promises to ourselves if we don't examine what we really think and feel.  What are we really saying about ourselves when we say we are not doing what we want? Is such a thing really possible or does it just seem that way?

Step Two: Tell the simple truth.  So here it is – another Saturday morning. You're thinking about going to the gym, but you catch up on your social networking instead. By noon, you've had a very productive morning posting your vacation video, answering all those friend requests, adding to your blog, but you've got this nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. Oh, right, the gym.  But it's late morning now and the dog still has to be walked; the laundry is waiting; and there's that lunch date with your parents. What do you tell yourself? And how do you feel about it?

Anything other than the simple truth is going to cause a problem. What is the simple truth? You thought about going to the gym, but other things were more important. What do you want to do now? Is the gym important and how will you fit it in? Thinking this way opens up countless possibilities.  Call a friend and make an arrangement to go together later. Shift lunch to an hour later. Let the laundry wait.

Things get considerably more complicated when we don't say the truth.  Is it really true that we actually wanted to go the gym but didn't go?  How is this possible?  Did someone break into our house and tie us to the chair?  Did the gym close its doors just as we drove up? Were we hijacked as we got into our car?

Of course not. But when we say we wanted to go but didn't, we are acting as if something prevented us.  That something, of course, is ourselves, but we aren't owning up to that.  "Yes," you may say, "I know it's me, but it's not really me.  It's the other me – the one that hides out and sabotages my desires."

By believing we don't do what we want, that we are against our desires, we create an inner conflict - a war of the selves that doesn't have to be fought. You will never have this war if you tell the simple truth.

Step Three. Understand your desires.  Sometimes the things we say we want to do are really a kind of code for something else. For example: I tell myself I'd love to go to the gym three times a week, but I never seem to go. Why aren't I going?  It may very well be that I really don't like my neighborhood gym. Perhaps I'd rather find another place to work out.  Or maybe I don't want to go to a gym at all. I'd rather take a Pilates class, run the track, walk a few miles, work out at home, do yoga.

By saying that I want to go to the gym, what I really meant was that I want to get in shape.  If I didn't chastise myself for procrastinating, I can see more clearly exactly what it is I wanted to do – and go after it.

Step Four: Isolate the "buts."  Supposed you really do want to go to the gym, but have fears or discomfort about some aspect of it.  For example, "I'd love to go to the gym, but ... I feel uncomfortable next to all those twenty-year olds.  I'm afraid I'll hurt myself.  I don't know what to do there.  I don't like the way I feel there."

Allow yourself to be in touch with all your reservations.  Find out exactly how you feel about them and why.  For example, "I'm afraid I'll hurt myself."  Find out exactly what that means. How exactly do you imagine that you would hurt yourself?  Why would you be afraid of that? What if you weren't afraid? Are you using fear to get yourself to do something? What might that be?

Step Five: Look at how you are expressing desires.  Have you ever noticed that you are more apt to take action when you use words like, "I'd love to, I'm looking forward to, I'm planning to, I will do."  When we talk about our desires this way, do we ever let anything stand in our way?  When we love what we want, we move forward effortlessly and happily.

On the other hand, what often happens when you say, "I should, I really must, or I'm supposed to?" Are these action words?  Not typically.  Words like "should, supposed to, must" push our desires away from us as if they belonged to someone else.  If you hear yourself expressing your desires this way, it's a perfect opportunity to take ownership of what you really want.

You may find that the things you say you should be doing are not really what you want at all. Is that okay with you?  If not, why not?  If you can be honest about this, you can free to move on to what you would really love to do.

Step Six.  And this is the most important one.  Realize that everything you want is a choice on your part.  If it doesn't feel like it, ask yourself, Whose choice is it, if not my own?  If you feel that your choices are ordained by what others want, take a look at that.  If you agree with the choice, then it is your choice, not theirs.  If you don't agree, can you allow yourself the freedom to move on?  If not, why not?

Compassion is the bottom line in The Option Method. That’s the absolute requirement and if you…

Compassion is the bottom line in The Option Method. That’s the absolute requirement and if you ever want to learn to do it for yourself, you’ve got to be at least as nice to you as you would be to others. You’ve got to know when you’re ready to deal with something and when you’re not. And you’ve got to know when you don’t want to question your unhappiness and when you’d be glad to. When you get unhappy enough you’ll be glad to.

[ Bruce Di Marsico ]