Mastering the Art of Procrastination (Or Not!)
By Jennifer Seawell, MD, FAAP
Anyone else have an issue with procrastination? We have a running joke at my house that my youngest will procrastinate even with the stuff she WANTS to do in addition to her usual procrastination. A couple of weeks ago, she spent 2 hours deep cleaning the “kids bathroom” in order to avoid straightening her room. 2 hours of wiping down every nook and cranny. Of scrubbing and scouring. Hard labor.
This may lead you to question how bad her bedroom must have looked… Actually, it wasn’t bad. About 15 minutes of cleaning was all that room took. Picking up some dirty clothes and straightening up some toys. That’s it. Looking at myself this past couple of weeks, it’s not very hard to see where she gets it from.
We are in the part of the school year where THIS mom is TIRED. Signing folders, checking homework, 1 minute timed reads, endless texts from the middle school letting us know about tests and projects. After-school activities. A kid preparing for black belt testing. And work.
I have avoided writing this post for a full week now, haha. Do I enjoy writing? Yes. Did I have something else more important to do? Not really. Laundry day isn’t until Sunday. So I may have misnamed this post. Maybe Mastering the Art of Procrastination is not something that I’ve completely figured out yet. But I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one that struggles with this from time to time.
Why do we procrastinate?
There are endless reasons for why we procrastinate. But it all boils down to not being able to self-regulate. At my house, there are many things that will promote active procrastination… dirty dishes, clean (or dirty) laundry, weeds in the garden, a Words With Friends game, a beautifully warm and snuggly bed that is absolutely BEGGING to be climbed into…
However, many chronic procrastinators are influenced by more serious underlying motives that may need to be addressed before they can make headway into the habit of procrastination.
1. Fear of failure
Some procrastinators do so to avoid doing something that they are afraid they will not be able to do well. They are scared to fail and so would rather (sometimes unconsciously) just not try.
2. Adrenaline junkie
Some people procrastinate because they enjoy working with the high of the challenge. Term paper due in 2 hours…. Will I make it? Will I not? Challenge accepted! (This is definitely not me. Last minute deadlines do not improve my mental health.)
3. Just can’t make a decision
These folks just cannot decide what needs to be done next and commit. When given a list of stuff that needs to be done, they will hem and haw trying to decide which item needs their attention. Once they decide, they can get the job done. But decisions are tough.
What to do if you find yourself procrastinating.
So if you do find yourself procrastinating more than once in a blue moon, what can you do to help yourself stay on track?
If you know you have more than 1 thing that is going to need your attention, try a 2 minute brain dump. Get a pen and a piece of paper (or a notebook for my fellow list-making junkies) and spend 1-2 minutes writing down all the stuff that needs your attention.
Once you have your list made, set a timer for 2 minutes and quickly go thru and prioritize your list. Is something standing out that is the most pressing? Is there something on the list that you’ve already put off doing a couple of times? What about something that you’re particularly dreading? If something stands out from the questions above, consider putting that one up at the top. Especially if it is something you’ve been dreading or avoiding, it will be a giant relief to get that one done.
Set a timer for 25 minutes
Now that you’ve prioritized your list, set your timer for 25 minutes and devote that time to your number 1 item. Don’t worry about finishing it, don’t worry about getting it perfect. Just get it done. Or get it started at least. Sometimes the first step is the hardest.
Make a plan
If you find you are always running behind on a certain task, see how you can work it into a schedule that already works for you. Will it fit in with your existing morning or night routines? If it doesn’t fit into something already existing, make a new routine just for it. Pick a day and work that task into the weekly schedule.
The Pediatric Ninja
This article is the professional opinion of its author and is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from your personal physician.