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A Sneaky Trick to Outwit Procrastination

Thursday, 17th November 2016

A Sneaky Trick to Outwit Procrastination 

Procrastination derives from the Latin word ‘cras’ which means tomorrow. The act of procrastination (i.e. delaying or postponing doing something) affects everyone at some point and blights the life of many people on an ongoing basis. 

If you live or work with someone who procrastinates, it can affect your life too. Procrastinators often leave important tasks until the last minute at which point, chaos and panic (which would have been unnecessary had they started earlier), usually ensue. 

Many people think that procrastinators are lazy. Not true, they often work very hard, but, unfortunately not on priority tasks. 

One theory is that procrastination is a form of anxiety based on fear of failure. In my experience, this is only half true, as I find that procrastinators fall into 2 broad categories: 

  • Ego procrastinators
  • Discomfort procrastinators 

Ego procrastinators have a self-confidence issue. They are anxious about not doing well and, in turn, being judged harshly. They crave certainty and the approval and recognition of others. Instead of using the present moment to achieve their goal, they waste perfectly good time worrying about the future. 

Discomfort procrastinators, don’t usually have an ego problem. Their big issue is that they don’t like things being difficult or challenging. They expect the world to fall into step with their life. They don’t take action because they’ve convinced themselves that it’s going to be too difficult. 

So, what’s all this got to do with ‘a sneaky trick to outwit procrastination’? 

I am a discomfort procrastinator. I don’t like things being difficult. 

A few years ago, I had the task of writing a 5,000 word assignment on psychodynamic psychology in hypnotherapy. There was a huge pile of weighty text books sitting on my desk, unopened. I did every job going - except start the assignment. And then a new task came along which involved me having to dig through through several years of my Mum’s (chaotic) financial records in order to prepare a detailed report for the county council. The 5,000 word assignment suddenly seemed a piece of cake by comparison. I threw myself into the work and, not only completed the assignment in good time I actually enjoyed doing it. 

A penny dropped. My theory was that procrastinators will by default, revert to the next hardest task. When working with procrastination clients now: 

  • I first establish whether they are discomfort or ego procrastinators
  • I then, as homework set them a slightly harder/more worrying task than the one they are deferring. 

It nearly always works. 

So, if you’re currently putting off an important job. Here’s what to do: 

Make an honest self-assessment of what’s preventing you from starting. Is it (a) doing the job badly and receiving unflattering judgement from others, or (b) having to leave your comfort zone and face a period of discomfort?

Next, set yourself a different, slightly harder/more worrying task. Make this new task SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based). 

Very quickly, the original job which you’ve been putting off will suddenly look very appealing.