Why you procrastinate

Have you ever considered the purpose of procrastination?

TO AVOID DISCOMFORT.


The discomfort of starting something new or finishing something difficult, the discomfort of being a perfectionist who might not be able to do the thing perfectly, the discomfort of working on an undertaking that elicits some level of stress.

But there's often a bit of a fight against procrastination. We do it and we self-flagellate at the same time. We know it's not serving us to procrastinate...and yet, we can't seem to stop ourselves from avoiding the discomfort that we know the work will entail.

What I propose to you is to bring some awareness into the picture.

Instead of procrastinating blindly, thoughtlessly... And instead of railing against your procrastination—fighting it, obsessing over it, trying to force your way through it...

Shine a light on your procrastination. Focus your awareness on the why of it. Examine it—as well as your perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions about it—without judgment.

When you notice yourself picking up a novel to read instead of researching that grant that could finance your painting career for a full year, do just that: Notice it.

When you keep telling yourself you'll begin writing your website copy just as soon as you've cleared out your email inbox (but you haven't yet put down that novel in order to tend to the email, let alone the web copy): Pay attention to yourself.

This awareness will become habitual, inserting itself earlier and earlier into the chronology of events, so that you'll start to observe yourself as you're following the distractions and avoidances, not just after the fact. Then, you can introduce some gentle inquiry to your procrastination-in-progress:

“Why am I avoiding this thing?”

“Where is there discomfort for me in this undertaking?”

“Am I sure there's discomfort, or might it be just that I'm fearing possible discomfort?”

And that's it. No cajoling or strong-arming necessary. This focused awareness is enough.

I’d love to know if this lands for you; leave a comment below and tell me!