Procrastination: It's Not a Matter of Time

January 24, 2017

 

"We have to recognize that procrastination is not a time management problem, it's an emotion regulation problem."
~ Tim Pychyl

 

First, do yourself a favor and listen to THIS INTERVIEW of psychology professor Tim Pychyl (It's just under 7 minutes. Take a coffee break.), and then get back to reading this brief post. 

 

If you are not someone who struggles with procrastination, congratulations. If you are like me, however, there always seems to be a list of things you just can't bring yourself to get around to. You tell yourself you'll do it tomorrow, because tomorrow, magically, you will "feel like it" or you will have time or the stars will otherwise align.

 

But tomorrow, despite your hopes, feels a lot like today. And the tasks remain undone. 

 

In our office, it is not uncommon to talk with people who have intended to do their estate plans for years. Each year saying, "This is the one. This will be the year we finally get this done." And the reasons for not getting around to it are always the same - we got busy, not enough time, things came up, etc, etc, etc. 

 

What we are learning about ourselves, however, is that we procrastinate not because we run out of time but because we are afraid to face certain tasks. Sometimes that fear is rational, and sometimes it is irrational. Doesn't matter. For whatever reason, that item on the to-do list that never seems to get done is the source of significant anxiety, worry, frustration, or guilt. It's almost never just a matter of time.

 

The reality is that people rarely put off their estate planning because of time or money. Instead, it's because they hate talking about things like disability, death, family problems, and money.

 

For some, it's the fear that talking about these things makes them real. For others, it's because they want to keep these things private and the idea of discussing them with a stranger - an attorney, no less - makes them break out in hives. Regardless, time is not the issue. 

 

So how do you push through procrastination and face your fears? Well, there are many different methods, but I'll share a couple that might help:

 

1. Recognize that there is nothing magical about tomorrow.

If you don't feel like it today, you're probably not going to feel like it tomorrow. But that's not the point. You don't wait to do the right thing until you feel like it.

 

If it's not convenient today, it's probably not going to be convenient tomorrow. Again, that's not the point. We create time and space for priorities, rather than waiting on circumstance to create time and space for us. 

 

The only thing that is going to make the anxiety and guilt go away is getting started on the task. That's right - getting started. You don't even have to finish in order to make the fear go away. Which brings us to the next thing you can do.

 

2. Break the big, intimidating task into small, uncomplicated parts.

Just do the next right thing. You don't have to save the world. You don't have to fix your family. You don't have to have a million dollars. You just have to do the next right thing.

 

You may not be ready to discuss family problems or death, but you can put a Power of Attorney in place. You may not be ready to create a complex trust, but you can start talking about how to make things simple on your family if the worst happens to you. 

 

You can do the next right thing. Simple steps in the right direction. You'll be amazed how quickly the rest of the task can be accomplished if you'll just get started. 

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