What if we start looking at procrastination differently, not as “the non-action of needlessly postponing or delaying the action of DOING something important” but rather as a sign that there is something not quite right, that a need of ours is not being met. Instead of chastising ourselves for not doing something, we could notice that we are procrastinating and stop. Stop whatever we are doing – the thing that isn’t as important as the Important Task we are avoiding – and ask ourselves what is going on. In my case, the Important Task is doing the reading for a class. I should be doing this today. The class is tomorrow. It would be horrible if I were not prepared (see #4). Why am I not doing the reading, though? It is not interesting to me. Why am I doing unimportant things, like checking email and Facebook? Instead of doing something meaningful to myself, I procrastinate because these little tasks don’t require that I admit there is a problem. I am not allowing myself the freedom to say, “I am not doing the reading. I will do something that is important to me.” Saying that would question that the Important Task really is important. It might be important in someone else’s scheme but to me it’s one big should. So, rather than admitting that I’d rather be reading something else, I don’t do anything; I procrastinate.
So, why do we procrastinate? Because the Important Task is meaningless to us and because we lack the courage to admit that! It takes courage to admit that something that is deemed Important isn’t really that important to us – it is, in a sense, questioning authority. Part of being a good student is to prepare for a class even if something is not interesting to me. It is very scary to me to admit this and even more scary to post it here! Instead of facing the fear, then, I come up with all this other stuff – avoiding both the Important Task and taking responsibility for not doing it.
One of the things I am working on this month – an important task for me! – is authenticity and vulnerability:
Even when I feel scared and unsure of myself, I want to share the truth that lives in me with others while maintaining care and compassion for others and for myself. If I find myself hiding or protecting, I want to seek support to embrace the opportunity to expand my sense of self and transcend shame.
What is authentic for me right now are several things: I would rather read Brené Brown’s book than Aristotle. Brown’s book is relevant to my life journey right now. And then there is a huge amount of fear! Admitting what is important to me, accepting it, and choosing based on this realization exposes me. I am not being the good student. I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am lazy, rebellious, irresponsible, immature. No wonder I procrastinate rather than face those judgments! I feel a lot of shame about not finding the Important Task important. Who am I questioning its importance? Am I willing to make myself vulnerable and face potential consequences of choosing what I want to read? Sorry to repeat myself but it feels very scary to me! Such choices are generally not welcomed, not accepted. As a student you don’t chose what to read, you read what’s on the syllabus. And then I notice that I am stretching this blog post – ah, yes, more procrastination! I am avoiding making the choice, avoiding being authentic, avoiding being willing to face the consequences of that authenticity. It’s time for some deep breaths, some courage, and a choice.
Addendum about 45 minutes after original posting: I have decided to do an experiment. I am choosing to read Brené Brown and see what happens, watch what comes up. This experiment very much goes along with what she is writing about, which helps somewhat…