Well, it's been a while since I've posted. So, I thought it would be timely to write about procrastination! Procrastination is defined as delaying priority tasks for activities that are of less importance. Many people struggle with procrastination at times, and I am obviously one of them. There are conflicting views on what precipitates procrastination, so I’ve decided to dissect some of them.
An article in Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/procrastination-ten-things-know) explains procrastination as a problem with self-regulation. They explain there are three main types of procrastinators. First are the thrill seekers who find excitement in waiting to complete a task at the last minute. Second, the avoidant type of procrastinator puts off tasks due to a fear of failure or fear of disappointing others. Finally, the third type of procrastinator is one who is afraid to make decisions, which absolves them of the responsibility of the outcomes. The Psychology Today article ends by stating that procrastination is very difficult to change and takes a great deal of effort using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
After reading the Psychology Today article, I was discouraged. It confirmed my self-judgment and negative self-talk. Procrastination is the dirty little secret I have been constantly trying to remedy. After every all-nighter in school, I would promise to myself the next assignment would be different. This self-deception would give me hope, but would also instill mild anxiety (as I knew on a deeper level that I was deceiving myself).
While researching this topic of procrastination, I came upon a website that validates and normalizes my propensity to put-off. The site is called Structured Procrastination (http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/). The author (John Perry) explains that a procrastinator can harness this seemingly negative tendency to be incredibly productive and successful. I was amazed to find that I have been a “structured procrastinator” my entire life! Perry embraces his procrastination in a complex matrix of self-deception and list making. He outlines this process eloquently:
“Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”
I end this post with relief that I have finally completed a “top of the list task”. As a counsellor I am constantly challenging people on their negative self-talk, and inviting clients to harness their strengths and embrace their “flaws”. If we can embrace structured procrastination, what other shortcomings can be used to our advantage?