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Procrastination 101

How procrastination derails your intentions to declutter.

Pixabay free image
Source: Pixabay free image

Do you procrastinate? Let’s look at what might be getting in the way of your desire to move forward. Procrastination is a behavior that protects people in some way and is greatly misunderstood.

There are two types of procrastination:

1. Adaptive

  • You have high standards.
  • You believe your performance meets your high standards.

2. Maladaptive

  • You believe being a high functioning perfectionist is an essential element of your identity and a basis for your self-esteem.
  • Your standards are too high.
  • You are often disappointed with yourself.
  • There's a gap between your standards and how you view your performance.
  • You are prone to self-criticism and more vulnerable to feeling depressed with low self-esteem.
  • You are excessively worried about making mistakes.

Getting From Maladaptive to Adaptive or "Good Enough"

Always strive for a healthy balance for your “A” game. Understand and accept that sometimes you will make mistakes. There will be bad days. Your performance will temporarily be affected.

Before you label yourself, let's do a brief assessment to demystify why procrastination may be your best choice under the circumstances.

Yes, procrastination is a choice. Some circumstances create an environment where even involuntarily making the choice to procrastinate may protect you from a result that would be even worse.

Procrastination has been given a bad rap. Traditionally, procrastination was viewed as a failure to do something — a negative life event. But best source research by experienced mental health professionals like Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen outline in their book, Procrastination: Why You Do It, and What to Do About It Now, suggests otherwise.

In a discussion with Burka for her radio show on Voice America, Elaine talked in-depth about how procrastination actually protects you from something that, for you, is even worse and scarier than having the label “procrastinator."

Because procrastination is such a common behavior in hoarding disorder, understanding what procrastination is and how to manage it is pivotal to achieving success. Are you procrastinating and having difficulty maintaining your initial enthusiasm to declutter, or are you taking other actions that you want/need more in your life than the mental, physical, and spatial clutter that surrounds you and weighs you down? Perhaps getting started is where you get blocked.

You may be like many of our readers who feel puzzled and defeated. They say that they know what to do to clean up, get organized, or finish that task, even if they don't hoard or live with undue clutter. But they just can't make themselves do it. Many people struggle with, and sometimes feel defeated by procrastination.

When we add busy lives into the mix where multitasking is our approach to everything, this can overwhelm us and sometimes bring us to a grinding halt. We can't possibly do everything that's expected of us. If we add in the things that we really want to do for our own happiness or benefit, it's just too much. Yet, we keep bumping our head on it and keep trying. We keep blaming ourselves and undermining our self-esteem and sense of competence.

Periodic procrastination can be disappointing and frustrating, but it really depends on the consequences we suffer that determine how much of a priority we make it to address this habit to resolve it. We suffer all kinds of consequences.

There are external consequences for procrastination, like penalties, interest rates, parking tickets, speeding tickets, or penalties when we don't submit our taxes on time. These penalties often threaten our relationship with both ourselves and those closest to us.

We also suffer internal consequences. Looking at all the undone tasks creates thoughts that race through our heads as we try to quiet ourselves for sleep. When we wake in the morning, there is a pit in our gut when we realize that yesterday’s issues still hang over us today. If you feel you're a failure because of procrastination, symptoms may include anxiety or insomnia. This leads to a loss of confidence, which is a fundamental cost. The more chaotic and widespread these consequences are, the more they create a self-fulfilling loop of further procrastination.

On the Voice America radio show, Burka reviewed the number-one cause of procrastination. There are other causes which we will investigate in future posts.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem tops the list. Most procrastination is related to problems with self-esteem. That's kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, however, because there's nothing like procrastination to undermine the confidence and self-esteem you once had.

People often misunderstand procrastination. They think it's a problem of time management, or a lack of willpower or motivation until they blame themselves and get mad at themselves and think of it as a weakness. It's actually a behavior that protects people in some way. While this seems contradictory to the consequences of procrastination, it really isn't. In some ways, it's more acceptable to feel that your problem is not getting to work on time, then to consider other psychological issues such as fear of failure, fear of success, or fear of feeling controlled.

We will talk about these fears in next week’s post.