Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Work out what's holding you back and conquer procrastination.

Procrastination is the thief of time” (Edward Yong) . By the time you have wasted time not doing whatever it is you need to do, you probably could have done it. As Britain hovers on the edge of the Brexit decision, I can't help but wonder how many people are mirroring this behaviour: Non-committal, dragging one's feet and fairly apathetic. However, what is interesting is why you haven’t settled down to just “get on with it”. We all know Teresa May is a remainer at heart, so of course she's procrastinating in something she is not invested in and will ultimately cost her her job. Now and again we all avoid getting on with tasks because we don’t like them, or they’re difficult or they’re time consuming. However if these are regular chores that come up time and time again or part of our everyday job or existence, we are going to have to address what it is that is holding us up.

Procrastination can be a good indicator that you are on the wrong path. If time and time again you find yourself avoiding a task, you need to ask yourself what it is that you are really avoiding? Sometimes we avoid doing things that we are afraid we will get wrong or be no good at. This is a normal fear but one that needs addressing. What’s the worst that could happen? Is it better to stay safe, never trying anything new, never extending your skills and experiences? Or is it better to give things a go, ask for help if you need it and see mistakes and failures as information towards a more successful, future attempt? Sometimes we keep avoiding a task or confrontation because we are not really invested in it. This can be true of your job, a relationship or any situation where you find yourself circling the issue.

Delaying or prevaricating is our way of avoiding committing ourselves to things we may have doubts about. So if you are a serial avoider you need to ask yourself if you are in the right job or relationship. Are you doing the right course at college? Have you over-committed yourself? Are you doing things that others want you to but that you feel reluctant about? Working out why we are avoiding certain tasks or commitments allows us to see whether we need to abandon them altogether and put our energy elsewhere or persevere.

Take note of when you feel reluctant as sometimes the issue is choice. It can be a “flip back” to Child, where we were made to do things we didn’t want to and we now have an inbuilt resistance to being coerced. If you feel your resistance is irrational but persistent then I would suggest that you ask yourself “Does this make sense?” This is an Adult question that cuts through the Child prevarication and resistance and bring you into the here and now. Sometimes although we don’t want to do something or we feel a resistance then checking out whether it is sensible and will benefit us, enables us to get on with the task.

For instance if, as a child, you were always made to take out the rubbish then you may have an inbuilt resistance to doing this now. However if you live alone and your rubbish bin is overflowing then in order to avoid a health hazard it will make sense to take your rubbish out regularly. However if you are in a house share it would be worth swapping a task you loathe (and often fail to do) for one you don’t mind and can complete competently.

Procrastination breeds procrastination. Try not to indulge in it. Instead work out where your resistance comes from and address it in the most practical and Adult way you can. Work out what is the worst that could happen and then deal with that and move on; give it up, change direction or get on with it - the choice is yours. In this way, you will free up a lot of time to do more pleasurable activities and find yourself with a lot more energy to pursue things you truly enjoy.

More from Atalanta Beaumont
More from Psychology Today