Uncover Procrastination Thinking That Drives Procrastination

Power down procrastination thinking and power up your productive abilities.

Posted Jun 11, 2010

Procrastination thinking is like an octopus with similar but separate tentacles that can grab and bind its victims. You tell yourself later is better, thereby discounting the consequences of delaying. You tell yourself that the task is too tough, thereby excusing yourself from doing. You tell yourself you'll get to it, but after you've read Encyclopedia Britannica first, then put off the reading. These tentacles all lead back to the procrastination octopus.

When procrastination thinking is habitual and automatic, how do you avoid the tentacles? Here is a two-stage awareness and action technique:

1. By thinking about your thinking (the metacognitive way) you can see how procrastination thinking gets in the way of productive actions. Educating yourself about procrastination thinking speeds this awareness process.

2. By taking on what you feel tempted to put off, you can tune into task-blocking emotions and thinking. The corrective actions that you take may lead to can do thinking.

Free yourself from the tentacles of procrastination thinking by addressing three common entanglements: classic procrastination thinking, Wheedler thinking, and distancing yourself from facing your problems with lame procrastination jokes.

Classic Procrastination Thinking

You have an unavoidable but difficult decision to make that you don't want to make.  You decide that you need to let the situation simmer for a while. You'll think about it later. Following this tomorrow or mañana line of thinking, you sidetrack yourself into "safer" or more pleasure activities. Mary Todd Lincoln understood this thinking and expressed it in this phrase: "My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'till a more convenient season."

Contingency mañana thinking adds another complication. You're tired of waiting until the last minute to get started and meet deadlines. You decide to stop procrastinating. You tell yourself that you need to read up on procrastination first. So, you buy books on how to end procrastination, and wait to feel inspired before you use your newly acquired scholarly knowledge. Waiting for inspiration is a form of contingency mañana thinking.

What can you do to throw off these two tentacles?  (1) When you feel tempted to procrastinate, boost your awareness of procrastination thinking by recording what you're thinking in a procrastination log. Ask yourself "Where does this thinking get me?" If you don't like the result, try a different way. (2)  How does setting a mañana contingency for action help get things done? By asking and truthfully answering these questions, you help power down your procrastination impulses. 

Beat the Wheedler

Wheedling involves using guile and flattery to persuade. Your inner Wheedler is a con-artist with many tricks up its sleeve. Upon learning that combatting procrastination takes work, you may hear an angry and defiant Wheedler: "Screw this BS. I'm not going to do it." A Wheedler whines: "Oh, life should be convenient and easy. It's awful when it's not." Abraham Low, the founder of Recovery Inc., described this boomerang effect: "It is the anticipation of discomfort and nothing else that causes the apprehension." Discomfort dodging is a common motive for procrastination.

The Wheedler lacks foresight. Larry tells himself: "I'll be good forever after this one last ice-cream and pizza feast." Later he repeats the same pattern. Chalk up another victory for the Wheedler.

How do you beat the Wheedler? Well, you don't escape human nature. But you can strengthen your reasoning by combatting Wheedler thinking and building reasoning through this process. 

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky offers an alternative: "Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self of the chains that shackle the spirit."

Stop Distancing Yourself with Lame Procrastination Jokes

It's easier to joke about procrastination than to take procrastination antidotes seriously. How do you tell when procrastination joke is a sign of good humor or reflects a resistance to change? The answer is simple. You can tell by the results. When jokes detract from addressing performance anxieties, aversion for inconvenience, or other preludes to procrastination these results suggests that you are engaging in defensive joking to distance themselves from their problems.

Procrastination jokes, such as "I'll read this procrastination book later", can echo a feeling of helplessness. Helplessness thinking muddles positive changes.

You can unravel this tentacle. Here are a few questions to start you on your way: Do you downplay procrastination by defensive joking (i.e., "I've put off filing my taxes but don't I get credit for applying for an extension, ha, ha, ha.") If so, ask: "Where do these junk jokes lead?" (3) If you don't like the results, can you knock off the lame joking and force yourself to take corrective actions?

If you want to know more about how to recognize and combat  procrastination thinking, see:

The Procrastination Workbook and End Procrastination Now


                                                   All rights reserved

                                                      Dr. Bill Knaus

Author of 5 books on procrastination, including the original psychology self-help books on this topic.

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