Stop Procrastinating and Make More Progress

Well hello there fellow procrastinator. It’s nice to see you here. I’m not sure what it is your procrastinating from—dishes piling up in your sink, reports you were supposed to have filed by the end of the day, bills you’ve been putting off all week—but whatever it is, welcome.

As for me, I’m supposed to be editing, and instead I’m writing this blog post.

I’m so glad we could meet under these conditions. We understand each other, you and me.

Someone told me once: procrastination is about fear.

At first, that didn’t really ring true to me. In fact, I thought, “nah, for me, it’s really just about being lazy.” When I’m supposed to be doing something hard—like writing a book or cleaning my bathroom (okay, that’s not hard, just disgusting) or finishing an editing assignment—I want to do something easier.

Suddenly I realize I’m ravenously hungry, or I need some “inspiration” from Twitter, or shoot, my headphones are in the car and, oh yeah, I was going to order that one book…

But then, more recently, I started wondering:

What is it we don’t like about hard tasks?

We like the completion of them. We like the finishing point. We love the feeling of finishing a long run or losing 10 pounds or writing a book. We just don’t like the process, necessarily—the feeling of being hungry, or logging the miles, or getting the words down on paper.

Is it possible there’s a little fear of that process?

I was thinking about this the other day when I went for a jog for the first time in months. Well, actually, “went for a jog” is a tiny bit generous. What I basically mean is I put the stretchy clothes on, as if I was going to go for a jog, but then I piddled around my house for 30 minutes, finding a dozen other things to do.

I asked myself, on several occasions, “Why am I not walking out the door right now?” and I could think of a dozen perfectly logical excuses.

“Well, these dishes aren’t going to do themselves!” or “I’ll go after the laundry is done,” or “I really shouldn’t run on an empty stomach,” or “I’ll just wait until it warms up a little.” But the longer I procrastinated, the more I realized, I wasn’t avoiding the task itself so much as I was avoiding the pain or sacrifice it was going to take to complete it.

And I wonder if this is really what we’re doing when we’re procrastinating

Perhaps, for example, there is a task you’re supposed to be doing right now (no pressure).

Maybe it’s going on a run, or making a phone call, or writing a college paper. Chances are, the task feels difficult for you. My guess is you’re putting it off not because you’re lazy, but because you’re a little afraid of the pain associated with it.

But it wasn’t until I avoided my run all day the other day that I realized: You can’t avoid the pain by putting it off.

In fact, we actually prolong the pain when we don’t stop procrastinating. We take a task that should have taken 30 minutes (like a quick run), and spread it out over the course of an entire day. A task that should have taken 10 minutes (having a hard conversation with a friend) suddenly takes weeks to address.

Procrastinating a task doesn’t protect us from any pain. It doesn’t save us at all. It’s completely illogical and nonsensical.

Maybe—just maybe—if we think of it this way, we can stop doing it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order something on Amazon I’ll never use, pin some recipes on Pinterest I’ll never make, spend 10 minutes considering a Tweet I’ll never send, and then get back to my editing project.

I’m pretty sure you have some procrastinating to do as well.

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

17 thoughts on “Stop Procrastinating and Make More Progress”

  1. Allison, I think you’re on to something here. I have read the books about procrastination, and about how its fear driven, but yet the things I procrastinate aren’t things I’m afraid to do. But when you said that perhaps its the fear of the feelings that go with it, I had to pause and think, and I realized that is probably the real culprit for me as well. I have gotten better about doing the hard things that I don’t like to do first, but still procrastinate some very easy tasks. Whether that be mundane filing tasks, or balancing my checkbook, they are tasks that take time, time I feel would be better spent pinning those recipes or checking Facebook friend’s activities.

    So thank you for the insight. I’m going to start analyzing which feelings are associated with what I’m putting off.

  2. Got this in my inbox this a.m. I’m a type “A” Procrastinator, thought to myself, “I ought to read this right now”, but then figured, “naw, I’ll get to it later.” Great article, valid points. Thanks for posting.

  3. I know that there are things I put off doing that are easy to do when someone else is around. Like dishes.

    A guy I was dating said he had a hard time with my “inability to keep on top of the kitchen” and I countered with “maybe if you were here more often, you’d see how productive I can be.” Needless to say, that went nowhere fast.

    Sigh… guess I should just do the dishes.

  4. I used to be a procastinator, always putting off things until the very last minutes. Things starting to change after i have one child, second child and going back to work full time. Now, i cant afford to delay supposedly done work – they will get out of control and i will feel double miserable and a complete failure. To me, its the urgency of the work and only having certain alloted time to finish it that changes how i do things. Like when you have only limited amount of money, you will think more thoroughly how to spend it compare to when you have unlimited resource. Doesnt mean to put pressure on you though, just a thought to share. Btw, i really enjoy reading your blogs! Keep up the good work :).

  5. this is the real truth of the matter! “I wasn’t avoiding the task itself so much as I was avoiding the pain or sacrifice it was going to take to complete it.” And who doesn’t want to avoid pain?

  6. I love your comments on this, especially the fact that procrastination actually prolongs our struggles and frustration. Oh, how many countless times I have lamented this very problem, yet continued to put off those annoying, tedious, uncomfortable, or just plain boring tasks!

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