Thursday, March 31, 2011

What sore place is hiding under your procrastination?

We all procrastinate sometimes. Often, it doesn't mean anything except that we have something more fun to do than the chore we are putting off. But if there's an area where the only thing consistent about your performance is procrastination, then procrastination can hurt. It can hurt you, and it can hurt the people who are counting on you to get the job done.

When procrastination hurts, it is because it is covering something else that hurts more. As long as you procrastinate, you are protecting some part of you that is sore and raw and vulnerable. You do this at a price, a price to your self respect (because you beat yourself up over not getting stuff done) and a practical price when there are consequences to procrastinating.

Sore spots hurt. Sometimes they hurt more before they get better. People often endure surgery to end chronic pain even though they know that the immediate result of surgery is more pain. But no one does surgery on himself or herself willingly. They find someone with expertise and precision to identify the source of their pain and fix it.

That's harder to do when the source of the pain isn't physical. We don't know who to trust to identify the sore spots, much less to fix them. That doesn't mean we have to do it all alone. It does mean we need to be cautious about how we move ahead. That's often the source of our procrastination. We are still looking for help to heal the sore spots.

Many people advocate taking just one tiny step toward getting the job done. That's great if it works for you and it doesn't take much to try it. Try one tiny step.

But. You may have taken one tiny step and found yourself stuck again. You probably said a lot of not very nice things to yourself and made a lot of promises and threats (to yourself) to get to the next tiny step. If you've taken a step and it hasn't helped, maybe it's not the kind of problem you can solve in that increment. Medicine only works in the correct dosage.

If you're still procrastinating, begin by knowing you're not alone and you're not making mistakes. You are protecting a very sore spot while you find the right combination of nerve and help to make it better. And while a very little change won't always help, a very small amount of courage can go a very long way.

So don't ask yourself how you can get started on that project you're putting off. Ask yourself where in your life are there people who make you feel strong enough and brave enough to fix the real problem.

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