Amy (age 23) had worked as a truck stop waitress since high school graduation. Her true desire was to pursue a degree in nursing at the local college. But each time the semester rolled around and it was time to register, one thing or another would get in her way. First, it was her obligation to pay rent over tuition. The next time, she forgot and missed the registration deadline. Then, she was too busy working to pay bills and couldn’t possibly fit school into her schedule. Each time, a different excuse.
Does any part of Amy’s story resonate with you? Do you miss deadlines? Have you been putting off something important? It’s almost Christmas. Have you delayed putting up your decorations up?
Well, you may not be alone. According to two associate professors of psychology, Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D. at De Paul University, Chicago and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D. at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, approximately 20% of our population are self-recognized chronic procrastinators; people who can’t get things done on time, who are consistently late, or who put things off instead of doing them.
Here’s a consideration for you… Being a chronic procrastinator may not be your fault. (Isn’t that good news?) Psychologists have also determined that chronic procrastination may be due to your family upbringing. They suggest that individuals who had overbearing parent while growing up may develop into procrastinators. In childhood, procrastination may have been a form of rebellion and self-control in response to an authority figure.
As both a professional and personal coach, I’ve worked with a number of clients regarding their issues of procrastination. What I found, is that no matter the area of procrastination, there was always a backstory that created it. There is always a reason for the pattern of avoidance, though the reasons vary from person to person. An overbearing parent is not always to blame. Delaying action can be based on the factors relating to past experiences, upbringing, beliefs about themselves and others, or their own self-talk.
For those individuals committed to getting beyond their habits of procrastination, we were able to uncover and diffuse the core issue that originally created procrastination. As a result, they were able to start to take action toward their goals more easily, and recognize procrastination when it appeared again.
When you recognize that you are wrestling with procrastination, stop to take a look internally. Ask yourself, what is the internal conversation about the task I’m trying to avoid? What is the self-talk saying about me and my preparedness or my ability to do the task at hand? What emotions come up in me when I imagine myself doing the task? Do I have questions about where to start or what it will look like when I’m finished? Is there a safety issue? Do I feel safe enough to take the necessary steps to move forward?
Identifying the answers to these questions will assist you in taking the required steps to get beyond procrastination.
If Amy’s story resonated with you, and you’ve identified your issues, but need some help working through them; be sure to read the next installment of my blog.