Procrastination is Only the Mask
Over the past few months, I have realized something about me as it pertains to procrastination: most of it is driven by a fear or an emotional trigger of some sort. I don’t meant the procrastination in which I put off doing the dishes or feel too tired to clean in that particular moment. I mean the procrastination that keeps me from doing things that matter. The serious downside of procrastination, for me, is that it often causes everything to come to a halt; procrastinating about one thing usually means that I stop doing many other activities as well. For instance, while working on a very emotional application recently, I also put off writing on a blog and putting together picture albums for myself and others. I have tried (once I was aware I was doing this), with limited success, to procrastinate about one thing by doing another intentionally. In the previous example, I would consciously work on the picture books while knowing that I wasn’t doing the more critical task, but at least was getting something done. It is a tool I have continually worked to employ, and it has helped.
This week procrastination lurks in emails. I have received a request from a contact through my professional organization to consider entering a proposal to speak about crisis communications based on my experiences during the Calgary Floods in 2013. She and I had a conversation about it months ago and she is offering to put in my name for an upcoming conference. I want to speak about it, but while I had a leadership role in that event, in very specific ways, I don’t know that there is enough there to fill a presentation. I am trying to think about the definitive take-away which would be of use to communications professionals. Part of me isn’t replying to the email because I want to find a way to do the proposal, and that is keeping me from writing back with a “no, thank you for thinking of me”. It occurs to me now, as well, that I want permission in some way. Permission from someone in communications to tell me that they think I should speak on the topic. I think I may reach out to a colleague and ask her opinion. In the meantime, I should at least reply to the sender of the request and let her know I’m considering it. In any case, the point of this story is that my email is overflowing at the moment, an inbox of yet-to-do tasks and replies – partially because of this one email.
I procrastinate when there is a lot on the line. I procrastinate when I’m doubtful (usually in myself), when I want something, but can’t follow through at that moment, and when I am overwhelmed with a task. Often, when one critical detail is missing in a plan, I can’t move forward. I was planning a trip a few weeks ago, and didn’t have the flight information for someone I had to pick up at the airport during the trip. I found it hard to put together any other elements of the trip. I then felt badly for planning so many things “last minute” because I had the dates for so long and yet didn’t let anyone know I would be visiting. Ah, the viscous circle of procrastination.
The upside to all of this is how much I have learned recently about my process, about how I problem solve, strategize, organize and procrastinate. In understanding that, I have more tools to push past the initial inertia, and accept the process. Knowing that fear and emotions are behind the procrastination tendency allows me to often ask the question: what am I really afraid of here? Procrastination is only the mask, and I find it easier now to understand what’s behind it, address it, and move forward.