Friday, September 14, 2012

Procrastinating? What do you need?

I recently realized that when I'm procrastinating something, it's because there's something I need first.

If I'm procrastinating making a decision, it's often because I don't have all the information I need.

If I'm procrastinating a task, it's usually because I need to do or get something first. For example, I need to change the lightbulb above the garage door. But first, I need to buy or borrow a ladder.

Other times when I'm procrastinating a task, it's because it's actually a multi-step process. Several years ago when I was preparing to move, the task "back up old desktop computer to external hard drive" was on my to-do list for weeks and I couldn't quite figure out why I was procrastinating it. When I finally forced myself to do it, I realized why. That list should have read:

1) Move boxes out of the way so I can get to old desktop in the closet.

2) Find power converter so I can plug in desktop computer.

3) Plug in and turn on.

4) Get external hard drive out of safe.

5) Locate files on computer to back up.

6) Plug in external hard drive.

7) Select and transfer files from computer to external hard drive.

That one little thing on my to-do list took up half a day. No wonder I was putting it off: I didn't have a realistic, actionable task on my list. I needed to break it down into steps.

Something I'm trying not to procrastinate right now is unpacking our moving boxes. But the secret to unpacking is, you have to have someplace to put the stuff when you open the boxes. The movers mixed all our stuff together (that I had spent WEEKS organizing) so that each box I open is a mess of kids' toys, old baby clothes and mementos, kitchen items, things that belong in the garage, etc. It's a nightmare. So before I can unpack, the first step is to decide where things are going to go, and get those locations ready.  Then when I open a box I can actually put things away instead of wondering, "Where am I going to put all this stuff??"

Another major reason I procrastinate is being afraid I'm going to screw it up (also known as "fear of failure").  I'll put something off for a long time when I'm afraid I'm going to do it wrong, or badly.  Of course the better thing to do in this case is the opposite of procrastinating: start early so I have plenty of time to do it well. If that doesn't get me going, again I ask myself what I NEED.  Maybe the answer is, I need some help to do it well.

What are you procrastinating right now? Can you figure out if there is something you need first?


  1. I think I just procrastinate, period. I drive myself half mad trying to find a way to get myself moving without success. Eventually I get things moving, but it takes some time. I cannot think of "missing things" being much of an issue. Of course, being afflicted with ADD makes this all more of a problem for me. I think I'm a professional procrastinator!

  2. Ooh Josh me too! But I actually think Laurie has uncovered something for me this time - I need to fill in some application forms so I can actually apply for some jobs, I'm putting it off and the deadline for one is Friday (today) BUT the reason I'm putting it off is because I hate filling in forms and the personal statement bit - I'm Dyslexic and have ADHD, such a great combination for procrastination... Now just need to find someway of getting this application done today...
    Thanks for some thinking material Laurie :)

  3. Maybe you should look at it differently like..I'm not going to fill the form in now I'm just going to get the information so I can fill the form in later... Then I'm not filling the form in I'm just writing my name.....or just the bits I understand..or the parts I want to fill out..
    Or maybe to do lists shouldn't be called to do lists at all just Next Action Lists...just a thought...

  4. Me, too, Laurie. My biggest problem these days is procrastinating on paperwork because I can't keep my desk clean. And if my desk is a mess, I can't do paperwork. It's kind of a vicious cycle. But procrastinating on paperwork can be VERY BAD!

  5. Oh, definitely right there with you!
    I had 'file my tax return' on my to-do list ages ago & when I sat down I managed to split it into about 15 different steps. Again, no wonder I was putting it off. One trick that's working well for me currently is to break it all down & then agree I'll just do the first item. I always end up doing more than that once I get going :)