No Time Like the Last Minute


Of all the National (fill in the blank) Weeks we celebrate, only one runs two whole weeks. Go on, take a stab at it. What do you think it might be?

Here is a hint: Don’t put off answering.

National Procrastination Week is the first two weeks of March. Why two weeks? Well, that should be obvious. Highly skilled procrastinators will not participate in the first week because they will be naturally inclined to put off putting things off.

The whole idea of the week(s) is to avoid tasks you should not avoid, thereby decreasing stress and anxiety. Take it from a former chronic procrastinator; it doesn’t work that way.

Have you ever noticed how stressed-out procrastinators usually are? They wander around frantically telling anyone who will listen about a big project or responsibility they must fulfill that they don’t have time to do. However, they always seem to have time to talk about it. It may be due next week, tomorrow, or in one hour. That thing they knew they needed to get done a month ago is now an emergency. There is a good chance they will need your help to make it happen, too.

These people pull all-nighters basted in caffeine, then show up shaky, bleary-eyed and exhausted the next day, having reached the deadline with not a moment to spare. Tired though they may be, they are happy to tell you how they got it done. They will have no recollection of their pre-task anxiety attack and move onto the next item on their always-mental, never-written to-do lists with the same lack of haste.

Procrastination is defined as putting off something you must do despite knowing that you will ultimately suffer because of it.

Why do we do it?

Often, we dislike the task itself or the other person involved – for example, spring cleaning. Not coincidentally, the last week in March is National Cleaning Week. Spring cleaning, anyone? Who wouldn’t be in a hurry to scrub baseboards, walls, and that incredibly filthy area behind the stove?

Hard-core procrastinators are a different breed, however. These poor souls put things off for one simple reason: Fear.

Perfectionism, fueled by a fear of failure or not being able to finish a task, is the great de-motivator. These poor souls may even fear success, so they sabotage their own efforts.

The No. 1 tip Psychology Today offers to help procrastinators recover is to stop catastrophizing. We make a big deal out of many things that aren’t. Finishing your monthly report at work is not going to kill you. It didn’t last month, did it? Well, except you put it off last month, too, and you spent a long day and sleepless night getting it done.

Psychology Today suggests examining excuses, like needing to be “in the mood” to do something. Just put whatever task you are dreading on your calendar – if you have one – and get it done. Break it into more manageable chunks instead of trying to do everything all at once. In the end, you may even get the job done early, and imagine how good that would feel.

Finally, make sure you let go of your past procrastination. Forgive yourself. You aren’t a loser for putting things off.

Figure out the fear behind your past avoidance of specific tasks. Think back to things you dreaded doing in the past but successfully finished. You may even end up feeling a confidence boost.

Above all, remember: procrastination is not only the thief of time but also steals your peace of mind.


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