Co-authored by Dr Bev McLagan (The Burnout Queens) UK's leading coaches for women and burnout
Yes indeed, we've got your number! Procrastination is such a psychological 'buzz' word and many of us hide behind it...after all, it is a great excuse! "I'm such a procrastinator...I have trouble with procrastination...I really have to stop procrastinating..." Truthfully, these statements are designed to allow you to keep right on procrastinating, after all you can't help yourself, you are a procrastinator.
Well, we don't buy it, from now on we (and you) are calling it postponing because that is exactly what you are doing, putting-off and postponing.
Postponing is a handy way of avoiding what you perceive as risky: failure, success, anxiety, fear, and change. But, if you want to change your life, if not save your life from burnout, you may have to stop postponing and take some risks.
Postponing (procrastinating, avoiding, or putting-off) is a major sign that the burnout process is in full swing. Postponing as a symptom happens fairly early on in the burnout spiral. However, once it gets hold it quickly begins to infiltrate all areas of your life.
You start feeling pressured and jammed for time to do even the most mundane things. You may begin to focus on one or two things that 'appear' to dominate the landscape of your life (and therefore your time) often a relationship or a new project, but it could just as easily be the kids, a hobby, a new passion, exercise, or a new diet. In the meantime, those everyday 'mundane' things get neglected, put aside, or postponed. (ah, or might we suggest avoided).
Things/stuff in life just seem to get away from you; the refrigerator is empty, the laundry is not done, the bills are a bit late, you forgot to fill the car, you missed sending that birthday card.... You lose the continuity of daily tasks. You certainly have no time to pay attention to your own needs or wants. Instead, it becomes 'easier' to fit in something for someone else whether it is important or not. It is much easier to fit something in that isn't even your responsibility. But ask you to do something for your own life, well that can be readily postponed for another day, after all, "you just don't have the time". Sounding familiar?
It is not only the scary, tedious, or risky things you postpone. Oh no, you postpone vacations, taking a day off, you skip lunch, miss your gym session, forget to walk the dog, cancel a hair appointment, miss your medical appointment, even postpone meeting up with friends.
What does all this postponement do for you? It leads to anxiety, tension and stress, a sense of failure, and a sense of falling behind. It makes you discouraged and disappointed in yourself. You tell yourself you are putting things off for the 'right' reasons, you are allowing yourself to relax, to not have a conflict in your life, to catch up on something else, or perhaps you think you are attaining 'balance'. Maybe, just maybe, you are simply shifting the target of your avoidance.
Postponing, habitually putting off action, is an active choice. You are deciding to put it off, or you are deciding to not decide to do it, whatever it is. You are deciding in favour of that instant relief. For those few moments you are staring in another direction, the view has changed (briefly), the panic has lessened (briefly), the need to do something has been removed (briefly).
If you call it procrastination you tell yourself it is a habit, and we know, habits are hard to break. If you accept responsibility for postponing things and action in your life, you suddenly have a choice.
For one week stop using one or all of these Classic Postponement Statements and see what a difference it makes.
• This isn't the right time.
• I have to think about it more...
• There's just not enough hours in a day...
• I'm not ready to make a decision, I need more information...
• As soon as summer [spring break, christmas, easter...] is over...
• I will think about it when the kids go back to school...
• I will get started after my vacation [year end, birthday, conference]...
• I have too much going on right now.
• It is just not a good time at work right now.
• I'll start next week...on Monday.
• As soon as I get organised...
Stop saying "NO" to your life and get on with it!