“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer.
Procrastination is a term that needs no introduction. I’ve lived much of my life battling this bug, and I have come to believe that it grows from a fear of action.
Creative procrastination is a trick our mind plays to defer things we should do now until the future with an abstract goal to banish our desire.
I’ll give you a simple example. I always thought that I love to go on a world tour to meet with people from different walks of life and to learn their culture. But whenever I thought to plan a trip, I would get the opposing thought, “Well, I’d enjoy the world tour when I’m retired and after my daughters finish their college.”
Research has revealed that we use a fraction of our mind in our entire life, leaving much of our potential to achieve in life at the mercy of this magical bug of creative procrastination. I have come to a revelation: if we bring awareness to our thoughts and the way they persuade us to engage or not to engage in the dreams we dream, we can transcend our fear of action.
1. Planning obsession
Our world has evolved into a culture promoting productivity and its ugly nuances. It’s an insidious cult of planning everything in advance (eg our retirement). It assumes that we have control over the future circumstances. In reality, we only control our reaction to the circumstances that exist in our life. If I plan my world tour based on the future event of my daughter’s willingness to go to college and complete her education, I’m projecting a future with events that are out of my control.
2. I don’t know everything
For years, I had a dream of being an entrepreneur. I anticipated a day when I could shape my own fate and make my own decisions without need the permission of others. I had a noble mission, but I would always think, “I should learn about the business first, I should have enough in the retirement funds” before embarking out on my own. It never happened. As time went by, I felt frustrated with not knowing about the business I wanted to own and not having enough in the retirement fund to quit my job. I procrastinated due to the illusion of a safety net. In life, there is no insurance policy for the safe future.
3 . I’m a poor judge of happiness
We are a poor judge of what will make us happy in the future. When my daughter completes her college in the next seven years, I may not be as excited about the world tour. I may end up having health issues that prevent me from pursuing my dream. When I build a good retirement fund and master the basics of the business, I may not have motivation to call my own shots. We as a collective society have this obsession of planning weeks, days and years of our life but we miss a subtle yet profound truth. What makes us excited today to pursue a dream may not work with the same vehemence when future arrives.
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Third president of the United States
It took me awhile to banish the dreaded bug of creative procrastination. I finally learned to nurture a self-belief that pursuing what made me happy in the present moment was the way of living a life of abundance.
1. Enjoy the simple pleasures
A fear of failure plays a large part in creative procrastination. It’s a stereotypical stream of experiences that lead us to inaction. Watch a child playing with agility. Children enjoy simple pleasure such as playing in the backyard or watching animals. This fosters confidence in taking action to do what makes them happy now rather than to abscond with safeguarding their thoughts with events in the future. Try taking a walk in the wilderness, engaging in a random act of kindness or simply remembering what is was like to be a child.
2. Acknowledge the unknowns
For years I was not able to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship, largely for the factors that I considered important to master. These were the factors I considered important without knowing the other unknowns that can show their ugly head. Anything we do in life can meet with unknowns that can change the outcome against our will. Sitting on the safe harbor and not setting sail to explore the ocean until we know every danger is akin to a hallucination that we know and master our future. We can only master what we desire with the awareness that challenges are sure to arrive.
3. Do it now
When I made that dreaded decision to quit the job and embark out on my own, I had not planned every possible challenge that I was about to face. I’d trained my mind to be aware of these challenges, and I was prepared to deal with them with best of my ability. I had decided that time to pursue my dream is now or never. I’m glad that I took control of the steering wheel to direct my life in the direction I wanted to go. I knew that there would be bumps on the way. But I also knew that no planning or learning could ever overcome these challenges that were destined to arrive. I decided to embrace the challenges as happily as the successes, and to take action and to never look back. It’s a decision I haven’t regretted since.
“How soon not now, becomes never.” – Martin Luther (1483-1546) German priest and scholar
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26 thoughts on “3 Ways to Identify and Master the Bug of Creative Procrastination”
You know how they say “it’s now or never?” Very often that’s true–it you don’t do it now, you never will. If you’re waiting for the perfect time, it will never arrive, so if you’re going to do something, there’s no time like the present.
Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..Are You A Jedi Or A Sith?
I think ‘acknowledging the unknowns’ is okay to do, but actually getting out there and facing them head on is even more thrilling and exciting. What better way to live is there than to actively face you fears on a daily basis? Coming to terms with the beasts that hold you back is what allows you grow by leaps and bounds; procrastination due to being afraid of what’s out there or a fear or something imaginary then subsides.
Matt @ Face Your Forks last blog post..How to Give Up TV
I think I’ll wait til tomorrow to comment on this post.
Jennifers last blog post..Will Someone Please Just Listen to Me!
Just kidding. Good post!
I used to be the queen of procrastination. I’ve worked really hard and now I’m just a princess. :) It’s something I still struggle with. I’m sure everyone does at some point.
I like the over planning point. I used to be really bad at that. I’ve gotten a lot better. Planning is crucial, but finding a balance and not overplanning is maybe even more crucial. Follow the Nike slogan. Just Do It.
Jennifers last blog post..Will Someone Please Just Listen to Me!
Shilpan: I think we’re all very good at justifying our procrastination. Like you say, we make excuses like: first I need to have enough money saved up, then I need to make sure that I plan everything in minute detail to make sure nothing can go wrong, then I need to . . . We need to simply get up, start moving in the direction of our dreams, and trust that as we take each step the next one will be revealed to us. I think it was Martin Luther King who said, you don’t need to see the whole staircase, you just need to see what comes next. I really enjoyed this post. Marelisa
Marelisas last blog post..Share the Love Friday on Marelisa-Online Abundance Blog: Week of June 2nd, 2008
For me procrastination is just a symptom of perfectionism. I’m an expert at putting things off because I don’t know enough, or I’m not good enough etc. I started my blog in spite of it all because I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t know enough, or I’m not good enough?” There was nothing I could come up with that would be devastating enough to allow me to procrastinate any longer so I just did it. It’s been a good life lesson for me…to just give it a shot and stop worrying about the what if’s. Like you said, we can’t know the future so why let our fears about it stop us from doing things in the present.
Lori | BetweenUsGirls.infos last blog post..Parents and Children – How Much Influence Do We Really Have?
Nicely put, Shilpan.
Your conclusion to pursue happiness in the moment is key. I too left a good job 3 years ago. Little worked out the way I had thought it might. But it has worked out better than I could have dreamed.
I’m not sure i would say procrastination results from the fear of action. More the fear of consequences. An attachment to a specific outcome. Deeper, it is a resistance to what is.
Davidyas last blog post..The evolving Scribe
Your closing paragraph – “Do It Now” – Wow. You know who should read this? Clay Collins. He’s going through the exact same dilemma now.
Vereds last blog post..When Successful Bloggers Try To (Gasp) Make Money
“Creative procrastination is a trick our mind plays to defer things we should do now until the future with an abstract goal to banish our desire.”
This line really puts it in perspective, and it makes so much sense that I can’t believe I never realized this before reading it here. It reminds me of the time I went shopping at Lululemon (a Canadian yoga wear store), I got a piece of paper in my bag with various inspirational things written on it, one of them was:
Nature wants us to be mediocre because we have a greater chance to survive and reproduce. Mediocrity is as close to the bottom as it is to the top.
Procrastination is just your body trying to keep you mediocre. Kinda sad, even though it’s supposed to be self preserving…
Many opportunities are lost because of “waiting until tomorrow”. Just as you say, we can analyze whether the time is right to act for so long that the actual best moment passes.
The worst feeling in the world is to regret never having taken a particular course of action. Everyone has their own way of judging whether or not something is worth going for but, for me, I try to assess how much I stand to lose by acting against what I stand to gain. It is often a difficult call to make.
On the other hand, real life experiences have made me realize that “if only” and “what if” are four words that I don’t like much.
We all need to start somewhere. Even a small action is a start. I’ve known people who have put off taking ANY action for years – I have even been known to procrastinate myself!
If you have a dream, you should start. Starting is half the battle.
Thanks for a great post.
Hi Shilpan, I’m reading the GTD book from David Allen right now. It is really a great book, and what I like is the power of the next action. If we can break our vision and dream to smaller action, easier to move forward. And usually it’s also true with procrastination. The problem usually comes only when you starts, it’s always the first step that is hard to take. So as you said, better start doing it now!
Robert A. Henrus last blog post..How failures can make you smile
The one thing that I practice now is the one where you went “Do it now”. It helps for freeflow creativity that does bring in some great work!
For example would be the latest image used in my entry on my site. Took me less than an hour to conceive up the idea and got it done.
Glad that you shared this here Shilpan. :)
A few things helped me
– version perfection over time (perfections a journey, not a destination)
– call it an “experiment” (as simple as that sounds, it really helps me play more with my work and take risks.)
– consider whether it does more help than harm
– satisficing to get results
– delivering incremental value
On a very practical level, I also work hard to reduce the friction between creation and results. This is as simple as little things like using Dragon Speak to dump my notes, or making sure I can just dump my pics from camera to PC with minimal hoops. Taking out these little frictions, really helps build my results habits.
J.D. Meiers last blog post..Personal Memory House or Landscape
I like how you pull it all together in being aware and present in dealing with procrastination. You’re right in watching children and how they play so unconcerned about what will happen tomorrow.
We can learn from them and animals in how they approach life. I wrote a post not too long ago called Through the Eyes of a Child that’s similar to what you’re touching on here when you talk about children enjoying the simple pleasures.
Good information and I’m happy you took action on the work you wanted to do. It’s inspiring to hear that it works and you’re happy.
Pat Rs last blog post..Feeling Invisible
Lori – congratulate yourself. I have a friend who started a blog, posted a poem he’d written previously, then never posted another thing. Nothing was ‘good enough’. I also think he put too much weight on what other people ‘might think’. Thats about the most pointless reason there is. People will think what they think no matter what we do so we might as well, as Jennifer said, just Do it.
A wise person said to me recently – In order to be you must do.
Procrastination is inertia. In India thats known as Tamas. It is the door to entropy, to deterioration and loss. In doing, even if we fail, we are making life. The essence of life is motion. The essence of death is inertia. Choose life.
Davidyas last blog post..The evolving Scribe
Thank you for reminding me again to keep on track and to pursue my dreams now, not to put them off.
David | beplayfuls last blog post..Breaking the edges of comfort
Good one . Enjoying simple pleasures in the present is a means of holding on to sanity when life gets tough . To acknowelge the unknown is a must for success in any field. Often, if we acknowledge it, we learn. If we avoid it, we stay ignorant.
Thanks for the post. I enjoy reading your work and learn from them as well.
ayesha parveens last blog post..for SHAYAAN
Pile up enough tomorrows and all you end up with are a lot of empty yesterdays.
Eliminating all distractions for a set time each day is the key for me. I basically hide from everyone for a period of time and concentrate directly on my creative projects.
Great article! ;-)
Marc and Angel Hack Lifes last blog post..10 Ways to Save 10 Minutes Daily