An 18th century English poet named Edward Young once wrote that “procrastination is the thief of time.” If you are like most people, the thought of someone stealing from you probably makes you angry. Yet, when you habitually procrastinate, you are stealing from yourself. You rob yourself of time, focus and energy. Your procrastination can even rob you of the ability to realize the dreams and desires of your true self. Sadly, procrastinating is often not just an occasional habit, but one that permeates every aspect of life, building an unhealthy lifestyle.
Procrastination makes timely payment of bills unlikely, missed opportunities a constant reality through dropping the ball on event deadlines and leads to completion of just about everything in the eleventh hour, such as Christmas shopping at the last minute. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Twenty percent of people are affected by procrastination. This habit or stone wall in your path is only overcome when you understand it: how tall the wall is, what it consists of and how it works.
At the heart of procrastination lies a lack of self-control. You might think you are in complete control, but when you habitually put things off until the last minute, you are not. Procrastinating demonstrates an inability to monitor yourself or regulate your thoughts. It might stem from fear and an inability to analyze it. Whatever thoughts run rampant within you, when you cannot analyze them (as procrastination demonstrates), you are allowing the stone wall to stay in your path. It is a wall that prevents you from moving forward, from growing and from realizing your hopes and dreams. In fact, chronic procrastination is linked to alcohol and substance abuse – diseases which demonstrate a lack of self-control. While the correlation is not clear through current research, the connection between the two should stay a concern if you chronically procrastinate.
Procrastination is not something you develop overnight or with conscious thought. Normally, it is a result of childhood. Authoritative parenting where your parents tightly control your life creates an inability to self-regulate or create intention with your thoughts and actions. When you cannot do these things, you lose freewill through either conforming to your parents’ expectations and rules or rebelling against them. Neither allows true self-expression or freewill. Freewill is only born of self-intention and living with purpose.
Now that you understand the root of procrastination and where it originates, you might find yourself saying “this does not sound like me.” However, if you are constantly putting things off until the last minute, you are probably a chronic procrastinator. Lying to yourself is what you do. Not because you want to, but because you believe you will do those things you put off – just not today. You might tell yourself that you are waiting for that creative moment that sparks your motivation or that you thrive under pressure and produce your best work when the clock is ticking. You probably let yourself get distracted by any number of things, such as cleaning, using Facebook, Twitter or email or finding anything that keeps you from doing what you need to do. None of these things require commitment, intention or purpose; they are simply things that allow you to keep lying to yourself, to stay stuck behind the stone wall and to keep stealing your own valuable time.
Regardless of what distractions you use, you are one of three different types of procrastinators. If you love to work under pressure and get a rush when you are racing against the clock, you are a thrill seeker. If the fear of failure, perception or success plagues you, you are an avoider; ultimately, you are afraid of what comes after you complete whatever it is you are avoiding. On the other hand, if you are unable to make decisions because you do not want to take responsibility for the outcome of said decisions, you are the third type of procrastinator.
No matter what type of procrastination controls your life, procrastinating comes at a cost, and the effects can prove detrimental in all areas of your life. Psychologically, you can feel guilt, anxiety and fear. Avoiding what needs accomplishing also breeds stress, whose long tentacles have far reaching and harmful effects on your life. You might find yourself plagued with insomnia or fatigue that leaves you exhausted and sleeping far more than is healthy. While all these things affect you, your relationships can suffer as well. An inability to live with self-intention, purpose or self-control can make relationships harder to maintain, especially meaningful ones that require nurturing and growth.
The good news is that procrastination does not have to control you or your life. By getting proactive, you can develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence that lets you take charge. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, embrace and control your emotions. When you can do this, self-awareness occurs much more naturally. Self-awareness allows you to live with intention and with purpose. It is time to stop letting procrastination rob you of time and your true potential. Only then can you embrace your true self, climb over that wall and realize your dreams. The question is what is stopping you from starting right now?