Procrastination is not just a bad habit. Its roots lie in fears that originate earlier in life. I have worked with thousands of procrastinators who suffered damaging consequences from their "i'll do it later" behavior such as paying exorbitant interest fees for unpaid bills, declaring bankruptcy, job loss and divorce. In my book, EFT For Procrastination I describe how I helped them recover from this common but toxic behavior. Think about something you have been putting off and ask yourself this question.
What am I afraid will happen if I finish painting the bedroom, writing a report, sending thank you notes, or getting the car repaired? Your immediate reply may be, "Nothing. I will feel wonderful." Although you realize that the thing you are putting off or not finishing is simple or easy to do, are you stumped about why you are dragging your feet?
No one really knows what the future holds yet we all have concocted unpleasant fantasies of the future that we convince ourselves will definitely come true. Unfortunately, many of these scenarios are tragedies. Procrastination is a bad habit that some of us develop in order avoid that negative future.
Therefore, you may be surprised to discover that your delaying behavior is a smoke screen that hides another problem. That underlying problem is your fear of facing what comes next after you complete that chore or obligation you have been beating yourself up about for putting off. Consider these examples.
In one of my procrastination workshops, Kristi declared that her goal was to organize her desk by the end of the month. Nothing could be easier! So why wasn't she doing it? She was shocked when she realized, "If I clean out my desk, I will have to clean up my life. And I might have to divorce my husband!" No wonder she wasn't able to get her desk in order. What was waiting for her after that was too scary to imagine. What does a desk have to do with a marriage?
Ed, a divorced man, remodeled his entire house, however six months later he still hadn't put the knobs on the kitchen cabinets. He was exasperated and angry with himself for shirking the job and decided to seek my help. After he finished his tale of woe I insisted on asking him, "What are you afraid will happen if you put the knobs on the cabinets?" After a long pause Ed said, "If I complete renovating my house I won't have any more excuses to not invite people over and socialize." "And then what are you afraid will happen?" I persisted. "I will have to get married again," he moaned. Is that true? No one was forcing Ed to get married again. His procrastination was hidiing a fear of intimacy.
Shari, a young mother I counseled, was frantic because she was moving to a new home in another city and couldn't make herself finish packing the things in her garage. She was paralyzed with anxiety. What came to light was that she and her husband had been discussing having more children. She wanted another baby, but her husband did not. In the garage were boxes with her son's baby clothes, ready for the next infant.
She told herself that if she gave away his clothes it meant that she would never have another child. She unconsciously stopped herself from taking action so that bleak future she was predicting wouldn't happen. The truth was that she could still have a baby in the future, even if she no longer had the baby clothes.
Do you have an imaginary crystal ball that predicts unhappiness for you? Stop trying to predict the future! Your dreaded fears may not materialize. Acting as if you were 100 percent sure of disaster and creating stress by trying to avoid your fantasy of unhappiness will surely lead to pain and misery as you procrastinate.
Write down something that you keep putting off and ask yourself the question I ask all of my clients: What am I afraid will happen if I complete this project that I have been putting off? Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then ask yourself: Is this the truth? Do I know absolutely that it will come to pass?
Once you have done this a few times and can see that your vivid imagination is scaring you, I think that you will find yourself completing more projects and feeling more confident.
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