Smart procrastination

The Coach

Procrastination is a learned habit. I was not born procrastinating. Procrastination is a habit I learned because it is useful. It is one of many coping strategies I've tried successfully for handling stress from things I'm afraid of doing, things I'm not ready to do yet or things I don't like to do. It allows me to put things off.
I probably started procrastinating by accident, but at some point, I realized it was helping me manage my life in important ways. Using procrastination wisely helps me keep my priorities straight. It's a way to triage tasks in my mental in-box.

The good and the bad
For example, procrastination is one of my favorite strategies to avoid perfectionism on those tasks that aren't worthy of perfection. If I wait until the last minute to plant the tomatoes in my yard, I won't have time left to read more than a couple websites devoted to telling me how to plant them perfectly.
Procrastination is also a great way to cure "urgency addiction." If I put off washing my car until tomorrow, it sometimes becomes clear to me that it wasn't worth spending my time on it yet anyway. Procrastination helps me avoid the" do-it-now" reflex.
Like many habits, if procrastination is used indiscriminately to keep the unpleasant tasks at bay, it can be counterproductive and harmful. If procrastination is working against me on certain tasks, it helps to know that, with increased self-awareness and some practice, I can transcend the habit when I need to.

Three steps that help
Here are three simple strategies that help me achieve mindfulness and become proactive about starting and finishing those unpleasant tasks that really are important:
•Make a written list of any related fears, no matter how silly they may seem - I start with five categories of fear: fear of failure, success, the unknown, change and completion. I approach the question with curiosity and ask myself to become truthful about which of my fears are based in reality and which are not.
If my fear is based in real danger, I decide whether I should feel the fear and do it anyway. If my fear is exaggerated, I replace my internal chatter with simple self-talk statements that reflect the true risks involved.
•Most of us go through "Get ready, get set, go" stages. If I'm not ready to act yet, I ask myself if I want to get ready. If not and waiting won't court disaster, I calendar a reminder to revisit the issue later. Then I stop the guilt and worry.
If I do want to (or must) get ready, I write down the next step toward readiness and put it on my calendar.
•To overcome inertia when a project is overwhelming, I think about the beginning, middle and end of the project. Then I think of each of those stages as also having a beginning, middle and end, and so on. Eventually, I find a "beginning" so small and harmless that I overcome my inertia.

Curiosity and mindfulness
Procrastination is a habit, not a character flaw. Mindful procrastination used wisely can be helpful.
When we kick ourselves for procrastinating, it's important not to define ourselves as procrastinators. Instead, it is more effective to ask ourselves what made procrastination a bad fit as a strategy for that particular task. This kind of curiosity allows us to use our errors for learning. We can always make a wiser decision in future choices.
Laura Worth, MSW, is a life and business coach. She is also the publisher and editor of community-based web directories for local health and wellness arts, including, and more at Or visit[[In-content Ad]]