“In delay there lies no plenty.”
Before I started my blog, Work-Happier, I came up with all kinds of reasons why I couldn’t do it – not enough time, no one would read it, fear, and on and on and on. After months of delay, I met a colleague who told me about a book she had recently published. She had written blog posts for 8 months, and when she had enough, she turned them into a book that became a #1 best seller on Amazon! Why didn’t I do that, was my immediate thought? So, in order to understand what was stopping me and many others from doing what we wanted to do, I decided to delve into the subject of procrastination.
There are a number of common reasons why people procrastinate. Some individuals are perfectionists who delay for fear their work won’t meet their own high standards. Some have a personality type that predisposes them to leaving their options open as long as possible. Others struggle with ADD or time management. And, many mistakenly believe, that they need to feel inspired to be creative and productive. On top of those, add readily accessible technology that offers so many temptations at the click of a mouse or touch of a screen.
What research has shown is that procrastinators have higher levels of stress and lower levels of happiness. In research conducted by Dr. Timothy Pychyl at Carleton University in Ottawa, he found that procrastination and depression are a vicious cycle. In my own experience and that of my coaching clients, I’ve found this to be true. Although we may alleviate short-term stress by delaying, in the long run, it hurts us more.
An aha moment for me was when I heard my teacher and expert in positive psychology, Tal Ben Shahar, talk about his process of writing books. In spite of his success as an author, he explained that sitting down to write every day is not easy. Ben Shahar came up with what he calls the “5-minute takeoff “to deal with his tendency to put things off. The idea is to simply start whatever you have been delaying, regardless of whether you feel motivated to do it or not. Just doing it is usually enough to get us going so that the behavior becomes self-reinforcing.
What have you been postponing that you can try for 5 minutes?
Exercise: 5-Minute Takeoff
Pick a task that you have been avoiding. Each day for a minimum of a week, work on that task for at least 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes you still find yourself distracted, start again, even if it takes multiple tries. What do you notice after the week? Were you more productive?