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January 5, 2010

Vulnerability and the Art of Procrastination

While attending the kick off meeting of the IGC accountability group (aka keeping on track) I got to thinking about the relationship of procrastination to vulnerability.

Jill Stern of Say It with Vases raised the question of why we procrastinate. Several members chimed in and responded that we like to do what we are good at, what we enjoy, what brings us the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. And we procrastinate doing things that we don't enjoy, that feel menial or that bore us.

Dig a little deeper and we all thought about current things that we are procrastinating and all admitted that they were things that we actually were afraid we may not be good at. And this fear reflected a deeper feeling of vulnerability - how we feel about ourselves. Maybe we weren't capable, maybe we couldn't do a good enough job, maybe we would fail if we tried so better expend our energy (and anxiety) avoiding the task at hand.

But then the eternal optimist in me shouted out that our anticipation is always worse than the action. And that we would not be running our own businesses at this point if we had allowed fears of feeling vulnerable get in our way. And if we actually hold up the mirror to ourselves and are less than pleased with the reflection, we have that much more of a chance to make a change, grow and build a better business - which is ultimately a reflection of ourselves.

posted by Amy Abrams

image courtesy of mindhacks


Kelly Hayes said...

I think we also procrastinate because we don't think we are doing what we want to do - when often times we are doing exactly what we want to do but we haven't worked through to the end result in our minds to convince ourselves. I think if we work through to the end result as part of our effort to stop procrastinating, it will make us less likely to procrastinate.

Example, let's say we are in business to make money (okay, so who isn't?) but we want to make X amount of money this month because we know we can get a bonus at month's end if we succeed. We know the only way to make X amount of money is to do the extra work of additional sales calls and follow through necessary but we find ourselves procrastinating because we are "tired" of making calls or whatever. For some people just the idea of the bonus isn't enough to stop the procrastination process.

Maybe it's time to work through to the end result to convince ourselves to do the task.

Thinking through to why we really want the bonus. Maybe there is a new restaurant we want to go to and we'd like to buy a new outfit to wear to the restaurant. Maybe we'd even like to treat a friend to dinner. When we think of the fun of going shopping, finding that perfect new outfit and wearing it to the new restaurant having a fabulous meal with our friend, the work involved to achieve it doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it's exactly what we want to do if we want to have the opportunity to go to that restaurant.

Goal setting is a great cure to procrastination, but not just any goal setting. Long term goals like retirement savings can easily sap the energy out of us when we feel like this is all we are working towards. At minimum, when setting long term goals we have to have shorter goals in between to keep us smiling. More immediate, sometimes more tactile goals seem to keep us happier and more motivated as individuals. I see it all the time in my own staff. If I don't create goals or help them create goals things quickly can feel stale. I think setting up our minds to remember we have small daily, weekly and monthly personal goals (or rewards) that we want goes a long way to warding off that procrastination trap.

Amy Abrams said...

Great points, Kelly! I am all for short term goal setting. It's always good to have a carrot dangling it the short term!