I often see people expressing disappointment with themselves for procrastinating and sometimes we do fritter away our time, pointlessly, as an avoidance and displacement activity. We know that we fear diving into the next challenge, so we waste time, in other ways, in order to delay having to face it. That’s the bad kind of procrastination.
There is something you can do about it and that is to convert bad procrastination into good procrastination. How you do this is by thinking of the time you wasted as “creative ideation and envisioning” time. That subtle, neuro-linguistic trick does three important things.
Firstly, it stops you from being so hard on yourself, judgemental and feeling guilty about not facing the challenge you know you should have faced up to. If you let your self-talk beat you up further, it makes you feel even more rotten and doesn’t actually make you more inclined to face your challenge. If anything, it makes you feel unworthy of even trying. That forgiveness of yourself, by reframing your time wasting as creative ideation and envisioning, permits you to hold your head up high again, regain your shattered confidence and find the courage to go forward, with heart and conviction.
Secondly, if you get into the habit of calling your procrastination this magical “creative ideation and envisioning” thing, then when you’re actually doing it, in the thick of the displacement activities, having the thought in your mind that this is your time to think creatively and to imagine solutions is actually pretty liberating. You’re letting both your conscious and unconscious mind process the problem. Solutions percolate into existence slowly, but eventually. Instead of wasting time, feeling rotten, eroding your ability to face your challenge, which is already so low that you patently cannot face it, you find a way to spend that time productively, thinking up novel approaches and visualising the successful outcome. Both of those things can be enablers that help you face the thing you are avoiding, with enthusiasm and delight. Simply giving yourself the time to ruminate on your challenge and using that time purposefully, thinking on the first steps and the ultimate successful outcome, is highly motivating. In effect, you’re rehearsing getting it done, but in your mind.
Thirdly, when other people around you try to play the judgemental, pejorative, “You’re just wasting time” card, being able to respond immediately with, “No I’m not! I’m creatively envisioning!” not only defuses the situation with humour, but it stops your accuser dead in their tracks. Sure, they might guffaw and act derisively, but you’ve taken the pointed edge out of their barbed attack. At worst, all they can do, at that point, is shake their head in disapproval. So what? At least they’ve curtailed their attack on your self-worth.
It might seem like a silly joke and that you’re in the disingenuous process of trying to fool yourself, but recasting procrastination as creative ideation and envisioning can have significant, real benefits.
You might have to face it and you might know you have to, so having a good attitude about the time leading up to facing it can, astonishingly, help you actually face it. Give it a go.