We’re old friends. We go way back. For years I have been a procrastinator, long before I even knew that there was a name for it. Over the years, procrastination has given me stress, given me a great sense of satisfaction, helped me to find extra energy when I needed it and caused me to get upset and angry with myself for not doing what I know I should do, when I should do it.
Procrastination is the reason that I have two masters in science degrees written on my curriculum vitae. Believe me that sounds a lot better than it actually is. Only one of them was completed in full. The other one, I did not complete the dissertation and therefore have lots of really great knowledge about marketing but nothing other than a great life lesson to show for my trouble. I kept finding reasons to put off working on my dissertation and I requested extensions until I ran out of time to submit.
Here’s why I say that this provided me with a really great life lesson. It helped me to learn some really big truths about myself.
One of my biggest lessons was my relationship with another terrible ‘P’ word. Perfectionism. This one was a big derailer for me. The need to try to get something as perfect as it possibly could be and anticipating all the ways that it could be wrong and how I might be judged harshly for it, led me to wind up not submitting my paper. Since then, I have learned that there are times when trying to be perfect is just an excuse and you have to be willing to take action, which for me was to submit the paper.
So when I enrolled for my second masters’ degree I took the approach that I was going to meet the deadlines. Therefore, I submitted each assignment whether I thought it was perfect or not. Once I was comfortable that it would not get a failing grade, I sent it in. That set me up to get really great feedback from my professors, which helped me to get better with each submission. That was something that all of my meandering and polishing would not have achieved in a million years.
Another lesson I learned about myself, was the reason why I often procrastinate in the first place. I often find it difficult to make a decision when I do not like the options that are available to me. It turns out that I actually did not like my dissertation topic and found it boring. While marketing was a topic that I liked, the actual area that I had chosen to research and the organization, were in no way dramatic or interesting. It wasn’t a real challenge.
Fortunately, I like to take a philosophical approach to most things and so I walked away from this experience with the decided position that there had to be some great lesson in my failure to successfully complete the programme. I just had to keep looking and I would eventually find it. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. Therefore, when I enrolled some years later in another programme that was about a topic that I knew little about but found interesting, I was convinced that I had found the reason for my earlier failure.
My second attempt at completing a masters’ programme was in the areas of Human Resource Development and Performance Management. Had I not still been in the market for a masters’ programme, I may never have discovered that area of study. So perhaps it was necessary for me to not complete my first attempt because otherwise I never would have found the area which is now the focus of my career and ongoing development. We either win or we learn. There is no failure. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I recently saw a quotation from Abraham Hicks about procrastination. He suggests that there is another reason why so many of us procrastinate. It may simply be that we are simply not ready for what we are trying to accomplish.
Procrastination is the wisdom not to force anything that you are not vibrationally ready for. – Abraham Hicks
This brings me to another lesson about myself. I am someone who will put off doing something for long periods until it suddenly feels like a light has turned on in my brain. Then it’s all aboard and I cannot understand why I ever doubted or delayed taking action, because it now seems so easy. Of course, I then promise myself that the next time around, I will do things differently because all the stress of waiting until the last minute is just too much.
However, more and more I am learning to accept that my brain just does not work until the last minute. When adrenaline kicks in, I am much more productive and creative than when I am just following a schedule. So I have had to accept that I am putting things off until I am really ready to make them happen. However, I have also learnt to take small actions to get started, whether I am ready or not. For me, starting, no matter how small, gets me going down the path and helps me get excited about the process of getting to the big idea at the end.
So procrastination has been my friend, my challenger and my constant companion. Rather than trying to shake it off, I have found a way not to let it derail me. I have figured out how to take action, in spite of my feelings about it. I have also figured out how to circumvent my inherent perfectionist tendencies and do what needs to be done. You need to do the same and find a way that works best for you.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live