Procrastination Lives On

Photo by Anastasiya Vragova on

I really thought that being retired would enable me to do all those things that I was procrastinating about. I’d finally have the time to book those appointments, clean out the spare room and organize the kitchen pantry. Not so. Working full-time was a convenient excuse not to do those things. Now my excuse is gone. I have the time but the procrastination lives on. Why?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Why Procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we procrastinate.* I think my reasons are a combination of stress (yes, even retired people have stress), underestimating the consequences, distorting the size of the task, and finally, delay discounting. If I’m feeling stressed by something else happening in my life, it’s my go-to reason to put off cleaning out the spare room. I combine that with thinking that the task will take much longer than it probably will take. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Delay discounting is an interesting reason that I’ve certainly done many times. I place less value on the rewards of organizing or cleaning for just myself then if I was having company over. Once when I was turning 40 my dear family did a wonderful sparklie job of cleaning and tidying the house for my birthday and my comment to them was that it looked so nice we should have people over. Little did I know that there was a surprise party planned for later in the day! Now I try to remember that I deserve a clean and tidy home as much as my visitors and that it doesn’t need to be perfect for me, or them.

Underestimating the consequences is a reason that I’ve used for avoiding phoning for medical appointments or to address customer service issues. I tell myself that it’s not a big deal if I do this later. It feels good to avoid the calls.  But in the end there is still a problem with the internet bill or a blood test that needs to be done. The consequences will be far more uncomfortable than the comfort I get from procrastinating.

Using Old Skills

It’s a revelation to me that some of the behaviour management tricks I used with my students actually work when I use them on me too. Who knew? The one I’ve been using lately for procrastination is saying, “5-4-3-2-1 do it!” It actually works. For some reason, giving myself the countdown time is enough for my brain to get prepared to start the task. 

Another trick that works to overcome the enormous mountain that I think a task has become, is to just do a little. Start with a little bit, a small chunk. I try to be kind to myself and accept that it will be done a bit at a time. That’s ok. It’s important to be gentle with myself.

What are you procrastinating about and have you got any strategies that help you?

*Click here to learn more about procrastination. Don’t put it off (LOL).

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