Why We Procrastinate and 5 Tips on Planning

Why We Procrastinate and 5 Tips on PlanningAccording to Google, procrastination is:

  1. the action of delaying or postponing something.
    “your first tip is to avoid procrastination”

Summer is coming and many of us are going on vacation. We workout, we shop, we get our hair and nails done.  Time is going so slow, yet our vacay gets here so quick! I know for me, I usually pack the day before I go and the morning of, lol, because I suppose the anticipation of vacation is intoxicating to me.  So we wake up the first day of our vacay, put on our airport outfit, sunglasses, big hat, flip flops and all and head to the airport. Hopefully you have some headphones to cancel out the noise and to watch a movie or two so you can get to wherever you are going quickly cuz the anticipation of beaches and sun is just too much for you at this point!

Finally!  You head out the airport with luggage in hand and begin the best week of your year so far.  Drinks, dancing and great company, you stay up all night so the time does not go by too fast, but even with all of your effort, Sunday is here and it is time to go home and probably back to your job tomorrow.  That overwhelming feeling of anxiety takes over and we wonder “What could I have done differently over this past week to have made it more fulfilling?” or “Man, I wish I could just start this week over and do this vacation again cuz I had such a great time!”  We promise ourselves that next time we won’t sleep as long, take so long to pick an outfit for the day or spend so much time in the morning tanning on the beach, all so we can have the illusion that our vacation was longer than it actually was (even though technically the hours do not change!)

The same exact thing happens during the holiday season.  It has become so intoxicating that even people who do not practice the Christian religion jump on the black-Friday-to-New-Years-Day bandwagon!  From the day after Thanksgiving until the day after New Year’s Eve, we shop, we decorate and we have tons and tons of parties, so most of us have to sign up for the gym come January!  My favorite part is shopping for my son and wrapping his gifts then making cookies with him and putting them out for Santa with some Hershey’s Cookies & Crème milk (cuz my son is too fancy for regular ole milk LOL).  I also have a Christmas Club that I have set up where I put $20 every two weeks so that come Christmas, I had my cheddar stacked!  Working at an office building in Corporate America with different departments on my floor means many office parties and many cookie baskets! 

Then comes Christmas Eve.  We all say our “Happy Holidays” and get ready for the big day and our bosses even let us leave at 3pm instead of 5pm (aren’t the sweet?!)!  Christmas, where we see the results of weeks of decorating and shopping and a glowing, beautiful tree that we put together with our kids (then put the grown-up finishing touches after they go to sleep – I know I am not the only one!).  After putting the kids to sleep, we sneak into the living room where the cookies and milk are and eat 3 out of 4 and take a big bite of the last one and gulp down the milk, leaving a note from Santa saying “Thanks for the milk and cookies, Sam! Ho ho ho! –Love Santa” signing as we think Santa would, quickly put the rest of the gifts under the tree and go off to bed ourselves, only to be woken up a few hours later to “Mom, Santa ate alllllll the cookies except one and drank the milk and even left me a note!  Wake up, I want to open my presents!”

And we are beaming as our kids and family members open their gifts.  After all, this was an event months and, more often than not, hundreds or thousands of dollars in the making!  However, as the wrapping paper that you handpicked and so carefully applied is ripped off and ready for the garbage, your smile fades and that same on-the-plane-after-your-vacation-is-over anxiety starts to build up again and you realize that your high is coming to an end.

What does this have to do with procrastination? Anticipation may be the key.  We feel best when we have something to look forward to, when we have something to work towards.  We procrastinate so that our excitement lasts as long as possible, because if we start a project that is due too early, what do we have to look forward to?

I have heard people say (and said myself) I work better under pressure and I realize while this has some merit, it is not entirely true.  The anticipation is building from the moment we find out we have a task until it is complete.  If we complete it shortly before it is due, that excitement is intensified because not only has that intensity been building, we also are “living on the edge” taking a risk because there is not much time to complete what we have to do, but we know we will, so it is also a sense of accomplishment.  The problem with procrastination is that it is short lived and often hastily thrown together at the last minute without the proper planning.

What can we do to alleviate procrastination or turn it into something that benefits us?

  1. Do not depend on large events or tasks to make you feel fulfilled.

Don’t wait for Christmas or birthdays to spend time with your family or give out gifts.  Plan Sunday dinners or gift giving events just so that the feeling of joy can be felt throughout the year.  For example, once summer comes, I know that every Saturday, my mother, son and I go to the beach and then go to the local seafood restaurant to eat afterwards.  We wake up early, meet up and take the bus to the beach and when we’ve had enough sun, we walk through this amazing nature filled area to the longest seafood strip ever and choose a restaurant to get our eat on!  We pick two kinds of food to share and each week either my mother or I get the drinks.  

  1. Do a little bit each day, but wait for the main course till the end.

Treat your task like a meal.  Have a drink, sample the appetizer, but wait to chow down on the main course!  This will give you the ability to properly plan whatever you are doing (i.e. homework, a work assignment, packing for vacation, etc.) while enjoying the feeling of doing it at the last minute (i.e. when going on vacation, fold all of the clothes and create a list of toiletries that you need, but wait to pack them all until “the last minute”).       

  1. Set a weekly goal.

Set a daily goal even, depending on how you feel.  This can be a goal for work, for fun, for a business venture, for school and even just for a personal spa day.  It does not have to be a major goal, it only needs to make you feel good when you are looking forward to doing and completing it.  I am a nerd for preparing my family’s monthly finances, so I normally spend the last week of the month doing this.  Other goals can include: setting family chores, organizing your email, putting together a healthy eating checklist or meal prepping, and organizing that Sunday dinner I mentioned in number 1!

  1. In preparation of #5, complete everything you need to do the evening before your “break day (your Do Not Disturb)”.

I swear this is easier than it sounds!  It is like a race, if you run full speed ahead, you may win the race, but you will run straight passed the finish line and your trophy and run smack into a wall or off a cliff!   I guarantee you, if you work and play non-stop from Monday to Sunday, you will not enjoy and appreciate your accomplishments.  It is one of the main reasons why we procrastinate.  WE DO NOT FEEL LIKE WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING!!!!  However, if you slow down just shy of the finish line, not only will you win, you will also have the ability to enjoy the accomplishments of the week and allow yourself the luxury of having the energy and momentum to plan the next week as well.

  1. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” for an entire day (My FAVE and the one I find most important AND helpful. Again, this is easier than it sounds!).

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you do not respond.  It does, however, mean that you allow yourself the right to choose when, how & TO WHOM you respond.  I have my phone on regular mode 6 days out of the week and I enjoy the group chats between my mother, sister and I as well as the funny pictures my co-workers and friends send me.  However, in preparation for Sunday, my phone goes on “Do Not Disturb” as soon as I am ready to close my eyes the night before.  I work on me on Sundays.  I sleep late without having to wonder if the ping of text messages or the ring of a call will wake me.  I have conversations with my 5 years old, I write, I work on my present and future business plans, I do the laundry, I watch shows I previously DVRed and did not have time to watch.  The point is I do me, which is a luxury we are not always afforded with the explosion of social media and the need for working overtime to make ends meet.   

Plan for the week ahead if you want.  Do something that you cannot do with your emails, texts and phone calls coming through your phone like Grand Central Station during rush hour!  

PROCRASTINATION IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO NOT GET THINGS DONE!  It is the fear of losing the feeling of prolonged self-gratification!

Life is too short.  Allow yourself the passionate feelings of self-gratification all year long while still getting stuff done!