I never used to procrastinate. If there was something I didn’t want to do, I’d do it first, to get it out of the way. I used to work 18 hours a day, too. I was one of the most productive people on the planet. I got a tremendous amount of stuff done. Sure, a lot of it was arbitrary paperwork that no one would ever look at again, but damn it, it was done on time. I used to do a lot of things that now make we wonder what the hell I was thinking. But that’s the point: I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t questioning. I was reacting blindly. And it led me down a path that cost me my health on several occasions, nearly my sanity more than once, my social life for years, and my sense of self for more than a decade. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and in myself. One of them is that I’ve become a master procrastinator. Here’s why I think you should become one too:
When we’re children, we get told to clean our rooms tonight, do our homework by a specific time and date, do our chores before we get to play ball, etc. We are trained to meet deadlines. And when we enter the workforce, it only gets worse. The goal in life, as it was taught to most of us, is to be as productive as possible. To what end? Well, for many it’s to die with the most toys, but often productivity seems to be the goal in and of itself. Many of us produce continuously and as quickly as possible without ever questioning why. It’s just what we’re supposed to do. We have this mentality in our work life – meet deadlines, show up early and leave late, have as much to show for your work at the end of the day as possible, and in our home lives – clean the house on Saturday, cook dinner for the entire extended family on Thanksgiving, lawn work on Sunday, and vacations only when you’re close to a nervous breakdown.
But here’s the thing: The goal in life isn’t to be productive. It’s to be happy (i.e. whatever you want it to be). And when you change your focus from some arbitrary goal that you never consciously agreed to, to something of your choosing, your priorities change. And procrastination is just about prioritizing, really.
When we procrastinate, we’re just trying to avoid doing something we don’t want to do. Nothing wrong with that. Sure, we were all taught that doing unpleasant tasks is part of life. It’s just how it works, and we’d better get used to it if we want to be successful (note, not necessarily happy). And so, we bite the bullet and we force ourselves to do the unpleasant things that make us sit on the couch at the end of the day, exhausted, depressed and wishing for an easier life. We just assume that we don’t have a choice here. Stuff has to get done and it’s up to us to do it. That’s life. That’s what it means to be an adult. You do the stuff that you don’t want to do and you don’t complain.
Why? Why do we have to do the stuff that we don’t want to do? What would happen if you didn’t do it? Why does it have to be done NOW? What would happen if you postponed it? I know, I know, we were told that if we didn’t act responsibly (lingo for doing crap we don’t want to do) the civilized world as we know it would come to a screeching halt. Well, guess what? It won’t.
No, you shouldn’t stop feeding your children or yourself for that matter, but chances are that these aren’t the tasks that are creating stress in your life. And make no mistake about it, forcing yourself to do things that you don’t want to do is stressful. Even seemingly small things, like mowing the lawn when you’d really rather be watching the game, will add to that burden. And all those stressors add up. And then you wonder why you’re so damn tired all the time.
I procrastinate all the time, and my world hasn’t fallen apart. In fact, it’s only gotten better. When I first started, when I was a newbie-procrastinator, if you will, I triggered a fear: If I didn’t force myself to do those things, they would never get done. For example, I don’t much like cleaning my house. Oh, I hate dirt (I’m half German, after all), but I don’t really care for the process of cleaning. I used to force myself to do a thorough cleaning every weekend. I’d spend 3 hours polishing every surface until it gleamed. And I hated every second of it.
Now, I don’t clean my house when I don’t want to. Like I said, at first, I was afraid that I’d eventually suffocate in my own filth. Except, that didn’t happen. You see, it all comes down to priorities. When the apartment gets too dirty for me (which isn’t all that dirty), when it bothers me too much, I begin to clean. I don’t have to force myself to do it, I just do. Happily. The dirt bothers me more. I never leave the house with dirty clothes, but I no longer have a designated laundry day. I do it when I feel like it, or when I need to (remind you of your kids? They have a point!), and I’m happier for it. When the desire for a clean apartment or clean clothes becomes greater than whatever else I would rather do, I don’t have to force myself to clean up. It just happens. I now clean my house every 10-14 days (it used to be weekly). That extra half a week or so means the difference between forcing myself to clean, and bopping around the house in an inspired cleaning frenzy. And that’s just one of many, many examples.
You too can learn to procrastinate. Start by asking yourself some questions:
- Does it have to be done at all? Dig down a bit here. Don’t just assume that it does, even if it’s part of your personal life. Ask WHY. If you can’t come up with a good reason to do it, just cross it off the list. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions at work, too. Tons of “productivity” is nothing but arbitrary paper pushing. Say no to useless meetings. Say no to favors and activities that you don’t want to do (obligation is not a good reason to do things. Wanting to do them, is).
- If the answer to question number 1 is YES, then ask yourself if it has to be done NOW, and if so, why? What would happen if you did it later? How does it feel if you think about postponing it to tomorrow or next week? You’ll be amazed at how many things you can rearrange if you just start questioning them. When I was working for a multi-million dollar corporation, I’d get a lot of deadlines. I’d be on a conference call on Wednesday and be told that I and 20 other people would have to deliver something by Friday. In my last couple of years (I was already making some major changes then), I began to question the deadlines. What struck me was that first, no one had apparently ever thought to question a deadline – they didn’t know it was possible, and second, with some digging, I more often than not (seriously!) found out that the “urgent” deadline had been arbitrarily set by some manager, and as soon as I called them up, they had no problem changing it. Question every deadline, even your own. If you don’t mow the lawn today, will it still be there tomorrow? If you don’t clean the house today, will your children die of dirt poisoning?
- If it’s a reoccurring task that you don’t like to do, can you outsource it? Can you get a cleaning lady, a dog walker, a neighborhood teen to mow your lawn? Can you trade favors at work? Can you hand off a task that you don’t like to do to someone who gets joy from it in exchange for something unwanted of theirs that you don’t mind at all? You may assume that this would be difficult, but generally no one has ever thought to ask. A cleaner two hours a week might not be able to clean your whole house, but she could do the bits that you hate most, and wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Question everything, even the little things. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not worth it. Find a way to cancel it, postpone it until you actually feel like doing it, or outsource it. And if none of those are an option (and they are much more often than you might think), then line up with the thing you need to do before you do it. Work your way into a place where you can perform that task with joy. You can wait for the inspiration to strike you or you can create the inspiration.
For example, I post on this blog 3 times a week. I made the decision right from the start not to write if I wasn’t inspired; in other words, never to force myself to write. I quickly realized that the quality of my writing and the ease with which it flows is exponentially higher when I’m connected and joyful about it. But, I also have a schedule, and I want to stick to it if I can (although if it comes down to posting a crappy, forced article or nothing, I’ll go with nothing). So, on the rare occasion when I find myself wanting to write something for that day and not being inspired, I inspire myself. I meditate, connect, keep searching for a subject that I resonate with and consciously work myself into a place where I feel the energy flow. And then I write. If for some reason I couldn’t get there, I wouldn’t write that day. The point is, I never EVER force myself to do something I don’t want to do. Not only do I then end up resenting the time I spent, the outcome is generally less than sub-par (i.e. total crap). It’s just not worth it.
It takes some time to develop some trust in your ability do get inspired before your world is swallowed by piles of the un-done. It’s a fear that many of us have, but it’s an unfounded one. Will you ever be inspired to clean your house? If a clean house is important to you, then believe it or not, yes. At some point, you’ll be inspired to clean it, or find another solution to get it cleaned. And if you cannot be inspired to do something, then you should really ask yourself if this thing really needs to be done.
So, embrace procrastination. It’s all about honoring yourself and your own priorities – what’s truly important to you. If you’re having to force yourself to do something, if it drains you and exhausts you, you’re following the wrong list. The real list of priorities feels inspired, amazing, energizing and passionate, every step of the way.
Have you had success procrastinating? Share your story in the comments!
What a wonderful post!
Yes, I stopped feeling guilty for procrastinating for about a couple of years now, and it feel great! I tell myself, “it will get done when it needs to.” I do not keep a schedule (never have) and don’t seem to have problems functioning. Yes, I lack organization, but, if things still get done, why worry?
My confession is that I despise cleaning too. I get things done only once I have released guilt and resistance to cleaning it – i.e. making it mandatory. (After all, how dirty can an apartment really be?) I think it roots from my upbringing – when I was constantly nagged to “clean”. (I will eventually release on shame so that I can hire a maid to help me clean my ONE tiny room and ONE tiny bathroom. I love the kitchen at least).
Thank you, Melody, for your honesty and transparency. I love you.
Thanks Melody 🙂
I can truly appreciate this article; perhaps a bit too much. I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from where you were at. I am a master procrastinator, especially at work. It’s not serving me very well because I feel awful, stressed and worried. I’m in a new job (about six weeks) and I’m struggling to motivate myself. I was given a false impression or perhaps I heard what I wanted to hear when I interviewed for the job. It was not clear to me that I would be assigned project work, as opposed to the people oriented problem solving work that I enjoy. I keep asking myself, what is wrong with me? I need my job, but my motivation and action is seriously lacking. Will it take a reprimand or some other kind of negative consequence to snap me out of my lack of productivity? Let me explain, a typical day at my new job involves me surfing the web on random things, and of course reading the Deliberately Receiving blog 😉 with minimal time spent on my assigned projects. I have work to do, but I just avoid avoid avoid. The weird part is no one has questioned me, and I’m afraid to ask for feedback because I fear it will be justifiably negative. I am worried that the work I do won’t be good enough and that I will disappoint my boss and co-workers, and that they will regret hiring me. I seem to be fulfilling my fears because of my procrastinating behavior. I was stressed to the point of suicide on my last job. I cannot place blame on my former job for the suicide attempts. I was paranoid that everything (including my personal life) I did was not good enough. I was checking over my work in excess to the point where it would take me an hour to write a simple email. The suicide attempts were driven by me constantly questioning what was wrong with me. I felt deeply flawed, defective and worthless. I didn’t feel there was any point to my life (I don’t feel like this as much anymore). I feel very fortunate to have been hired into my new role which is working for a non-profit with smart and kind people. I have no idea how I managed to manifest this new job opportunity despite the negative energy I had on the prior job.
How can I use the Law of Attraction to solve my issue?
P.S. Sorry for the long post. . .
Thanks in advance,
First off, congrats on the shift from such a place of pain. You obviously had really strong desires, which is how you manifested positive change despite the predominantly negative focus. Essentially, you made a big shift (which was probably a bit painful) and then you let in some good stuff.
Now, stop focusing on the day to day tasks that you don’t want to do. Just see yourself being happy at work. See yourself smiling and laughing and being praised by your boss, and having the time of your life doing… something. Don’t worry about that. Visualize it like a movie where the soundtrack covers over the people talking. All you see is the video. Just see yourself being happy. Visualize this relentlessly, and make sure it feels really good. Then, sit back and be amazed and how your reality will change. 🙂
I have something to add that may or may not help. I have found that the first step to solving any problem is discovering why the problem occurs or what causes it. For over 19 years I have found this to be the case for Australians anyway. There are 4 major reasons why people procrastinate. One of the 4 reasons comes under the category of “Wrong Goals” there is a valuable article written, in easy to understand terms and It can be found at http://bit.ly/wronggoals. (Relax, there is nothing to buy or sign up to)
You be the judge, but It has helped many Australians understand what is going on in their lives so they can then do more and be free to achieve the life they deserve. I hope it helps
What does being constantly late for everything mean?
I was late for school, work, meeting with friends, dates, everything!
All this week I have been late and miss out on meeting people, by only an hour I could have gone.
I have to ring up and say I’m too late, don’t wait for me. All the time.
I had an appointment at noon. So I wake up at 9am and all I have to do is eat and get dressed. Welll.. somehow I was still running late and just scraped into the door on time…
If I plan to leave earlier that doesn’t seem to work either. It will be too early. So I’ll leave it, I’ve planned all day around something, but STILL when the time comes “holy cow, I am late!”
And I always feel bad about it, especially if I miss something fun. So it doesn’t serve me. Joy is now my priority.
But the late monster wins.
I also set ten billion alarms on my phone, everything. I need a clock installed on my forehead!
Well, first of all you’ve clearly developed an expectation that you’ll be late. That’s not helpful (but very common). I’d say, if you can be early, do that a couple of times, just to prove to yourself that you don’t ALWAYS have to be late. Leave being right on time for later. The main problem here isn’t a huge one – you see yourself as being someone who is always late. Change the always to sometimes, and that will already soften things. 🙂
Oh dear. Well. I’ve been that messy housemate that had the messy room. I did care but I was depressed and the stuff around me reflected that. There was no point cleaning as it just all piled up again almost straight away. I had a bully housemate who was really judgmental about this even though I was neat in the shared space so it’s not really her business.
I’ve also been the person that must clean now. As a messy house is stressful and disorganized. So sometimes I force myself to clean for like 5hrs to catch up with 2 weeks of just not caring and letting things pile up. It felt really bad but had to be done.
I’m the biggest procrastinator. I can’t view it as a positive as everyone including myself as viewed it as a negative and detrimental.
I’ve also done intensive work but I think it just covered up my issues. People that become workaholics are no better than the lazy because they mask their lack of social life etc in a busy schedule so they can claim to be too busy instead of having a look in the mirror and admitting you barely have friends and trying to compensate with your high paying job and long hours.
So I’ve been on both ends of the extreme and neither felt right. But I have to do something and force myself daily else I’d do nothing as I never WANT to do anything.
If you were to focus on truly feeling better as a matter of highest priority, you wouldn’t have to force yourself to take action anymore. Everyone has to find this balance themselves, though and it can take time. But as you raise your vibration, if you make that your priority, it’ll get easier to take action. It won’t be such a fight anymore.
Hang in there.
Great post Melody. I was laughing in my head the whole time i read it. I do all the stuff I hate to do only when I really need to & am completely happy with that. My mother can’t stand that I do this as she forces herself to keep the house clean & do other chores because she thinks “she has to.” A typical convo: “Mom, why are you so stressed?” “I have to vacuum & do the laundry still & I want to just relax” “So, relax, you can do that tomorrow” ” But I have to do it now.” haha I guess what comes into play here that might be more concerning are one’s actual standards. If someone is fine with a disgusting house, it might be better for them to up their standards & assess if they are truly happy & could they be happier if they had a cleaner house.
For instance, one of my roommates had a disgusting room that he seemed fine with, but no one else did. Maybe if he set higher standards, he would find himself happier, idk. Or maybe if he heard everyone’s thoughts on how messy he is, he would change haha
I can also relate to Krysten. It is certainly scary sometimes not taken forced action. It also brings up feelings of guilt sometimes when I’m trying to achieve something & don’t feel like I did “all I can do.” I guess not doing “all I can do” makes me feel guilty when I consider it to be taking maximum action though (including forced). Maybe I’d stop that guilt if I redefined “all I can do” to mean following the LOA process to the best of my ability? 🙂
So, what you’re saying is that your roommate didn’t conform to what others thought he should do? Bless him, I say. 🙂
It’s impossible to tell how someone is really feeling. We assume that someone with a messy room or house must have a problem because it’s “healthy” to be neat. Only, that’s very judgmental, isn’t it. Perhaps your roommate really didn’t care or was perfectly happy. Or perhaps not. But one thing is for sure, if he was unhappy, then cleaning his room would not have made him happier. When a messy exterior is indicative of inner turmoil, and it often is, then cleaning up that exterior doesn’t help much, aside from a temporary sense of accomplishment. But, if the inner turmoil is taken care of, the exterior will get cleaned up, too.
But again, you can’t tell from the outside how someone is experiencing something. Many kids are perfectly happy living in a pigsty. Their parents aren’t, but the kids don’t care. And as you said, many people create an awful lot of stress for themselves because they HAVE TO keep everything just so. It all really comes down to personal preferences and giving ourselves permission to set our priorities based on what we really want.
Your last sentence is just spot on: Focusing and lining up your energy IS all you can do. But it’s more than enough. 🙂
I just found your blog and love it.
I have discovered the positive procrastination a while ago – to me it’s the only way to do things at all. In University, for instance, I’d only study for the exam the day or couple of days before, and dedicated myself 100% to the purpose, instead of forcing myself to study weeks ahead. Same with assignments, when the nature of it permits. It’s definitely something that works extremely well for me.
Putting pressure on yourself to do things sometimes takes the fun out of them completely. For example, I am a contributor for a women’s online magazine, and loved writing about anything and everything whenever I felt like it. When they promoted me to ”editor”, suddenly I had responsibilities and a schedule to stick to. As a result, I’ve completely lost interest – it took away all the fun, just because I had to do things not when I was inspired, but when they needed me to.
Thankfully I’ve learned from that and kept my blog fun to do. I’ll definitely try your technique and call for inspiration even when I’m not totally in the mood.
Welcome to Deliberate Receiving! This is too funny. I was the same way in school. I always wrote my papers at 3 a.m. the night before. But if I tried to do them earlier, they were total crap. This is just when I did my best work, so I accepted it.
It’s so hard for people to get their heads around this model. We are trained to think that we just have to do what we have to do. I think kids have the right idea. Ask a kid to do something they hate and they will wait until they absolutely have no choice. We try to teach them to do the crappy stuff first and get it over with. But is that really the best approach? I’ve truly come to think that no, it isn’t. Our whole day becomes filled with things we don’t really want to do (because it’s become acceptable to us to do them first) and the stuff we actually want to do gets shoved to the end of the day, or NEVER. That’s no way to live… It starts with our daily tasks.
Thank you for adding your comment here.
Huge hugs to you!
Thanks for your post. I really needed to hear this. I recently finished a 7-day meditation retreat and one of the insights I received was that it is time for me to stop doing uninspired action. I know what inspired action feels like and I know the results are miraculous and yet, as a new small business owner, I am terrified of COMPLETELY surrendering to my intuition and inspiration. For now, I am spending more time in meditation and less time “marketing” and my fear is that I will be meditating as my life and business crumble around me. My higher self knows “following my bliss” has to be numero uno on my “job description,” but I don’t think I have ever done anything this scary!
Thanks for sharing your personal stories. It really helps to hear your success with shifting from drive and willpower to ease, flow and inspiration.
Welcome to Deliberate Receiving! I know exactly what you mean. There’s a lot of fear that comes up when you stop taking the action journey. If you can’t make it happen with brute force, then how will it happen? But when you take the time to line up your energy first, things become so much easier. You allow the Universe to help you. Things line up with perfect timing and opportunities just come your way. You don’t have to work so hard to make things happen, you just have to let them happen.
Here are a couple more resources that may give you some support:
Action vs. Inspired Action
Overcoming Laziness with the Law of Attraction. This video offers a great explanation of inspired action. 🙂
That meditation is really working for you! I pray a lot (very similar to meditation) and arrived at the same conclusion after slowing down my thoughts down. Nobody wants to chill out and think for themselves. I wouldn’t mind this idea becoming popular! I think it would create a more peaceful and calming world! Thanks for writing!
Praying can certainly be very meditative. As long as you focus on the positive and the connection to God (or whatever). Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I do think that more and more people are coming to this conclusion. So we’ll have more company soon! 🙂