Dispatches: October 2018
Prevailing over procrastination
Is there something right now that you know you need to do, but are putting off? What just popped into your head? Why is it that you’re avoiding doing whatever that thing is that you know you really should have done by now?
We don’t see a lot of procrastination on emergency scenes, and for good reason. You’re there to get a job done, whether it’s knocking down a fire or extricating a patient, and time is of the essence. There’s little opportunity to sit around on the fence and debate with yourself about the best course of action. The question is, how can you put this tactic to work in other areas of your life?
What is it about a call for service that sets action in motion? Set aside the fact that it’s potentially life-threatening or that there’s potential for loss of property.
Let’s break it down. How does the call start? The pager. You’re sitting at home, sprawled out on the couch watching television, or maybe you’re working in the yard. If it’s one of those middle-of-the-night calls, you’re fast asleep, dreaming about who knows what. You hear the tones drop and instantaneously a set of physiological reactions occur in your body.
First, there’s a hit of adrenaline, followed by the sudden change of focus from what you were doing to what you’re about to do – which is to get your butt to the fire hall. Grab your keys, pager, cellphone and get ready. Instantaneously, you go from a resting state to all engines firing in the blink of an eye. Everything changes in that instant.
If we compare that response to our response (or lack thereof) to a task we may be procrastinating about, there is a significant catalyst missing – and that is that initial call to action, the drop-everything-and-run instinct.
Since it’s not realistic to have a pager go off to motivate us to do the things we tend to procrastinate over, what are some other options? Air horn? Taser?
Let’s look at why we procrastinate in the first place. According to an article I found on the Psychology Today website, there are three reasons.
The first is that we get an adrenaline rush from fighting a deadline. Perhaps you couldn’t be bothered to do something before, or had forgotten about it, but all of a sudden you have a powerful energy boost and accomplish your task at the last minute. This totally sets you up with a false sense of confidence, thinking that you can do it this way all the time.
The second reason has to do with something we call “life goals.” With more idiosyncratic goals, like taking the next step in your career, starting your own business, writing a book, learning French, becoming a mentor, or helping a charity, the deadlines are non-existent. No deadline means no pressure. No pressure means no action. And no action means no goal.
The third reason for procrastination is due to the disconnect between intention and implementation. To translate a plan into action, your brain analyzes a vast amount of information from your internal and external environment and makes decisions about what to do next. When you have all the information you need, you start working on a plan. If you don’t, your brain stalls. And that’s when you experience procrastination.
The Psychology Today article suggests looking at your procrastination as a red flag or warning and to delve more into what’s stopping you. This often requires some serious introspection and digging beneath the surface to get down to the nitty-gritty.
In my experience, there is always a reason. It may be well-hidden beneath layers of justifications, excuses or reasoning that it’s just the way you are. But, if you really want to be more productive and kick procrastination to the curb, you have to do some digging.
I recall bugging my husband one day about his tendency to avoid finishing some projects he’d started and his response was authentic and vulnerable and surprised both of us.
We don’t like to look at our reasons for doing certain things because those reasons usually aren’t pretty and therefore we avoid them. We think it’s easier not to change, because change and growth can be uncomfortable.
Staying the same may be comfortable and familiar, but nothing new grows in our comfort zone.
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, dig a little deeper and try to find out why. You may be surprised at how shining a little light on something can have a huge effect in a very positive way.
The goal is to foster that feeling of a job well done – off the fire scene as well as on the fire scene.
If all else fails, shoot me a message. I’ll teach you how to navel gaze.
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