How do you define procrastination? For many people procrastination is something that they associate and identify themselves with far too easily. The challenge is that once you identify with a behavior (positive and negative) it becomes part of who you are and your experiences and actions are filtered through this identity.
We can define procrastination as "task aversion" which is the irrational delay of an intended course of action. Translated from the original Latin meaning, procrastination quite literally means ‘in favor of tomorrow’. As human beings we are always pursuing ways of being better off – everything we do, we do with a positive intent. Although procrastination seems to contradict this fact, it actually illustrates a very important point. What we do, or fail to do, is not purely the result of our conscious choices, but often the result of factors we are not aware of consciously. When you procrastinate, at some level of your unconscious thinking, you believe that taking the action will leave you worse off than actually taking the action.
To change this negative tendency, you need to do two things. Firstly you must remove the association and ‘attachments’ that you might have with procrastination. Realize that you are NOT a procrastinator. Although you might procrastinate at times, you cannot afford to limit yourself by defining yourself by your behavior. Secondly, you must redefine procrastination in such a way that it will motivate and empower you instead of limiting you.
The way we define things for ourselves will determine the way we interact with it. If you see procrastination as a chronic problem that you were born with, then it is likely that you will struggle with it all your life. If you define procrastination as a bad habit that you need to deal with at some point in the future, then it will control you. If you see procrastination as something you cannot overcome then you will probably be right.
If you define procrastination as a negative tendency that you choose to put aside, then you will be empowered to take action despite procrastinating. Whether you CAN do something is rarely the result of your ability. It’s almost always a case of motivation. Motivation is nothing but an inner drive that compels you to action, and gaining leverage on yourself is a powerful way to find the necessary motivation.
There is a definition of procrastination that can do just that. I choose to define procrastination as the thief of time. When you think about it you will realize just how true it is because procrastination is what keeps you immobilized and stuck in inaction. Time is your most valuable and your most precious asset. People go to extreme measures to protect their money and their possessions, but do very little to ‘protect’ their time – the one thing that money can never buy. Learning to value your time, is a powerful strategy for overcoming procrastination and getting the most out of your life. When you value something you will look after it and protect it.
Your time is limited. Have you ever wondered how many days you have in your lifetime? At first blush you might guess that it is a hundred thousand or even a million. In fact, if you grow to be 70 years old your entire lifetime will only have 25 550 days. If you are 30 now, then you’ve only got another 260 000 hours left – and a third of this will be spent sleeping.
You have just as much time as Bill Gates, Mother Theresa, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or any other person on this planet. The only difference is in the way you use your time. Don’t allow procrastination to steal your most precious asset.
Instead, see procrastination as a call to action. It is likely that what you are procrastinating about is something that you ‘must’ do. See, what we don’t do and what we don’t face controls us. But when you face it and you do it, you liberate yourself and it no longer has any control over you. If you have this sense of urgency and awareness that your time is precious, then you won’t allow the thief of time to hold you down. What you get out of yourself does not rely on your ability. It relies on how much of your resources you can get access to and this is almost exclusively a psychological exercise. By changing how you define procrastination for yourself you can start to change this internal conversation and empower yourself to take action and make things happen.