Guest author: Lauren McLaughlin

Procrastination versus intention and self-regulation

You’ve just completed a PT session and you’ve got one hour before your next session. You know you’ve got call backs to do, paperwork to take care of or some plans to implement. You know you can get at least one of these things handled in the one hour break…but then you start thinking…maybe I’ll go for a juice, or check with trainers, or emails, anything rather than the thing your business requires.

Think about this for a moment. What happened to your original thought and intention: to act on a task required to create your business success? Where has your ‘attention’ moved to? You thought about what you need to do and then started thinking about doing something else. You made a conscious decision to practice procrastination. Believe it or not procrastination is a choice; there are several reasons why at times we procrastinate.

Joseph Ferrari Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
  1. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  2. Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case, are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  3. Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
For us to self-regulate and win by taking action, we need to know which type of procrastinator we are – then we can build a plan around breaking habitual patterns of thinking and feeling leading to procrastination.

For example if you’re the ‘decisional procrastinator’ you can self regulate by engaging in the following:
1. Begin by making small decisions, and notice what you think and feel when the decisions you made generate the desired outcome.
2. Notice what you think and feel when the outcome is not what you expected to achieve. The key is learning to adjust and get comfortable making mistakes. You will soon learn what doesn’t work and what does. “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement” (Henry Ford)
3. Remember mistakes can be a natural occurrence when making decisions you have not made before. The trick is to focus on your WINS.
4. Remind yourself of all the times you have made the right decision.
5. Keep a journal of your progress and read it regularly.
6. Set a meaningful goal rather than focusing on ways to stop procrastinating.
7. Limit your choices by refraining from information overload.

If you are an arousal procrastinator:
1. Refrain from saying “I work better under pressure”. Instead, say “I can do a much better job when I take time to complete the task at hand”
2. Choose to ignore feelings and thoughts such as “I will feel more like it tomorrow” and replace with “I can do it now”
3. Choose to begin the task, even if you do not complete it immediately. Give yourself a pat on the back for beginning.
4. Commit to daily mediation even if it’s for five minutes or listen to calming music.
5. Reward yourself when you complete your task.

If you are an avoidance procrastinator:
1. Refrain from judging yourself using negative self-talk by using an inner dialogue you would use with your best friend.
2. Visualise for a few minutes consistently the person you are becoming.
3. Work on self-acceptance by remembering your qualities and strengths
4. Learn to recognise when you are avoiding doing something and recognise it’s more than likely fear – false emotions appearing real.
5. Focus your thoughts and feelings on how you will feel once you’ve completed your task. “The search for the perfect venture can turn into procrastination. Your idea may or may not have merit. The key is to get started” (unknown).