The Pros & Cons of Procrastination

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“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.”

This quote by Oscar Wilde is the exact definition of the art of procrastination: putting it off; waiting it out; placing it on the back burner.  Tomorrow is a wonderful time and an easy answer, and the day after tomorrow is even better!  There is a whole lot of motivational theory and time management principles that play in to why we procrastinate (because we all do for something some time), but in essence, procrastination is avoidance. Now I know there are readers saying to themselves, “oh, no, procrastination is {INSERT all sorts of positive justifications and reasons HERE} to which I say, I agree (see below), just hear me out!

In general, and especially in today’s pop -psychological world, avoidance is viewed as a bad thing (embrace your feelings and slay your dragons); however it serves a function too.  At a subconscious level, nobody wants to do something they won’t enjoy or they fear.  That’s human nature, so congratulations, you are normal, and your psyche is protecting you from the pain, discomfort, mistrust or boredom associated with “the task.”  Having said that, there is something to say for slaying your dragons and accomplishing things; different, uncomfortable, stressful, new or boring things and trying something new, gaining a sense of accomplishment or learning that we have to take the good with the bad are all important too!

In defense of human nature, I have created a list of all of the reasons it is totally okay to procrastinate.  Too bad for us, procrastination is often viewed negatively and the “cons” of it are quick to the tongue and many:  a person who procrastinates is wasting time and is often viewed as lazy, disorganized, rushed, ill-conceived and irresponsible.  Fair enough…..maybe.  However, it is only fair to list the pros of procrastination as well….if it wasn’t so, it wouldn’t be such a powerfully demotivating force.   The list below explains and justifies both sides of the pacing and pressure-cooking procrastinative personality who is driven and defined by coffee and all-nighters!

PRO: you get a LOT of other things done when you procrastinate.  It is amazing how many fridges get cleaned out, batteries changed, groceries gotten, emails written, Christmas lists made and driveways shovelled when one is putting of “the task.”

CON:  You are avoiding something which tells your brain that “the task” is to be…avoided.  Your brain (ever the animal) then interprets said task as dangerous, poisonous, threatening, maddening, saddening or destructive.  The more often you avoid, the more often your brain attaches these emotions….this is going to make it a weee bit tougher to call on said brain to be all of a sudden creative, accepting and embracing of “the task” when the time comes.

PRO:  You brain is designed for survival, and so you will.  Whether by avoidance or by conquering “the task” your mind will give you whatever you need to survive (i.e. the project completed).  This looks like success; however most often, you have done only the bare minimum or just enough in order to finish.  Consider how many times you say to yourself “whatever” or “good enough” as you write, build, create or complete at the last minute.

CON:  Along with said emotions and interpretations noted above which begin to accompany every thought regarding “the task”, and the impending deadline, you are flooding your mind and body with stress hormones.  When the TIME COMES it’s do or die which feels a lot like fight or flight to your brain.  Adrenaline, cortisol and the like are stress hormones and add to inflammation, irritability, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, etc.

PRO:  If you’re lucky, after time the project or task is cancelled or no longer required and you saved yourself a lot of work.

CON: If you’re not lucky, the deadline gets moved up and you get thrown into a coffee-driven all-nighter complete with lots of junk-food, panic and ‘splainin to do.

PRO:  You have time to think about and consider your M.O. and gather all of the required information.  New information may come along or a new method may be discovered; a new idea may spontaneously come to you while you wait to start…a better idea, so I should wait……just in case.

CON: You cannot be very creative or make any adjustments at the last minute.  You get it done.  Even when you are on a role and ideas start flooding, they are on paper before your brain or imagination has had time to work with it.  We know that over time ideas evolve and grow and new “aha moments” bubble to the surface.  If you’ve waited to start, there’s no time for the ideas to finish creating.  Scratch that:  the ideas keep growing and coming, but you had to hand it in, so it’s too late to make additions.

PRO: There is some truth to the “I work better under pressure mantra.”  There are studies that show a “sweet spot” for anxiety and drive that enable our brains and show up and provide a peak performance when there is something at stake.

CON: This better under pressure thing only works when everything else is ideal and the universe presses all the “perfect condition” buttons in your life.  You can’t get sick.  The power cannot go out.  You cannot be needed to watch children or clean up dog crap.  Your car cannot break down or internet crash, not your car crash and your internet break down.  Your mom can’t need you to fix something or your boss need to help with a different project.  You can’t break a tooth or get sick (I said that one twice cuz your running on adrenaline and it’s going to happen…..).  If you can be absolutely certain that everything else in your life is going to be ROCK solid, then by all means….wait until the last minute and CRAM!  On another note, the “work best under pressure brain showing up with a peak performance thing” really only applies to things you WANT to accomplish.  Those tasks you are ever-avoiding will still be only as good as they’ll ever be.

If you struggle with procrastination keep this in mind: the hardest part is the start.  The rest will come.  Say it over and over to your brain…if you can get past the first step, then you are well on your way.  Your brain gets into “the task” and takes over.  This is often accompanied by the adrenaline rush and a tease of that sense of accomplishment.  Just start.  Take baby steps (anything is overwhelming if it’s a ginormous undertaking?!).  I always like to start with a quote…find what kick-starts your “go” and it’ll be tomorrow before you know it!

A.

Sticks & Stones: Negative Self-talk

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If day in and day out, I said to my friends or family members:

“I don’t know why you even bother, you’re never going to accomplish……….”

Or

“You’re stupid, lazy and good-for-nothing, no wonder you can’t…….”

And on and on and on, they probably wouldn’t want to be my friend much longer?!  And rightly so! But, we’re stuck with ourselves, and often that’s who’s talking to us like that!

Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are constantly thinking about and interpreting the situations we find ourselves in. It’s as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation. It’s the soundtrack to our thoughts, and our brains are listening very carefully, no differently than it listens to the words of others and has a reaction, emotion and brain/ memory firing according to what it hears (think the act of learning, conversation, sweet nothings, commands, etc). Some of our self-talk is a neutral easy-going kind of banter (“I think I’ll have waffles,” “cute shirt,” or “I wonder what Mary is up to tonight?”); but then there’s the dark side…

Have you ever noticed yourself talking down, criticizing, or holding yourself to an unrealistic expectation? Of course everybody has their bad days, where they do something foolish, feel awkward or regretful and then move on, but generally we should be doing a lot more cheering ourselves on than bashing ourselves for our mistakes! Life is t-o-u-g-h and we are all just doing the very best we can….we need to remind ourselves of THAT, and not of every single time we fail. There is a time and place to challenge yourself, but that should not ever replace recognizing that you are trying, succeeding, growing and learning too. If you find yourself constantly judging, critiquing, and generally hating yourself, you are at risk for lower self-esteem, decreased activity and productivity, depression, inability to concentrate and a negative outlook on life which will poorly reflect on you and negatively affect your relationships and responsibilities….which will likely begin the negative-self-talk-cycle all over again!

If this all sounds too true to you, you aren’t alone. Although it’s sad to say, we tend to be our own worse critics. We tend to be able to see the good in others (our friends, family members etc.) and dwell on our own less positive points, and it is hard to recognize our good side and pat our own back…especially for just trying or being brave or keeping calm. There is no question that in rough world, we have to be on our own side! So how can we possibly start to change the way we treat ourselves? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be gentler with others. The way we treat other people is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves; the ability to forgive or have patience extends to others and yourself and it’s a great habit to get into….once you are easier on others, it’s easier to be easier on yourself!Ÿ
  • Actually believe that no one is ever perfect. Even the people you think are perfect are not. Trust me. You need to allow yourself room to grow and learn and make mistakes sometimes. Apologize and forgive yourself when things go really really wrong. The act of forgiveness is difficult but also can give a sense of freedom and growth.
  • Try to concentrate on the positives. This is FAR easier said than done, but we need to recognize and appreciate our efforts and our positive traits especially on days when we feel the worst. This takes time and practice, and we need to remind ourselves a lot, but there are positives and life’s “little” things and gratitiudes can take us a long way too!
  • Set realistic expectations of yourself. Don’t set yourself up to fail, if there is something that you feel you need to change then work towards it but don’t expect yourself to accomplish the impossible or to make major changes in a day.
  • Take a step back. Try to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to see your good points if you think about how your friends or family view you. Ask yourself, “how would they describe me? What qualities do I have they appreciate?”
  • Work at ways to build your confidence. Often, it is when we are feeling insecure, judged, vulnerable, anxious or undervalued that we use negative self-talk. Work at learning about situations, building your skills, recognizing your strengths, practicing and building a support system in order to feel more confident and competent in these situations.
  • Be around people that are nice to you! Often, we repeat the messages we hear from others (or worry others might be saying). Choose friends, colleagues and social situations that celebrate and support you! Nobody needs frenemies and they’ll bring you down long after you leave their presence. Stick to those whose words will uplift and bring joy to you no matter what kind of say you are having!
  • Have a “go-to” mantra or phrase that you can repeat during stressful, negative or difficult times to replace negative thoughts and keep calm in your mind. Create your own meaningful phrase or use a popular quote that makes you smile or feel positive! Some examples are:

* This too shall pass

* You have enough. You do enough. You are enough

* I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for today

* You are smart. You are important. You are kind.

*I think I can, I think I can…

*Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

*Faith does not make things easy. It makes things possible

* I will try.

We can learn a lot from children…check out this little girl who’s got positive self-pep-talking down to an art! Enjoy the smile:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kKswLd65Ws

An Attitude of Gratitude

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  ~Melody Beattie

Being thankful is essential to our soul. When we recognize and appreciate our blessings, abilities and opportunities, we have respect for their value and purpose in our lives. We feel able to share with others. There is also research to suggest that taking time each day to pause from the hectic lifestyle and pressures we place on ourselves to be at peace with what we have and have accomplished can have positive impacts on both our mental and physical health reducing levels of stress and disease, changing outlook, providing moments of quiet and gaining perspective.

Being grateful can also sometimes be difficult. We are engaged in a world where there is always more! We aspire, dream, grow, create, acquire, build and move forward at incredible pace. Things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster….and we need to be in and on and around that, or…..?

Realize that now, in this moment, we have….enough. It’s okay to have dreams, it’s okay to aspire to grow, to learn, to evolve and to achieve big things but it’s also important to celebrate yourself, to celebrate your accomplishments, to celebrate the present moment and to celebrate your life. With gratitude comes happiness and with happiness comes gratitude. While dreaming and aspiring and moving are all positive, we also need to take some time to notice, appreciate, reflect. Take a few moments in your day to be grateful. There will always be things to hope for, but there are also things to hold precious: health, love, memories, honesty, determination and ability….and they are the very foundations that will enable you to dream, aspire and reach….

Some ways to begin showing gratitude are listed below….see if they help to change your outlook!
◾Have a gratitude “journal”. Write a bit each day about what you are thankful for
◾ Write a blog or Facebook post about gratitude or thankfulness
◾Make it a topic of discussion at the table. Ask others what they are grateful for!
◾Set aside a few moments (like first thing in the morning or right before bed) to list 3 things you appreciate or are glad for today!
◾Make an effort to tell the people in your life what you appreciate about them
◾Place decorative and inspiring quotes or notes around your home reminding you to be thankful.
◾Google or search our literature or poetry about gratitude…here’s a poem below to start you off!

Be Thankful

“Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something

For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations

Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge

Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes

They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary

Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are

also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles

and they can become your blessings.”

~Author Unknown

Being a Good Role Model

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Don’t look now – someone is watching you!

There’s no such thing as the “perfect parent” because being a parent is the world’s most difficult job. You may appreciate the special joys of raising a child, but you also know that it can be demanding, challenging and exhausting—and there’s no time off.
Some days you do a great job as a parent. Other days you would rather not think about. But every day you act as a model— for your children.

It is a scary thought, but from infancy, your children are watching you.  The see almost everything you do and constantly learn from your actions and conversations and absorb your attitudes and expressions.  By the time they start school, they have probably learned far more than you realize or have intended.

Is it something you should worry about?

It depends.  Your child will eventually become a teenager and have to make grown-up choices.  If you control your temper, treat others with consideration and show restraint with use of alcohol, drugs, gambling and tobacco, your child will be more likely to copy your behaviour.

As a parent, are you the only role model for your child?

No.  Grandparents, extended family, babysitters, friends, teachers, coaches and neighbours are all examples.  In fact, the more caring, responsible adults there are in a child’s life, the better.  Anyone can be a role model, but parents or main caregivers are still the major influences in a child’s life.

How can I do this?

Think about how your behaviour may affect your child.  This doesn’t mean you always have to be calm and cheerful because children need to see their parents express real feelings in a healthy way.  It is when they see you expressing those emotions with a fist or yelling that they learn to think that is how they are supposed to deal with that.  If they see you handling difficult times in a calm way without violence, alcohol, drugs, gambling or tobacco, they’ll remember that and be more likely to follow that example.

What if I make mistakes I don’t want my child to copy?

When there are problems in the family, even very young children can be affected.  Children often believe they caused the problems and that conflicts arise because of something they have done wrong.  You can help by talking to your child.  Even a very young child understands a very sincere apology.  It is possible to be honest with your child and still not burden then with adult problems.  The important thing is to acknowledge a mistake and to really emphasize that you love your child and that they did not cause the current problems.

The important thing is to talk to your child, be open about mistakes and talk to them about people you looked up to and learned from when you were their age.

It’s not easy being a model for another human being. But since modelling is a big part of every parent’s and caregiver’s role, it’s probably a good thing to keep in mind. Somebody’s watching you!

Check out this powerful video on the impact our actions and beliefs have on children: