What’s your procrastination drama?

He’s talking about us! When we read Daniel Akst’s description of procrastination in his book We Have Met the Enemy—Self-Control in an Age of Excess, we were momentarily taken aback.

This author had figured out exactly what’s happening when we procrastinate.

First, we know we’re procrastinating. “Procrastination is a ruse,” Akst says. “We know what’s really going on, but we want badly to be fooled.”

Second, procrastination is exhausting. When we’re procrastinating, we’re frequently are so preoccupied with avoiding the task and finding excuses for ourselves that we don’t get anything accomplished. We spend a lot of time “dithering,” Akst explains.

Joy has to write a blog post, for example. First, she remembers a phone call she needs to make, and then she decides to check her e-mail messages before she gets started. Before long, it’s time for a meeting and she hasn’t written a single word.

Third, guilt and shame are both associated with procrastination. People sometimes confuse guilt and shame, Fayteen emphasizes. “When I was procrastinating about writing about procrastinating, I was beating myself up with both shame and guilt. I would have felt much better if I would have sat down and started writing.”

Guilt is about what we do, and shame is about what we are feeling, Fayteen explains. Shame is associated with feelings that we are unworthy and can be destructive. It often involves self-abuse, anger and addictions. Guilt promotes self-control and empathy, and it focuses on behavior and responsibility.

One thing shame and guilt have in common is that they can inspire procrastination as a way to avoid bad feelings,” Akst concludes.

Fourth, we’re in good company. Even very productive people procrastinate. Ernest Hemingway once was asked how to write a novel. His reply? First, you clean the refrigerator. And, Anthony Trollope, who produced 63 books, required himself to write a set number of pages every day with 250 words on every page.

Akst’s advice? Track your output, and enlist someone else to enforce your output.

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