Why do people begin a project, become overwhelmed, and then procrastinate to the point of not finishing? It is fine to realize you need downtime; however, hitting overload should never be an excuse for failure. When a project becomes difficult self-doubt can be consuming.
When I set out to write my first novel some people actually said, “Sure, it’ll get started, but it’ll never get finished.” I have a strong history of accomplishing goals, so why would a person say something that didn’t match my track record? The truth is that people are embarrassed by their own failure, thus they fear watching someone else succeed. They also use their lack of accomplishments to give you an out. “Oh, yeah. I thought I’d do that, but I am too busy with more important things.” Or “You think you will have time, but just wait.” Once you’ve been handed that excuse it is easy to let it take over. Excuses lead to doubt. Doubt leads to procrastination. Procrastination often leads to failure.
Yes, without intending to do so my friends were setting me up to fail. I had the grandmother of all excuses to fail too: I was about to have my first child. However, I was determined not only to finish the project for my own mental well-being but also to show others that I could. The point I’m trying to make here is that procrastination is often a disguise for the real issue. It sounds much better to say, “I’m procrastinating because I need some downtime” over saying, “I’m putting something off because I suspect I will fail.” Procrastination is a vicious voice that says failure is acceptable. Where did that voice originate? Was it your doing or did it come from an outside source?
There is such a things as productive procrastination. When I get writer’s block I turn to artists whose work often serves as a catalyst to put my mind in a different space. Is watching a film or reading a book considered procrastination when there is a true purpose? No. However I’m sure you can see how that could lead to procrastination. It becomes easy to say, “I’m so comfortable. I’ll just read another chapter.” Before I know it I’ve spent a day spinning my wheels. I could have done that while folding laundry. I also could have done that while writing and possibly have pushed through the writer’s block.
So how do you avoid procrastination? Try exploring the nature of the problem. Is it simply an excuse for failure? Excuses are not allowed. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need a break then set limits for yourself. Need a stronger push? Imagine lying on your deathbed and wondering where your life went. Would you have accomplishments to be proud of? If not, the procrastination demons may be doing a hell of a number on you. Don’t let life pass you by.