Are you great at procrastinating? It's easy to fall into the procrastination trap, but there is some really good news if this is a recurring theme for you:
Procrastinating means that you're wildly creative OR that you desire to be more in touch with your creative expression than you currently are.
In fact, procrastination is a creative process in itself. We have to get pretty creative to find novel ways to postpone what we know we need to do. Take this article for instance... it's an act of procrastinating on my taxes.
The act of procrastinating on important or even menial tasks is an important cue that we desire greater creative expression, spontaneity, and relaxation. When we are relaxed we can more easily access creative thinking than when we are bogged down by the mental load of a to-do list.
If we take the time to evaluate what motives lie underneath our tendency to procrastinate (and what activities we often turn to instead of the big dreaded task) we can find valuable information about ourselves, our strengths, and our areas for growth.
Think of the little kid avoiding bed time. First it's "read me a story." Then it's "I'm thirsty" or "need to pee" or "monsters under the bed". If we pause to look at the motivation underneath the behavior, we can tailor our responses and our plans accordingly. Is it a desire to have more quality time with mom or dad? Is it fear of the dark or of unsettling dreams? Is it curiosity to see what those who are still up are doing or to form an identity of being a big boy or girl who has a later bedtime?
If we pause to evaluate rather than jump to the reaction of shaming, blaming, redirecting or admonishing, we can gather insight that can help us course correct in the long run and set a clearer path toward success that accounts for our holistic well-being.
When we apply this perspective to our own inner child who avoids certain tasks, we can collect information about our belief systems and use this understanding to cue new habits or to design necessary supports; things like accountability, outsourcing, novelty, reward systems, routine, or self-compassion.
Understanding our own motivations (i.e. I'd rather write this article than crunch numbers and pay the government money today) can help us decide how to operate in ways that are more supportive to our well-being long term (i.e. I'll write for an hour while in the flow and after a short body break I will spend an hour on my taxes. If I still don't knock them out in the next few days perhaps it's a cue that I need to hire a professional for help.)
It sounds simple and in theory it is, but the practice can be challenging within a society geared toward perfectionism (a thread for another expert procrastinator article) and especially if the underlying belief system is tied to painful emotions or if we haven't yet learned how to nurture our own creative urges.
This is why offering children opportunities to play, tinker, and be bored (yes, I said it and I'll stick with it even though it might be an unpopular opinion) are crucial opportunities to develop the muscle of self-direction and self-awareness.
If we didn't discover our creative urges as children, it's not too late. As adults we can still provide our own inner child with opportunities to play. A weekly date to do nothing or go on an adventure, to try that hobby we've thought about, or simply to nap can be powerful in-roads to discovery and growth.
Yes, there are tons of task that the average adult needs to complete each week. Yes, responsibility is important, but our ability to show up for the tasks fully, to sustain a productive pace over the long haul requires that we tend to ourselves-- our whole creative, quirky, human selves-- with some curiosity, flexibility, creativity, and rest.
So, the next time you are blocked by a moment of procrastination, pause and observe. With the right mindset it could just become an opening to create something unexpected and unique that only you can create...
Procrastination is creativity knocking.