Procrastination, a Deceptive Trap

Delaying a project or course of action is easy to do. It can be so easy to complacently wait and watch. Dreading it, or waiting for the right moment to start the project. It can seem so innocent just leaving something on the back burner, however; we may be holding ourselves back. We may be limiting our own growth, depending on the nature of the endeavor.

Procrastination is like a cancer: it starts small and progressively grows, and the bigger it gets the harder it is to stop. It will be easiest to stop at the beginning when it is small. Fear is a very common cause of procrastination. The fear of failure, or fear of the unknown. This fear holds us back, and its manifestation can be procrastination. And, just like a weed, we must deal with it when it is small. It is integral that we recognize that fear is normal and something to listen to.

However, the presence of fear does not by any means denote that a danger or threat is present. It is my opinion that it is this very fear, this very sense on foreboding, that holds us back in many aspects of life.

In Michael Mann’s 2004 movie Collateral, one of the main characters: Max (spoiler alert) dreams of starting a limousine company. During the film Max reveals that he has been waiting twelve years to start his company. He has been working a temporary job for all of that time. He is waiting for things to be perfect before he launches. By the end of the film we are left to wonder whether he would have ever done it. Now, obviously, this is my take on an aspect of the film, yet it is a great example of procrastination to the extreme. Just like a disease, the bigger it gets the harder it is to stop.

It can be so easy to simply put something off until you get around to it, or until you have the time. As is often the case, we forget and it never gets done. This simply can’t stand. If it is important to you, then you have to find a way to make time for it. I recommend using a simple if a then b algorithm. I have written another article on that specifically which I refer you to for further details and explanation. Getting back on topic, the presence of fear or resistance can often be our greatest cue to boldly step forth and take the leap. Sounds kind of crazy I know, but that is how we grow.

That is how we fail and learn. Yes fail, there is no guarantee that just because we boldly throw ourselves into whatever we are doing that we will succeed. Failure is a real possibility in life in general, yet we must not let it deter us. For, sometimes the very fear of the failure can be more harmful to our success than the failure itself.

An aversion to failure can cause us to not even start, but isn’t refusing to start out of fear a kind of failure in and of itself, when you really think about it? There is a chance that you will succeed too, yet many people make the “make or break” decision for their project based on one of the many possibilities. Often that decision is based off of a worst case scenario or made through a negative lens. We can’t make our decision based on one of the worst possible outcomes or based on negative assumptions.

Procrastination is often the start of a negative feedback loop. This is to say that once we have delayed one project because of our fears about it. We are more likely to follow suit with others. One decision based on fear or laziness can easily lead to others. This leads to drastic reductions in productivity and accomplishment levels.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Pele

Whether the project we are delaying is writing a book, forming a fitness habit, adding to your expertise, or expanding your business if we procrastinate, we are holding ourselves back. Failing is okay. Think of the quote that has become the Fisher family’s motto “we win or we learn.” Embrace this, and go for it. Get out of the negative feedback loop. Reverse it. Refuse to hold yourself back. Yes, that is what you’re doing when you procrastinate. Robbing yourself of who and what you could be. Don’t let fear hold you back. Form positive momentum. And it all starts with eliminating procrastination.

If you care at all about whatever it is you are trying to achieve, then you can not allow yourself to procrastinate. If you do this, you will be surprised by how easy it is to loose track of time. You might look up and find that an embarrassing amount of time has gone by with no progress. I think a version of this happened to Max in the film: he looked up after twelve years and realized that he wasted so much time, and that he might never have started his company. He had left it on the back burner for far too long.

I believe that it is painfully easy to procrastinate. There is a difference between being truly unable to begin a task and choosing to delay it. For, sometimes no matter how much we want to start anything new we simply can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, a reasonable hiatus is fine but, beyond that, further delay can become a self-reinforcing cycle. Our society is full of fun distractions. Things that seem like great ideas at the time, but in the long run are superfluous and shallow. All of those things have their place; however, we must guard our work and creativity time from them like we guard a newborn baby. In my experience the unnecessary delaying of a goal or project will only send things downhill quickly.

I advise setting aside specific time for whatever you are trying to get done and truly focusing in on it. And keep other frivolities of life separate from it. We must strive to stomp out procrastination, were ever it appears, for if it is left alone it will just get worse. In this sense it is like an infection. We are best served by dealing with it when it is small.

Now your challenge is to pick two ventures that you are procrastinating in, and they have to scare you. That is an important part of it. Dust off the cobwebs, and get them off of back burner. It is time to break through that fear. You should refuse to hit pause on either one of them, and get them on track. Like we said earlier, you should set aside dedicated time to focus in on each one of these ventures.