Are You Guilty of Procrastination (Without Even Realizing It)?

We all know what procrastination is. And perhaps you think it’s not something you struggle with at all.

I certainly used to feel that way. As a student, I had no problem getting my essays in on time. In my first job after college, I found it easy to stay focused during the work-day.

I saw other people who struggled – perhaps they’d spend hours or even days putting off some little task – but I didn’t think procrastination was one of my problems.

But it was. And, to some extent, still is. Except now, I can recognize it for what it is.

I wonder if you’re guilty of procrastination too – without even realizing?

Big Picture Procrastination

The sort of procrastination I’m talking about is big picture procrastination. It’s about putting off major tasks – ones which don’t have a deadline attached, but which would improve your life.

Big picture procrastination looks like this:

  • You talk about being a writer, but you’ve never got beyond Page 10 of the novel you’re working on.
  • When you moved into your house six years ago, you were planning to redecorate. It still hasn’t happened.
  • You keep meaning to go back to college and get that post-graduate qualification … but it’s never quite the right time.
  • You’d love to lose some weight, but you’re so busy that you just don’t have the energy to diet.

You might well be great at getting little tasks done: you’re up to date on your emails, you’ve finished that report at work, you’ve done the filing. But the really big, important things in life just get put off again, and again, and again.

What Are You Resisting?

I came across the concept of “resistance” in the books of time coach Mark Forster, and I’ve also seen it used in Steven Pressfield’s War of Art.

If you’ve ever had to write an essay, prepare a talk or make a difficult phone call, you’ll almost certainly have experienced resistance. It’s that sense that just starting on something is overwhelmingly hard; that you don’t have the time, or the energy, or the courage.

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t struggle with overcoming resistance on an almost daily basis. It’s hard to make the time to sit down and write – or paint, or compose, or do anything creative.

The truth is, though, that the things which we’re resisting are often the very things which are most likely to make our lives richer and better.

Procrastination is Cunning

When you think of “procrastination”, you probably have a similar mental image to mine – a person surfing the internet, doodling, chatting, doing anything but work.

That’s an easy sort of procrastination to spot. The trickier sort is when you’re using busywork to put off doing real work.

Look at some of the excuses which crop up when you think about doing one of those high-resistance tasks:

  • I can’t work on my novel when the house is such a mess.
  • I can’t redecorate when I’ve got so many emails to answer.
  • I can’t go back to college when I’ve got all these community events to organize.

Now, I’m not saying that tidying or answering emails or volunteering are worthless or even unimportant. But are they really as important as you’re telling yourself – or are they just excuses to stay busy, so that you never need to tackle the bigger tasks in your life?

How to Stop Procrastinating

I find that the best way to overcome resistance is to simply make a start.

The sooner you get going, the easier it is; the longer you wait, the more resistance builds up. There’s never going to be an ideal time (and you know that, really).

What big projects could you make a start on today? This week? This month? Tell us about them in the comments…



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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