Apparently — and we’ll talk some other time about why you need other people to take care of your customer support email — I missed Anti-Procrastination Day.
Apparently, as an expert on the topic who has written an entire book on Dissolving Procrastination, I could have taken the opportunity to say something smart and anti-procrastination-ish on such an important day.
On the other hand, I tend to think that the existence of an Anti-Procrastination Day is just about the wrongest thing I’ve ever heard of.
Also, please don’t be distressed if you’ve never heard of National Anti-Procrastination Day. There are a lot of totally made-up days out there to miss.
For example, you just missed National Miniature Golf Day too. And even I can’t remember exactly when the International Day of Borekas and Repression is supposed to roll around again.
And to make matters worse, no one seems to be able to agree on when exactly National Anti-Procrastination Day was. September 6th? September 29th?
I looked it up and apparently it’s both.
Nice job, anti-procrastination people. Way to remind people they didn’t get anything done on the first one, by having the second one a couple weeks later.
Bam! Right in the guilt!
Okay, so at this point you might have guessed that I’m not really a fan of Anti-Procrastination Day. Let’s talk about that.
Problem #1: There is no battle.
What do you think is a bigger time suck? Procrastinating or fighting procrastination?
Because fighting procrastination is just about the stupidest, most ineffective time waster of all.
Don’t get me wrong. The desire to beat the habit to a pulp is natural and normal. It makes sense that we want to do it. It’s just not useful.
“Oh, no! It’s going to win! I need to step up the fight! Maybe if I just kick myself harder I’ll finally do the thing!”
It doesn’t work like that, guys.
It doesn’t work like that because procrastination is not the enemy. Procrastination is a sign that some emotions related to the thing you’re not doing are coming up for you, and that they need some attention.
The process of ignoring and repressing those emotional experiences (and/or filtering those emotional experiences through a mass of guilt and shoulds) is what we call procrastination.
Otherwise it’s just Being in a State of Not Doing, which is fine.
Or it’s Percolating and Absorbing Information While Taking Your Time To Decide What The Next Steps Are, which is also fine.
Remove the guilt, and all of a sudden you’re in a conscious, intentional process with yourself. Take away the self-recrimination, and half the time you’ll realize you weren’t actually procrastinating at all. You just thought you were.
The thinking-you-were was actually the thing that was keeping you stuck. And when you’re stuck you can’t be excited and energized to work on doing the thing.
Problem #2: It could totally end up triggering your guilt mechanisms.
Here’s the thing with knowing it’s Anti-Procrastination Day: it triggers guilt. It focuses attention exactly where you don’t want it.
On the negative. On the finger-wagging. On the you-suck parts.
You want to have a Hold My Calls Because I’m Getting Stuff Done Day? Go for it. You want to have a Whoah I’m Practicing Motivating Myself Through Encouragement And Honest, Constructive Suggestions Day? Please. I think that’s a lovely idea.
Or whatever, you can also have a Guilt-Ridden I’m Going To Focus Negative Attention On How Much I Hate My Patterns Day. If that’s what floats your boat. It’s your choice. But don’t come complaining about how you weren’t able to kick yourself hard enough.
Anyone send you this incredibly obnoxious card for our special day? Because that’s what a real live procrastination “expert” recommended. I’m not even making this up.
Or what about this charming quote on procrastination from another “expert” who wants to terrify you into taking action?
“Understand that this enemy is working diligently, 24 hours a day, to prevent any forward progress, so you must work even more diligently at eradicating it from your life.”
Lovely. Thanks. Now I totally want to go get a bunch of stuff done. Oh, no I don’t. I want to curl up in a ball and cry.
There’s more stuff I want to say, but it’s not the time.
Whatever, I could rant a bit longer. There’s another three or four problems I have with Anti-Procrastination Day (unless it’s working for you, in which case, rock on, my friend).
But I’d rather give you something useful. Something that you can take comfort in. Something that will help you feel safe and supported so that you can access the internal and external resources you need to take some action.
Here’s what I’ve got:
- You are not lazy. It’s not even about laziness.
- Sometimes you want to be doing, and sometimes you want to be practicing the art of taking breaks.
- Sometimes it’s good to take that break even when it feels like you don’t have time for it.
- Sometimes the stuff people are telling you to do to “eradicate” your procrastination patterns sound suspiciously like a good way to ensure that you never get anything done.
- Sometimes the moment where you stop trying to whip yourself into shape and start trying to figure out what you need is so calming and centering and magical that the stuff you need just kind of falls into place.
Why am I taking this so seriously?
You’re right. I am a little upset. Let me tell you why.
Because I work with people who have these issues. People who have big, wonderful things to do in the world and are really, really scared sometimes to put it out there. Or even to talk about putting it out there.
I love these people with all my heart. They’re smart, creative and just generally awesome.
And then these so-called experts show up with their war-mongering and guilt-mongering and an entire day devoted to telling my people how much they suck. And it’s all so well-intentioned!
But it doesn’t help them. It makes them feel worse. They withdraw and retreat deeper into the stuff (guilt, criticism and self-loathing) that’s most harmful for them.
I’m here trying to help people who are traumatized by shoulds learn how to motivate themselves with love and attention. And this stuff freaks them out.
What about all the people who totally need help and aren’t getting it because they’re scared? Because they think it might make them feel guilty and horrible about themselves. Because they think they’ve tried what’s out there and know for a fact that nothing can help.
Well, I hope that everyone knows that not all methods involve kicking yourself and hating yourself. Because ohhhhhhh, that’s just got to hurt.
And not all methods involve forcing yourself to be all lovey-dovey and accepting when you don’t freaking feel like it. Because yuck and spare me. And also because it’s just not very realistic.
Where do we go from here?
If I were you I’d read all the articles I pointed you to. If I were you, I’d make up my own National Something Something Day that I thought was going to motivate me to do cool things. If I were you, I’d probably go ask someone I like for a hug.
And take a nap at some point too!
P.S. Did anyone else notice that the initials of National Anti-Procrastination Day spell out NAP DAY? Best acronym ever!
You’ve got my permission to take a nap. Seriously. Everything will be okay.
And if you ever want to go deeper into my approach, I have a product in the shop for dissolving resistance. You don’t have to get it now. All timing is right timing.
Like I said, everything will be okay. It already is.