Always putting off till the eleventh hour?

Three powerful ways to move past procrastination [Read this article now, don't push it for later!]

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What would happen if a train, scheduled to leave in the nick of time for you to make it to your sister’s wedding, decided it just wasn’t going to leave that day. The sun was shining, its tracks had just been cleaned, but it was tired of hauling ungrateful people who filled its trash cans with fouling banana peels. It knew it should get going, get you there on time, and do its duty. But its own sense of feeling overwhelmed and its fear of not getting it right kept it from moving even an inch. You forgo your ticket money. You don’t get there on time. Welcome to procrastination station.

In the real world, procrastination costs us more than just money, time, and productivity. It costs us health and happiness, too. Guilt, regret, and a feeling of low self-worth often accompany the act of procrastination. Our very inaction is an act. It’s deciding not to decide, which can often lead us down a treacherous road. If you’re a breathing human being, you’ve been affected by procrastination to some degree: the late fee at the library for overdue books, the surcharge for overnight delivery because you pushed off sending that birthday gift for too long after you bought it, the sour look on your editor’s face when you’re past deadline—again. Despite our bad experiences, we continue to push the envelope, addressed to no one other than ourselves.

Students are particularly notorious for waiting until the last minute to accomplish their work. If you have ever pulled an all-nighter in college, you will know the feeling of getting things done at the eleventh-hour. The average person reaches a plateau of effort over a longer period of time than the procrastinating student.

Our very inaction is an act. It’s deciding not to decide, which can often lead us down a treacherous road

If it really is uncomfortable to procrastinate, why do so many of us put off things to the last minute? Is it the thrill of the adrenaline rush? Is it our desire to test our limits? Or are we simply too stymied by our daily demands to distinguish what’s most important? Could it possibly have something to do with our relationship with time?

The answer is: sort of. Being chronically late is a form of procrastination. Burning the midnight oil is another one. All types of procrastination lead to time-sucking activities.

While some level of procrastination may always be present in our lives, we can learn to work through our blockage and time-sucking activities in simple ways.

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Excerpted with permission from The Power of Slow by Christine Louise Hohlbaum. Copyright © 2009 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

A version of this was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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