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March 28, 2016

Why We Really Procrastinate


I’ve already confessed to being a closet procrastinator, and learned I’m not alone (thank you!). I’ve also had luck putting a few daily tools into practice, like the “first in, first out” rule for taking care of business. I’m not going back on this approach because it saves me time and sanity, but I would like to amend my long-held belief that procrastination is bad—or, more important, that I’m a bad person because I procrastinate. After stumbling upon The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, Ph.D., I better understand why I drag my feet and, as a result, have begun the slow process of freeing myself from the guilty shadow procrastination used to cast.

According to Fiore, I fall under a category of humans who have a fear that even after I’ve worked hard and achieved the goals I’ve set, my only reward will be continually higher and more difficult goals to achieve, with no rest and no time to enjoy my achievements. Sound familiar? Sound exhausting? It is. And it drives me to completely shut down regularly because I don’t even want to THINK about all that is required of me to conquer the mountain of goals that keeps growing no matter how many times I reach the top. In my mind, I only have two options: procrastinate OR face nonstop work with little contentment to show for it. I read this book hoping there would be an option C. Here it is: Stop over-identifying who you are, your worth as a person, with your work. 

Good god.

I AM my work. And I have been basing my worth on what I’ve achieved, not on the person/partner/friend I am.

Fiore goes on to say that procrastination is not a character defect, rather a means of coping with a fear of having our worth held up for judgement. From this fear follows a counterproductive drive toward perfectionism, severe self-criticism, and the fear that you must deprive yourself of leisure time in order to satisfy some unseen judge.

So there it is. I’ve read and re-read these passages dozens of times. I’ve meditated on them. I’ve watched myself feel guilty for not wanting to do something hard for fear I’ll fail. And I’ve asked myself what would happen if I just tried, and made the task simply about exploring an interest or idea, not about whether all of my self-worth and happiness were tied to doing it perfectly. I’ve also given myself permission to do things simply because I enjoy them (crazy!), and not feel guilty if they aren’t a job-related means to an end. It’s a new way of being and thinking for me. One that isn’t coming naturally or without constant vigilance, but if it means each day will be more about GETTING to instead of HAVING to, well, I’m all for it.

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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