If there is nowhere to go, why can't I get there faster? - Unknown
Some of the words we use to describe our relationship to time and productivity carry a pretty heavy judgment, often not favorable. They are concept words, in that they point to mental assessments that may or may not be true. Furthermore, their repeated use often puts an end to inquiry, other than to figure out how we should be different, or the other person should be different. The judgment is delivered and that is that.
Today I invite you to consider "behind" and "procrastination," two of the more persistent concepts running our lives. You could say that they are different sides of the same coin. After all, if you didn't procrastinate you would not be behind...says the mind.
I was first clued into the torture potential of the word "behind" when a client hired me to help him get a better handle on his priorities. He was diligent about tracking his projects and tasks on an intricately organized Excel spreadsheet, yet he rarely felt caught up. He complained that he was frequently "behind" where he thought he should be. And, that, right there, was the clue. He was behind where he thought he should be. I asked him these questions:
- Who created your task list?
- Who created the timeline?
- Who said life should and would flow the way you thought it would?
That was an illuminating moment for him, as he paused to entertain the possibility that some of the pressure he was feeling was self-generated.
There are 2 lenses through which you can look at this notion of behind. There is the cosmic, larger picture view that, like the opening quote, suggests that every single thing on this planet and in your life is flowing just perfectly. Ultimately there is no such thing as behind. I like to encourage people to at least consider this because to some degree, it is true. We are not in charge of everything, we just aren't and we can't be. A lot of energy is wasted pushing our little boats upriver.
Then there is the practical aspect of managing projects and priorities, worth investigating if you are "always behind." In my experience, most people who are perpetually behind have a difficult time assessing how long things take to accomplish, don't include any time for unknown variables in their plans, nor allow for transition time between projects or meetings. Furthermore, they are usually heavily invested in some level of perfection that doesn't exist.
Procrastination, like behind, too easily turns into a yardstick that diminishes the perceived offender. As a noun - I am a procrastinator - procrastination deems the imagined "delinquent" inadequate. Perfect, just what we need, another label that adds pressure in a pressure-filled world. Consider this instead. What if the act of putting something off, when examined, reveals a personal truth worth exploring further? Procrastination reveals resistance, and resistance isn't necessarily negative. Perhaps...
- You might not be the best person for the task.
- It might not, as it turns out, be the best day to work on the intended project. If your energy is not there, or something else requires your attention, yes, please wait.
- It could be pointing you towards a fear - of success or failure - that needs examining.
Why do we come down on ourselves when we don't do what we set out to do?
Is there ever really anything wrong, other than our attachment to outcomes and results?
Today I used "behind" and "procrastination" to showcase the less-than-empowering concepts that run our business lives. There are other words that have similarly damaging effects on our sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Any concept word that creates unrelenting pressure in you, is worth examining. What words have got you running to keep up with your own demands?