The whys and wherefores of putting stuff off

Chinese abacus. [Wikimedia Commons]

I’ve been working on taxes today. It’s an activity I dread, although once I start on it, it never seems so bad.

Like most things that put me a state of high anxiety, it’s the anticipation of not-good-enoughness that arouses fear that arouses anxiety that arouses the desire to procrastinate.

You’d think after all these years it wouldn’t still be this way.

Anything related to money is a trigger for me. It makes me want to bury myself under the covers and sleep, so I don’t feel the panic … and that’s no matter how much or how little cash money I have in the bank.

But that’s a story for another day.

I read an article recently in the New York Times about the whys of procrastination. (It’s worth reading. You can find it here.)

The good news is: Procrastination isn’t about laziness.

I guess that’s something.

However, an interesting finding of one study was that procrastination is more about “‘the immediate urgency of managing negative moods’ than getting on with the task.”

In other words, people who procrastinate (my hand is raised here) experience some scary emotion around the task. It could just be that the task is not a pleasant one. For me that’s definitely cleaning my house … and doing my taxes.

But it could also be self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, insecurity, self-blame, shame or the like related to the task for whatever reason. In this case, escaping that powerful feeling — even if we know that in the long run putting the task off could make the feeling worse or be damaging to ourselves in some way (“self-harm” in the psychologists’ lingo) — is more valuable than just tackling the task. Avoidance trumps get-‘er-done.

I guess I’m making progress in that I actually began tax prep yesterday … although truth be told, I’ve been thinking about it since January. And here it is, one week until April 15.

I’m doing it, but it’s uncomfortable AF, because those pesky negative emotions are full-on my companions. I just keep reminding myself that a week from today taxes will be behind me and I can worry about something else.

Like scrubbing that bathroom floor.

Oh joy.

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