“I work best under pressure” is the battle cry of the crisis-maker procrastinator. Some proclaim it proudly, intimating that they have special last minute rush-to-the-rescue capabilities.
Others utter it sheepishly, realizing that any skill they have in coping with an emergency is not a special ability but a necessary evil generated by creating the havoc in the first place.
Both types of crisis-makers — the proud and the sheepish — are addicted to the adrenaline rush of doing things at the last moment. Until they experience that rush, it’s tough for them to get off their butts and get going.
Typical crisis-makers have two operating modes:
- Burying their head in the sand
- Working frenetically when they’re under the gun
They tell themselves they have no control over this pattern, and indeed, as time goes on, that often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why then do crisis-makers take action only when there’s a blazing fire to put out? The short answer: because their feelings, in the moment, are of utmost importance. If they don’t feel like doing something, they won’t. If they feel an undertaking isn’t to their liking, they won’t reflect on why it still may be a good idea to do it.
So, if this pattern sounds familiar, here are three ways to alter it.
1. Reflect on alternative reasons to get moving, aside from last-minute stress
Instead of focusing on your task-resistance, develop a variety of personal motivators to get you going. Ask yourself, will doing this task:
- Enhance my personal sense of accomplishment?
- Improve my relationship with others?
- Develop my independence and maturity?
- Enrich my career prospects?
- Help me get more organized so I can find things before there’s a crisis?
2. Be aware that interest in a task may not develop until after you’ve started doing it
You may be quick to assume that a task isn’t worth doing if it fails to intrigue you right away. Such thinking insists that an activity must lure you into action. Drop this passive approach! Instead, adopt a proactive, upbeat frame of reference. Change your thinking from, “a task has to interest me before I get involved in it” to “once I get involved in a task, I will develop an interest in it.”
So often, it’s the start of a task that’s the major obstacle. Little kids typically don’t want to take a bath but once they’re in the tub, guess what? They don’t want to get out. Similarly, adults may reluctantly drag themselves to the gym, but once they’re involved in working out they feel energized and glad they overcame their initial resistance.
3. Focus more on the facts, less on your feelings
As a crisis-maker, you’re inclined to put more emphasis on how you feel, less emphasis on what you know. Feelings are important, of course. But so are thoughts. Hence, strive to maintain a viable balance between the two. Shift your focus away from resisting (a passive stance). Focus, instead, on accomplishing (an active stance).
As you hone in on the facts, you’ll notice that your assumptions now have a better chance of meshing with reality. Here’s an example of how a crisis-maker might make a false assumption based on what he wants it to be rather than on what is.
“The report is probably not due for another week or two (a false assumption).”
“Let me check with my supervisor to confirm the due date (obtaining the facts).”
Oh, and one more thing, crisis-makers.
If you crave that adrenaline rush, don’t wait for a crisis to develop. Set up exciting things for you to do on a regular basis.
Play competitive sports!
Dance up a storm!
Do stand-up comedy.
Discover what activity ignites your engine. Then, make it happen! You can do better than simply trying to survive the storm that your procrastination gives rise to.