08/04/2014 11:38 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2014



Paul Dunion

An ancient meaning of the word procrastination is belonging to tomorrow. When we describe others or ourselves as procrastinating, we typically are making a disparaging remark. We do not as a rule advocate for procrastination. However, there may be times when some action or decision is better belonging to tomorrow. We can define some discerning guidelines for deciding about when it makes sense for an action to belong to tomorrow.

Appropriate Procrastination

Procrastination seems appropriate when:
* There are no apparent concrete negative consequences for anyone by delaying action. (Someone feeling annoyed does not constitute a negative concrete consequence.)
* There is another action taking priority, requiring immediate time and energy.
* There is ample evidence supporting the position that some preparation is necessary in order to properly execute the task.
* When letting go of an action allows for the economy of energy and diminished stress.

Self-Sabotaging Procrastination

There are a number of conditions where procrastination generates self-sabotage:

• When there are obvious negative consequences that could have been avoided by taking immediate action.
• When procrastination generates concrete negative consequences on the lives of others.
• When procrastination damages the trust and rapport with significant others.
• When procrastination becomes a pattern of consistent behavior.

Motivations For Self-Sabotaging Procrastination

There are a number of factors that motivate us to choose self-sabotaging behavior:

• Fear of experiencing unfavorable consequences resulting from taking a risk in the moment.
• Lethargy can be a way to postpone what can be done today.
• Denial of the unfavorable consequences of procrastinating.
• Excessive dependency on others to take responsibility.

Avoiding Self-Sabotaging Procrastination

There are a number of strategies that can help avoid creating self-sabotaging procrastination as a pattern:

• The first is simply bottoming-out with excessive procrastination and not wanting to experience the pain of it any more.
• Learning to get honest about feeling scared to take immediate action and willing to talk about it with a support person.
• Soliciting allies with whom we hold ourselves accountable for avoiding self-sabotaging behavior. We can talk to them about taking action that needs immediate attention and describing how it went upon completion.
• Learning how to fail can be very helpful, avoiding perfectionistic expectations and getting self-deprecating when we fall short.
• Committing to learning how to be self-forgiving and appreciating the courage to take a here-and-now risk.
• Learn to interrupt creating catastrophic stories about what might happen if things go wrong.

Procrastination can serve us when we discerningly decide what needs to belong to tomorrow and what needs to belong to today. The goal is not to get the process perfectly, but rather to remain focused on valuable lessons which include: learning to fail with grace, learning to forgive ourselves, learning to employ effective support from others and learning about the power of getting honest about feeling scared.