Perfectionists…believe there is one correct solution to a problem… Until they’ve discovered the right solution, they are reluctant to take any course of action.Jane B. Burka & Lenora M. Yuen
Wouldn’t we all like to begin the end of procrastination? We all struggle with putting things off or avoiding things we know we shouldn’t.
Thankfully, psychologists, Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen wrote THE book on procrastination…quite literally. And since we are all prone to avoiding things we know we should be doing, I thought it might be helpful to write a book note on it.
I first read this book when I was in grad school, It was very helpful to understand how my perfectionism compelled me to avoid working on my dissertation.
Recently when I reread Procrastination: Why you do it. What to do about it NOW (available on my Bookshop and Amazon*), I discovered perfectionism or fear of failure, is not the only driver. There are actually four other fears that could compel you to procrastinate. And, since understanding what feeds your procrastination is critical to overcoming it, I share those fears in this book note.
How to start ending procrastination? Understand five fears
Your procrastination could be driven by one or more of these deep-seated fears.
Fear of failure
First, perfectionists set unreasonably high standards for themselves. At the same time, they tend to see performance as the sole determinant of their self-worth. As Burka and Yuen describe it:
Perfectionists believe that “outstanding performance means outstanding person; a mediocre performance means mediocre person…. Procrastination provides an excuse for mediocrity. It makes mediocrity seem temporary, an artifact of half-hearted effort. As such, procrastination preserves the hope that if you ever did make an all out effort, you wouldn’t be mediocre at all.”
Fear of success
Secondly, Burka and Yuen state that you may be procrastinating to avoid success because you are afraid…
You might turn into a work machine…gain something you don’t deserve; you could hurt someone or be hurt yourself…. Or begin to hope when it’s safer to give up; you might feel too perfect.”
Fear of losing autonomy
The third fear is especially important for parents. In their book, Burka and Yuen explain how protective parents can unintentionally restrict their children’s independence. Later in life, some children may use procrastination to exert control and rebel to free themselves of perceived constraints.
Fear of separation
Fourth, for some, procrastination helps maintain closeness with others; it gives them a chance to “to be aided, to be rescued, to be taken care of to be connected to someone or something.”
Fear of attachment
Finally, for others, procrastination serves to prevent people from “moving in on them, crowding them, tugging at them, demanding of them.”
Burka and Yuen’s procrastination book provides more information on how to decipher which fears may be driving you and what to do about them. It is chock full of examples that better illustrate what I only briefly describe here.
It is important to remember that everyone procrastinates to some degree, and sometimes procrastination can even be helpful with tasks that involve creativity. But, if you’re finding that your procrastination prevents you from doing the things you want to do or harms important relationships in your life, this book is definitely worth a read.
Ready to tackle procrastinating? Do you assume there is one right way? Which, if any of the five fears plague you?
I started knitting this Baby Bjorn cover when my firstborn was a baby. Her baby friend had one that was made of fleece, so I took measurements and started knitting one. I finished it 15 years later. It’s too bad I didn’t begin the end of procrastination sooner.
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