Why Can’t I Get Started?

October 14, 2015 by


procrastinateI planned to write this blog article on Friday, but now it is Monday, and I am finally getting to it. Why is it that sometimes we are unable to accomplish a task that seems so simple? Whether it is finishing a project for school or work, accomplishing some job around that house that needs to be done, or clearing a pathway through your hoard. Why do we keep putting things off until we are forced into it, or the task becomes urgent?

Research shows that Procrastination is based on a complex network of psychological variables including our feelings, values, fears, hopes, memories, dreams, doubts, and pressures. When we postpone doing a task, or put it off repeatedly, procrastination offers us a strategy to avoid uncomfortable emotions, and helps us deal with the feeling that we are flawed. It is easier to deal with the negative feelings that procrastination produces, than to deal with completing the task and being criticized for it—either by yourself or others.

To illustrate this concept, let’s take a look at one of Elaine’s clients, Mike. Mike is quite hard on himself. For him, being ordinary is intolerable; only perfection is acceptable. If he makes mistakes, or admits that he has flaws, Mike feels that this equals failure. He often reports that if he only put more effort into a task, he could make it perfect.

Mike also believes that excellence should not require effort, and being outstanding should be easy. He points to colleagues and friends who seem to do everything “perfectly, without really trying”.  The flaw in this belief is that Mike’s need to be “outstanding”, interferes with him doing the work needed to achieve excellent results.

Mike tries to do things alone. He thinks it is a sign of weakness to get help. When the burden becomes too much, Mike admits he usually procrastinates rather than ask his friends or family to help him.

Sadly, Mike doesn’t really appreciate that he has made excellent progress in clearing several rooms in his hoarded home. Life for Mike is “all or nothing”. Everything is a priority, and so when Mike looks around and sees the rooms still to be decluttered, he feels inadequate.

Mike also believes that there is only one solution to a problem. Until the ideal solution is found or the “right” choice is made, Mike feels that it is better to do nothing.

Understandably, Mike has a hard time keeping up with the pressure of performing perfectly, and so procrastination protects him from facing his feelings of inadequacy. The demon Procrastination allows him to hide from others and himself.

In addition to living in constant fear of being judged by others, Mike is also a slave to his own internal critic that tells him he is “simply not good enough”. Procrastination helps Mike deal with his fear of failure. He ends up waiting so long to begin a task that people never see his best work. Mike can always say after, “Well I could have done much better, if I just had more time”.

Elaine has worked with Mike for several months, helping him to create a healthier balance. Mike is beginning to understand and accept that sometimes you make mistakes. There will be bad days and your performance may be temporarily affected. But making an effort is a positive step. Failure is not dangerous; the real failure is not trying, growing, and living.

Mike is learning to tolerate the frustration and disappointment when he doesn’t meet a goal he set. Not reaching a goal is frustrating and disappointing, but it really doesn’t define who Mike is, or what he is worth. He is working hard to keep moving forward with improved plans, effort, and work strategies.

Do you often feel like Mike, frustrated and disappointed when you don’t meet the goals you have set? Does the demon Procrastination repeatedly rule your life and your progress?

Perhaps you could benefit from Elaine’s comprehensive 1-day workshop on “WORKING WITH PROCRASTINATION” to learn more about the underlying causes of procrastination in your life. Her workshop offers you practical steps on how to develop a plan to overcome procrastination—once and for all!

For more information on this workshop, see https://hoarding.ca/working-with-procrastination/.

Check out www.hoarding.ca for more information about hoarding and watch for the new book entitled Clearing the Path: Take Back Your Life When Your Things are Taking Over by Elaine Birchall and Suzanne Cronkwright COMING SOON. Follow us on twitter @Clearingthepath or Facebook at Clearingthepathbook.


About the Authors

Elaine Birchall MSW RSW

Elaine is recognized as the leading Canadian expert in the field of Hoarding. With over 20 years’ experience as a community based and clinical social worker, she has provided training and consultation to individuals, families, professionals, and community organizations across North America and internationally. In the last three years alone, Elaine has assisted 212 clients/families and over 130 peers, and offered more than 80 training courses and workshops on hoarding to individuals and professionals in North America. She is sought after as a keynote speaker and her work has received frequent acknowledgement in print, radio (U.S.A. and Canada), and television media, including features on W5, Canada AM, and 16x9 The Bigger Picture.  She recently hosted a six-part series with Canadian regional TV, Channel 22 in the Ottawa area.

Suzanne Cronkwright

Suzanne is a successful technical writer, editor, and instructional design professional with over 30 years’ experience in both high tech and government in Canada. She is recognized for her ability to translate complex technical subject matter into simple, clear procedures. Working with Elaine on Clearing the Path has provided a wonderful opportunity for Suzanne to fulfill a lifelong dream of using her writing skills to “make a difference” in the lives of those around her.