Procrastination Is Genius in Disguise

help+procrastinationAn excerpt from Get It Done
by Sam Bennett

Have you ever noticed that procrastination causes you pain? It hurts your heart, it hurts your self-esteem, it hurts your relationships, it hurts your career, and it hurts your income. And just as a pain in your body alerts you to something that needs healing, the psychic pain of procrastination can serve as an important wake-up call. That is why I call procrastination genius in disguise.

If procrastination didn’t hurt, then you could put stuff off and then just la-di-da around all carefree and happy. But that’s not the way it works — when you put off your projects, they become a weight on your mind and your heart.
So why is that genius?

Because the pain caused by procrastination reminds you that your projects are important to you. Procrastination is your friend, tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, remember that idea you had? Remember how much you cared about it?” And pretty soon that voice is not just gently urging — it’s nagging. Loudly.

So now you have a project that you know matters to you, and I’m going to guess it’s mattered to you for a long time. After all this time, you are still thinking about it. It hasn’t fallen away like some things do — which is great news. The truth is, procrastination is persistent desire.

When your desire for a project stands the test of time, you can take that as a sign that your project truly is part of your life’s calling.

What’s Kept You from Moving Forward?
You’ve got a great idea that you know would make a difference in the world and it’s stood the test of time so…what’s the holdup? Why haven’t you moved forward? In my experience, there are three main reasons for getting stuck in procrastination.

Got Stuckified Reason 1: You Genuinely Don’t Care about It

Maybe this project is really someone else’s dream — a dream that your family or community placed on you — or maybe it’s an old dream that you’ve outgrown.

Or perhaps it’s something you think you should do. I call these “shadow goals.” They look like goals, they sound like goals, but when you think about them they make you glum. Good goals are filled with energy and purpose — they may not always be fun, but they always contain some sense of joy. Shadow goals contain no joy but rather are burdened with guilt, ill feeling, futility, and even a bit of hopelessness.

For example, maybe you’re telling yourself something like, “I should really go and get my master’s degree.” Chances are that if you have this idea and are not acting on it, you don’t really care about a master’s; you care about whatever you think having a master’s will gain you: “If I got my master’s in film I could write that screenplay I’ve had in my head.” I say skip the master’s and go directly to writing the screenplay.

It’s also possible that you have outgrown this dream. It may be that while the fourteen-year-old version of you really wanted to be a rock star, the forty-four-year-old version doesn’t actually care that much for the spotlight. If you are a sentimental person, you may feel it’s unduly harsh to give up this particular project, because it may feel as though you are giving up on your dream. Allowing your old dreams to grow and change to better suit your true, current self is both practical and wise. Or to think of it another way, you wouldn’t put your fourteen-year-old self in charge of your other life decisions now, would you?

Got Stuckified Reason 2: It Just Hasn’t Been the Right Time

Maybe it hasn’t been the right time because of life circumstances, such as a new baby in the family or a health issue or a financial crisis. Or maybe it hasn’t been the right time because you haven’t been ready. Maybe you’ve had life lessons to learn or some spiritual maturity to attain.

Or maybe it’s that mysterious right-moment thing that people bring up when you’re looking for the perfect life partner. “When the time is right, he/she will show up,” those well-meaning people say. Irritating. Even more irritating, they are often correct.
Or maybe you’ve needed to wait for some technology to be invented, or you’ve needed to wait for the right people or the right partner. But whatever the reason: it just hasn’t been the right time. And I know that for a fact because if it had been the right time, you would have done it.

After all, look at all the things you’ve accomplished. You’re no slacker. You work hard, and you’re so tenacious that others have probably expressed concern about your tenacity.

Got Stuckified Reason 3: You’re a Little Bit Scared

Or a lot scared. To which I say, “Well, of course you’re scared!”
Creating art is scary. Starting any new venture is scary. And putting your heartfelt work out into the world is downright terrifying. Anybody who claims otherwise is a big, fat liar. People tell me every day about the projects they’re stuck on, and they are doozies. Here’s a sample of some of the projects people have told me about:

  • Writing a memoir
  • Clearing up personal financials
  • Relearning quantum physics
  • Getting certified in a healing modality, such as massage, Reiki, Emotional
  • Freedom Technique, or spiritual psychology
  • Balancing parenthood and art
  • Orchestrating a live event or conference
  • Getting a pilot’s license
  • Living one’s highest purpose
  • Doing stand-up comedy
  • Clearing out a parent’s house
  • Staying in touch with friends and colleagues
  • Growing a business
  • Finding true happiness
  • Writing a book proposal

This is some big, life-changing stuff, and it’s no surprise that it hits your panic button and makes you want to run and hide like a little kid.

From the book Get It Done by Sam Bennett. Copyright © 2014 by Samantha Bennett. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

Sam Bennett worked at the renowned Second City Theatre in Chicago alongside comics Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. In addition to her multifaceted writing and performance work, she specializes in personal branding and career strategies. She lives in Los Angeles, CA. Her website is