Self-care and procrastination: recognizing the difference

In earlier posts, we talked about how self-compassion will make you a better writer; and how to navigate the procrastination swamp. Now it’s time to talk about the difference between the two. One will help you achieve your writing goals. The other will hinder you in reaching them. But sometimes it can be very difficult to see the difference between the two! And that’s the reason for this blog posts’s theme: how to recognize the difference between self-care and procrastination. 

Brutal honesty

Right. Honesty. If you want to be productive and successful (whatever that means for you) you need to be completely honest with yourself. And that’s a problem when you’re procrastinating. Because something inside of you is willing to say whatever it takes to continue not doing what you should be doing. What’s necessary is to take a mental step back and reflect on your reasons for not wanting to do your task. Is it something about the task itself or is it about your life? The first will lead to procrastination, the second is a sign you need self-compassion and self-care. 

This honesty has another benefit. If you know why you are procrastinating on a specific task, maybe you can figure out something you can do to make the task less daunting. You may have noticed that you never procrastinate on something easy and exciting. So if you realize that your unwillingness to do a certain task is related to the task itself, not a general exhaustion over overworkedness, maybe you can find ways to make the task more easy and exciting. Two birds, one stone, no?

Designated self-care activities

One of the most effective ways to practice self-compassion is to take care of yourself. Now, to make sure you’re not confusing self-care and procrastination, it can help to make a list of designated self-care activities. Think in advance about how you will use your self-care time. Make a list of activities you will engage in. Activities you can put on there are: exercise; taking a bath; reading something unrelated to your work; curling up with a loved one; cleaning the house (I’m serious: I know people…).

Then, when you find yourself on YouTube, Wikipedia, or playing yet another game of Candy Crush, it will be pretty obvious: you need to stop what you’re doing. Right now, you’re procrastinating. So either you should go back to your to-do list, or, if the brutal honesty led you to believe that you’re procrastinating because you need self-care, do one of your self-care activities. Whatever it is you should be doing, however, it’s not this. 

Self-compassion about procrastination

No person I have ever met has ever completely moved beyond procrastination. Neither will you. And that is fine! Procrastination doesn’t become a problem until it significantly impacts your ability to achieve your goals. On some days, you will procrastinate. The important thing is to not feel so bad about having procrastinated that you demotivate yourself. By all means, be disappointed with yourself for not achieving your daily goals. But turn it into something productive. Is it still possible to make up for the time you lost today? How can you adjust your schedule so you’ll still reach the next milestone you originally envisioned? 

As I said in the post about self-compassion: if you want to be productive it’s important to find a balance between harsh motivator/critic and compassionate inner partner. The more negative you get, the harder it will become to motivate yourself and the more likely you are to procrastinate. So if you feel you lost time to procrastination, accept it, realign your schedule with your goals and move on! That way, you can take care of yourself in relation to your procrastination. 

Self-care and procrastination: concluding thoughts

Self-care and procrastination may often seem indistinguishable. If you don’t take control, you’ll only be able to see the difference after the fact. When you feel bad about not having reached your goal, you’ll realize you were procrastinating. But when you want to increase your productivity and become the successful writer you can be, there are ways to take control. 

Be completely honest to yourself about your needs and motivations. Determine what self-care looks like to you. And be kind to yourself when you’ve fallen off the wagon. 

If you can still use some help, whether that’s in breaking down your goals or having someone to be accountable to, just contact me! As a writing coach I specialize in helping people achieve their writing goals. You can schedule your first free coaching session here.