Pondering Procrastination

by Brian Reid, Membership Outreach Coordinator | Oct 29, 2019

Right this moment some of you should be studying for the CPA exam. Yet, instead of meandering through the reeds of ethical financial dilemmas, you have brilliantly paused for the noble cause of pondering how to overcome procrastination. Recently, while on a similar detour, I stumbled upon a few pieces of information that helped me figure out how to circumnavigate my moments of distraction. Now I’m here to share those resources so they can help you on your journey to become a CPA.

Studying for the Exam is a Risky Business

Our brains are tasked with the bold challenge of helping us avoid danger at all costs. As masters of risk-avoidance, our brains identify and deter us from risk in situations both subtle and sinister. The stress that intense study generates is more than enough to force our brains into a hairpin turn worthy of a Fast & Furious movie, away from the next study session and toward something less stressful.

According to cognitive psychologist Dr. Amanda Crowell, much like defensive driving, the brain aims to defend you from failure (a form of stress) and re-direct you towards another activity. This “Cycle of Defensive Failure” is one of three mindsets that Dr. Crowell says will keep you from accomplishing your everyday goals.

In her recent TEDx Talk “3 Reasons You Aren’t Doing What You Say You Will Do,” Dr. Crowell encourages you to remind yourself that your perceived failure (or perceived stress) is a just a milestone on the way to success. She suggests that to be productive, you must turn your mental or imaginary failure into an active or productive failure. In other words, jump in, witness the fearful/stressful moment, and then move through and beyond it. The small progress you make will strengthen you along the way. However, failure, stress, and risk may not be the only thing that we need to avoid.

I Am the Reason that You Are Not Studying

Yes, it’s true. I am the reason you are not studying right now. While passing the exam and becoming a CPA may be your holy grail of career accomplishment, I’m betting that “overcoming procrastination” has been near the top of your to do list for a while. Thus, in this very moment, your competing commitment to master the art of accomplishing goals by eliminating procrastination has become priority number one. According to "The Real Reason People Don't Change," a Harvard Business Review article by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan, “many people are unwittingly applying productive energy toward a hidden competing commitment.” Lahey and Kegan go on to say that this dynamic will turn moments of procrastination into all-out moral dilemmas for many people.

Coupled with our brain’s tactical efforts at risk-avoidance, competing commitments may be the main ingredient in our mental moments of conflict avoidance and moral corruption (AKA procrastination). To overcome this, Lahey and Kegan suggest that we work to uncover competing commitments and find appropriate ways to support them so that we do not sabotage the priorities listed on our daily agendas.

Say No to Healthy Distractions and Compelling Inaction

“Just say no.” Those fabled words of my childhood hero, spiritual avatar, and imaginary life-coach Mr. T ring loudly in my head as I use the above tactics to tackle my moments of procrastination. Though simple and to the point, saying no to healthy distractions and compelling inaction is harder than it looks. However, with months of practice I have grown exponentially in my understanding of the conflicts and competing commitments present in my daily routine, and now “I pity” the tasks that await me this afternoon. Check out the above-mentioned items during your next moment of procrastination and maybe you will discover that the big bad study session isn’t so scary at all.

Speaking of Procrastination…

If you are procrastinating on your WSCPA Scholarship application, no worries! We can help you navigate the fear, stress, and risk of missing out on $5,000. Visit ThisWaytoCPA for details on our scholarship program. Submission deadline is February 17, 2020. For assistance with the scholarship process, feel free to email me, or call directly at 425-586-1126.

You are not allowed to post comments.