We’ve all been there…It’s SO easy to put things off for another time. But when that elusive “other time” passes, your stress and anxiety may creep up to code red and you may have a big problem on your hands.
You’re not alone.
Procrastination as a way of life is a behavior that haunts people of all ages, professions, and personalities. Procrastination is when the tasks are untouched or the troubling habits are still there…
Are you questioning if you are a chronic procrastinator yourself and wandering the many facets of procrastination?
A procrastinator is someone who waits until the very last minute to begin or complete tasks. This can happen for various reasons, like avoidance, boredom, anxiety, and lack of time management—most of the reasons people procrastinate center around the fear of failure.
What’s happening in your body… it’s responding by creating the chemical norepinephrine, which increases fear and anxiety, just to get that extra adrenaline boost pumped to get going.
Here are some examples that you may find relatable.
The scenarios range from small to more severe, but they may impact your personal life, finances, relationships, or career…
Some acts of procrastination affect us more than others. For some, no damage gets done. But other things may have long-term impacts on our health, goals, and visions for our future selves. Some acts of procrastination affect the people we love, as well.
The age-old excuse for procrastination is “I work better under pressure,” or “I thrive on stress.”
Neither thing is right or wrong but the question is, are you happy with how you feel. If not, there could be several reasons.
Sometimes, it’s our inner-saboteur doing the talking. All you can hear is the negative self-talk that may be stemming from minor insults we’ve listened to in the past.
But it isn’t the only reason that people continue to push their to-do lists to the back burner until time has run out. Procrastination is less about predisposition but more about emotions that hold us back from productivity.
Here are 5 reasons procrastination leads the way for some people.
The root of procrastination for many is the fear of failure. People tend to tangle their worth around how well they do at their job, how productive they are at home, and how many things they can juggle at once.
With all those things comes the dread of not succeeding—the knowledge that dropping one ball will cause everything to shatter into a million pieces.
The pressure creates anxiety that hides in all corners of your life. It’s crazy, but the chaos becomes your standard, and you no longer notice it.
Procrastination becomes a component of who you are, and you don’t see your active escapes from failure. By not being assertive and taking on tasks head-on, you walk straight into the dragon’s mouth of potential failure.
Every time you wait until the time is almost out to begin a task, you increase the possibility of failure. You also experience higher stress levels and encourage negative self-perception. Irrationally, we believe that by procrastinating, we are protecting ourselves from failure. In reality, we are undermining ourselves and our goals.
How messed up is it that we begin to accept all of this as normal?
Self-efficacy, or the ability to work through problems and necessary tasks to achieve goals, is often low in procrastinators. They struggle with where to begin a task. And lack the confidence and trust in themselves to figure it out on their own because it could be the wrong answer, or it could take them on a lengthy detour.
When you know a task needs to get done but feel inadequate in your abilities to get it done well, procrastination feels easier than making the wrong decision.
But just because it feels more comfortable doesn’t mean that it is in the long-term.
Another common cause of procrastination is a distraction.
Suppose you’re continually trying to work on tasks in a busy part of your home or office. In that case, the constant temptation from noise and other people is bound to pull you away from the task at hand.
It’s hard to focus on anything entirely when our senses pick up commotion and outside distractions that are often more enjoyable than what we’re supposed to be doing.
Closely aligned with distraction, impulsive behavior is another reaction to something a person would instead do. Adulthood comes with a multitude of mundane tasks that we don’t want to do. Something else―brunch with friends, a book or TV show, scrolling through social media, another job―pulls our attention elsewhere and encourages us to avoid the first task.
For instance, you have a massive project to work on, but a friend calls and asks you to a coffee date. That sounds better than working on your project. So without thinking, you meet them and leave your project for later.
And then you come back and degrade yourself for your lack of willpower. Is it worth it?
When a task isn’t urgent, it’s easy to brush it to the side because you “have time.” Poor time management isn’t laziness. It’s a lack of focus and disorganization.
Despite the knowledge that a task will move you forward, activities that provide instant gratification supersede things that provide slower satisfaction.
What people don’t realize—or sometimes do but don’t know how to stop—is that by avoiding feelings of discomfort, the unknown, and the unenjoyable, they fail to move forward. They produce adequate work instead of fantastic work, and it takes longer to achieve goals. Procrastination is a wingman to self-sabotage.
The energy and time put into thinking about tasks that need to get done are incredible. What if you just jumped headfirst into what you need to get done?
You would create more time and brain capacity because you’re not continuously thinking of the same things on your to-do list.
Maybe you’ve known you’re a chronic procrastinator your whole life. Or perhaps you’ve only recently realized that your constant postponement of tasks is a problem.
Either way, it is possible to change your habits and learn new tools to be more proactive and accountable.
Some tasks are downright daunting. The thought of getting started causes feelings of worry, and you question your competence.
Look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself:
By studying the importance of a job through a different lens, it can change your outlook. You may become motivated by focusing on the long-term vision and decide to take care of the task now, instead of later.
We are not all planners.
But to break the habit of procrastination, it may help to make a simple plan each day. Nothing overly detailed or extravagant necessary…this isn’t about changing you into something you’re not.
But, even for the breezier personalities, it’s helpful to list out the two or three main things you want to get done that day. And do them.
For larger tasks, this may mean breaking it down into parts. One day, get the first step done…the next day, get the second step done…and so on. Taking on smaller chunks of the big picture will allow you to make progress without the stress of cramming everything into a short time. You’ll likely produce better work, too.
Are you more productive and think more clearly at certain times of the day? If so, capitalize on that and plan to work on the less pleasant tasks during that time. For example, if you’re a morning person who usually has a lot of energy first thing, use that quiet time to knock out a few tasks that you may opt-out of later when you lose steam.
Knowing yourself and your inner clock may help you break your habit of procrastination. If you get at least two task items you’ve been avoiding done when you’re at your most productive, you can feel guilt-free later when you choose to do something impulsively.
A non-distracting workspace is crucial if you truly want to stop procrastinating.
Before you begin working:
If you make the temptations more challenging to see and hear, they won’t be as convenient. When distractions aren’t convenient, you’re less likely to be pulled from the task in question.
For those times when distractions find their way in despite your efforts, consider the following:
Pride in being able to do eight things at once is a direct invitation for distraction.
Stop multitasking and focus on one task at a time.
If, while you’re working on something, you think of another important thing that needs to get dealt with, stop and make a note. But then carry on with the intended task instead of moving on to the next.
Ending the cycle of multitasking will help you get more things done instead of having many half-finished tasks.
We learn through failure.
We forget that point of wisdom and focus on the pure negatives associated with failure. If people never failed, they’d never grow. New ideas would never present themselves.
Failing is necessary. When planning a task, consider the extra time when you won’t know what to do precisely. Plan for uncertainty, plan for failing. Sometimes the mindset of being prepared for failure will make it, so you’re more productive and get tasks done ahead of time.
A tip for looking at failure through a different lens is to start by asking, “am I afraid of failing at this?”
If the answer is yes, why are you afraid? List out what could go wrong if you don’t succeed at this specific thing. The adverse outcomes are not as bad as you have them built up in your head.
The essence of ourselves is evident in how we complete tasks, particularly the creative ones. But we mustn’t tangle the perception we have of ourselves with our responsibilities.
When we procrastinate, we are indirectly preserving our understanding of our abilities and self-worth. If we don’t produce our best work when we finally get to a task, we can hide behind the excuse of not having enough time.
When the value we place on ourselves isn’t impacted by how well we complete tasks, acting on them becomes more natural. Actively disconnecting how we measure self-worth from our responsibilities takes practice but is well worth the effort.
A quick Google search highlights the abundance of tools on the market for tackling tasks head-on. The 2-minute rule, Eat That Frog, Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Rule…all mostly say the same thing when it comes to tasks. Think about what you need to get done for a brief amount of time and then take the actions to get it done. Just do it.
It’s important to reward yourself for your accomplishments, especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator.
It can also combat low-efficacy when you break down your projects into smaller portions and celebrate the wins along the way. Each finished step will encourage self-efficacy and higher trust in your ability to make decisions and sort through problems. Plus, if you learn to associate a specific reward with a task you hate doing, it can encourage you to act quicker than if there were no immediate positive consequences.
If you think breaking your procrastination habit is more than you can handle on your own, it’s time to ask for help. Sometimes the guidance and accountability from someone you can trust make all the difference in moving forward.
I’m a Certified Life Coach and Master Neuro-linguistic Programming Practitioner. I can help you create the life you know you can have. Want to talk? Schedule your free coaching call.
Learn How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Life, Relationships and Career.