Procrastination – this word has mostly negative connotations, and is associated with laziness, lacking clarity, having no direction, purpose or goal. I think that most of us know and have maybe even experienced how procrastinating can influence our lives. Yet at the same time many of us just can’t seem to deal with it in an effective way. Some of us might take a couple of steps forward but if we don’t get to the bottom of our procrastination, we tend to fall back into the mire.
I want to explore some of the reasons people procrastinate and also look at how they affect us. I would then like to provide a few suggestions of ways to effectively deal with it.
Reasons for procrastination
As with most things there are some reasons which are likely relevant to most people who procrastinate but I think the majority of the reasons will be individual. From my experience these are some of the main reasons I have found why people procrastinate.
They are not sure about what they want to do
At times when someone is not sure about what it is they really want to do, this can cause them to put off doing anything, or even doing anything about finding out what it is they want. It is much easier to start baking a loaf of bread if I know that I want a loaf. But if I am not sure if I want a loaf of bread, some pancakes, muffins or pizza pastry it takes more to get started. Lack of clarity about the next step to take is one of the main reasons people procrastinate.
There is no real purpose or there is a lack of motivation
This reason is related to the one above. I might want some bread but can’t be bothered to make it and am too lazy to go out and buy some; I decide to just do without. The motivation for baking the bread is missing. Remaining in the comfort zone and not doing anything is more attractive than baking. This is a result of the level of interest in the activity or even the reward not being strong enough.
Lack of clarity about who they are doing something for
To carry on with the above example if I know that I am baking bread because I want it I am more likely to be motivated than if my boss or mother has demanded it, expects it or suggested it in a way which disempowers me.
Fear of success or failure also causes people to avoid or put off doing things.
Surprisingly enough both fear of failure and fear of success are big reasons people procrastinate. The one group is afraid they might not be up to the task so don’t even want to make an attempt. The other group is afraid of the consequences of their success so don’t want to get started either for the opposite reason.
This wonderful video offers some very interesting insights from a Master Procrastinator
The disadvantages of being a procrastinator
Less confidence, low self esteem
Procrastinating can really sap your self esteem. It can leave you feeling useless, worthless, hopeless. The more you put things off the less confident you become, people start seeing you as unreliable which might result in you withdrawing more. The consequences can range from losing friends to maybe losing a job. Being known as unreliable can of course negatively impact your reputation, affect your work and income in the long run. This even more so if you are self employed. At a guess I would say that fewer entrepreneurs are procrastinators than those employed by someone else.
If you keep putting things off chances are you will miss many opportunities because you either just don’t see them or refuse them even when they are offered to you directly.
Wasting time and energy
Much time and energy is wasted focusing on the problem rather than doing something about finding a solution. Besides this the time wasted thinking of what they should be doing is more than the time it might actually take to get something done.
Ways to stop procrastination
Set realistic goals
There is no point attempting to finish baking 10 loaves of bread if you have five other things on your list which need to get done and only two hours to finish everything. Make sure to give yourself enough time to do what needs to be done. Schedule the amount of time you will need for each task. Once you have done this, ask yourself if the timeframe is realistic given what you have to accomplish. If it is not – adjust it before starting. Doing this will avoid setting yourself up for failure and disappointment .
Chunk down the goals and tasks
If the perceived size of the goal or task seems too large, break it down into smaller, “bite-sized chunks. This is an effective way to beat the habit of putting things off and takes the pressure away from getting started.
Ever thought of an accountability partner?
If you don’t feel you can do it alone, there is nothing wrong in asking for help. In such cases you can opt for a coach or find yourself an accountability partner (your coach could also play this role). Choose someone who understands the dilemma you are in and who will support and hold you accountable. Both for what you do and fail to do. A person who will only molly cuddle you, accepting continued excuses from you is really not going to help you change this habit.
Sometimes just a temporary change of scene can help us get out of the rut of procrastinating, What about just going for a walk, choosing a different location to work (for example if you are researching)? Changing your environment by having a big clean up, decluttering or changing the location of your work space are also very effective ways to get you motivated and shift to “doing” mode.
Get rid of distractions
Distractions, distractions – they just get in the way and take up so much space not to mention the time and energy wasted. But what to do about them? I know how difficult it can be to stay away from them with all the constant social media reminders to stay connected (distracted!). Yes it can be difficult, but if you want to get things done you will just have to form a habit of reducing or getting rid of distractions.
Reward yourself for each step you take
Show yourself that you feel worthy of having reached a goal. reward yourself and celebrate each small success.
Focus on the solution and not on the problem
Focusing on the problem will only cause more procrastination. it is futile. Change your strategy to focusing on the solution. This is much more fulfilling and will get you to where you want to be much faster and easier. Once you start focusing on solutions more of them will come to you.
How will giving up procrastinating benefit you?
The main reasons for procrastinating can generally be summed up in this sentence: People often procrastinate as a result of not knowing what they want, why they are doing something, how to do it or who they are doing it for.
If you are someone who procrastinates, how can breaking this habit benefit you?
Ask yourself, how will giving up the habit of procrastinating benefit me. Brainstorm all the things that will change by giving up this habit. In case you are not sure or need help here is a list of some examples you can start with. I am sure you will find many other advantages. Focus on them and reward yourself .
- More motivation
- You might well find that you have more energy
- You will start looking forward to starting your day
- Seeing yourself accomplish each of the bite-sized chunks of the task will improve your self esteem and increase confidence.
Need some support in breaking the procrastination habit? Or are you looking for an accountability partner? Either way I am happy to assist. Please contact me to take advantage of my FREE 30 Minute coaching offer today. Let’s get started right away!