Understanding why you procrastinate and what you can do about it
Constantly putting off tasks, even the ones that are quick and easy? Finding yourself downing tools and watching Netflix when you’ve got a looming deadline? Leaving all your tasks to the very last minute because you work better under pressure? (At least that’s what you tell yourself). Welcome to the procrastination club, you’re in good company, there are millions of members.
Procrastination, despite being an activity that causes stress, reduces productivity and might even cause you to miss important deadlines and get fired, is a behaviour that serves a purpose on some weird level. That purpose might be totally counterproductive, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find there’s a good reason you procrastinate. The ‘why’ behind what is essentially self sabotaging and I’ll go so far as to call it self punishing behaviour is the first thing I look at with coaching clients who seek my help to stop their debilitating procrastination habits.
Here are some of the reasons why procrastination happens:
- Fear of failure
You might avoid starting a task because you’re afraid you won’t do it well enough to meet your own (possibly perfectionist) expectations or the skyscraper high expectations you think other people have of you. You might avoid finishing a task for the exact same reason. Fear is the number one driver for procrastination and it’s the main reason the clients I work with are stuck.
- Lack of motivation
Perhaps you don’t like the task you have to do or perhaps you don’t really care about it that much, so you put it off. In this situation I would advise throwing some money at the problem and outsourcing it if you can. If that’s not a possibility, find a way to make the task more fun.
If you’re putting off doing something because you’re waiting for the right time or for the stars to align, I hate to break it to you, but that’s never going to happen. At some point you have to be brave and stop researching, quit planning and get going. Done is always better than perfect.
When things on your to-do list are difficult or boring, distractions like social media, emails and YouTube often call like sexy sirens, luring you away from the task at hand. Some self discipline is required here to avoid being dashed on the proverbial rocks of unfinished business.
A job that feels too big or unmanageable in the allotted time frame can feel utterly overwhelming. Overwhelm feels awful, it’s stressful and uncomfortable, feelings that you might well do anything to avoid. If your to-do list is too long or you’re tired and stressed out, overwhelm can often lead to a Netflix binge. We all know how that one ends.
- Poor time management
Difficulty in prioritising tasks or not knowing how to best use your time is another big cause of procrastination. If you don’t know where to start or what to tackle first, you might elect not to tackle anything at all until you have no choice but to pull an all-nighter. Helping my client’s use their time effectively and then gently holding them accountable is the second most common way I help when procrastinating is a problem.
Overcoming procrastination, especially if it’s a life-long habit, takes time. The first port of call is to understand why you procrastinate. When you’re armed with that information, you can work on a counter plan. Procrastination busting moves might include: setting clear goals, breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps, working with a coach to have some accountability (very useful), eliminating distractions and rewarding yourself when you do get your stuff done.
If you need some help beating your procrastination habits, please get in touch with me here. We can hop on an exploratory call to see what’s going on and determine the steps you could take to get yourself back on the productivity track.