Defining procrastination is pretty simple; it’s the action of delaying, postponing, or avoiding doing a task. Procrastination is something I've personally struggled with from time to time. Can you relate? According to the research, 20% of the population are considered true, chronic procrastinators. While putting off that task you’ve been dreading may seem harmless, it can lead to consequences. Chronic procrastinators often suffer from broken marriages, lost jobs, deflated dreams, financial disarray, and self-esteem issues. While there are many signs of procrastination, here's a list of common tell-tale signs you may be a chronic procrastinator:
You have difficulty coping with change and transitions
You are chronically late
Your to-do list is never-ending
You focus on non-essential work instead of what needs to get done
Overcoming procrastination can be especially challenging because we all have different reasons for doing it. Let’s take a look at common reasons for procrastination.
Perfectionism: The fear of making mistakes can cause people to put off important obligations for another day. Perfectionism is often confused with having high standards. However, those standards are often unrealistic. Procrastination occurs as a result of thinking such a standard will never be achieved, so why even try?
Fear: For many, the idea of failure can be devastating. This stems from a view of failure as a final result rather than a stepping stone. On the flip side, many procrastinators are afraid of success. Success can create a lot of pressure with perceived expectations to achieve more. The idea of people demanding more of you can cause you to sabotage potential success by procrastinating.
Motivation: Procrastinators often think they must be fully motivated to begin a task. However, in many cases, progress leads to motivation, which cannot happen until a project is underway.
Lack of Interest: We’re all guilty of delaying or avoiding tasks we find unappealing. However, if everyone put off the things they didn’t want to do, nothing would ever get accomplished! There are many things we'd rather avoid, but doing so creates more work and heightens stress of that increasing to-do list.
Distractions: From email and social media to addictive games, entire worlds are at our fingertips. Smartphones, the Internet, and gossip around the workplace can all be distractions.
So, how do we go about overcoming these habits?
If your tendency to procrastinate is related to perfectionism, you may need to shift your mindset. The fear of making mistakes is associated with having a fixed mindset. In Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck explains those with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are set, so they only focus on their current intelligence or talents. This mindset can hinder one's ability to grow, learn, and make positive changes.
If fear is stopping you, ask yourself these questions the next time you feel procrastination setting in: What am I afraid of?; What is the worst possible consequence that could happen?; What could happen if I ignore the situation?; Why am I putting this off?; What will I gain in the long run by putting this off?; Am I scared of the process or the result?; Can I handle the outcome?
Need some motivation? To avoid becoming overwhelmed and feeling defeated before you even begin, break down tough jobs or daunting projects into bite-sized portions to make sure they actually get done. Add specific deadlines to each task on your to-do list, then arrange those tasks in an order that will help to manage your workload. Having specific deadlines will help you build a sense of momentum as the pieces start falling into place, and build your motivation as you complete tasks.
When faced with a task that you just really don’t want to do, thinking of only doing it for two minutes becomes manageable. No matter how tough work might be, the idea of facing it head-on for only two minutes can relieve a ton of pressure. Chances are just getting started is enough to keep you going. By telling yourself you only have to work in 2-minute increments, you’re more likely to dive in.
If distractions are the cause of your procrastination, remove any temptations and only think about the task at hand. Here are some tips for removing distractions: delete games and apps off your smartphone, record your temptations and directly address them, put your smartphone in airplane mode, wear noise-canceling headphones, or close your door.
Accountability can be a significant motivator (or demotivator when it’s lacking). Creating to-do-lists is enough for some people to hold themselves accountable. Check your list throughout the day to make sure you are completing necessary tasks.
Another, perhaps more powerful form of accountability, is being accountable to someone else. Take a task you have been procrastinating on, break it into small pieces, and set deadlines for each step. Next, let someone know your plan and ask them to check up on you and your progress. It could be a spouse, partner, parent, neighbor, work buddy – anyone. Accountability increases your desire to accomplish your tasks.
We come up with all sorts of creative reasons why today just isn’t the right time to start or finish x. Too busy. Too broke. Too stressed. Too risky. Too uncertain. Too inexperienced. Too old. Too young. Once in a while, those reasons are valid, but more often than not, they’re merely excuses. It’s essential to examine your excuse. Ask yourself if it’s valid, or if there is a deeper reason for putting off doing something. Once you identify the why behind your procrastination, you can find the right solution to get you going again!
I hope this has helped you to identify the reason(s) behind your procrastination, and that you gained some techniques for breaking through so you can start accomplishing your goals! If you'd like some help with accountability, schedule a free consultation with me here.