If you are here in the hopes to obtain a cure, I’m sorry to disappoint… No such thing exists. Procrastination is yet another (and recurring) obstacle to overcome, and so, for the rest of your life. The key here, is to get to the source… What is causing your procrastination? From there, you’ll understand the reason(s) behind it and maybe learn a thing or two about yourself. Following the quick life lesson, you will have the perspective you need get out of that rut and get to business.
Now, there is nothing wrong or maladaptive to signing up to a class on the last possible day, or bringing a book back to the library on the very same day it is due. It’s a type of procrastination, yes, but absolutely acceptable. Some tasks do not require as much time and attention as others. Most importantly, procrastinating on these tasks do not restrict the quality of your life.
The kind that does, however, must be dealt with immediately (i.e. perpetually putting off projects or goals to the next day or week).
Your are not special (seems a little harsh for a blog promoting happiness and positive vibes, but bare with me). You aren’t the only one who procrastinates. So if you ever told yourself or others statements like these:
- “I am a born procrastinator”;
- “Procrastination is in my blood”; or even
- “I can’t function without procrastination”
…know that it’s bull. Because even if on some level it were true, it’s true for everyone. So you may not be unique, but here’s a silver lining: you are not alone.
Understand your procrastination
You rather be doing something else (it’s boring)
Is it going to make it go away? No. So instead of having it hanging over your head, get it over with.
Environment is a source of fear
It seems obvious to spend more time practicing or preparing, but in reality, people want to avoid any situation that slightly resembles the environment they fear. So even practicing your presentation will force you to imagine people staring and judging, thereby associated feelings/behaviors will emerge (increased heart rate, face turning red, sweating, loss of words, etc.) despite being in the comfort of your own home or bedroom. Same goes for research. Whether you want it or not, you are very likely to start thinking ahead, and imagine all the statistics that come next, and then the interpretation and writing, then the countless revisions, notes and critics from your supervisor(s). So even if you are at the beginning of the year, fresh from summer vacation, you aren’t ready to think about these things so you avoid starting.
High maintenance task
It requires a huge load of mental effort and hard work. Break it down.
Think: More work in less days or less work with more days?
The more time you give yourself the less time you need to allocate to the task per day. This means more time to do what you want to do.
Waiting to be saved… by motivation
“I’m not up for this right now”. In his book, The Feeling Good Handbook, Burns (1989) explains that “the doing” comes first, and only then, motivation ensues. By getting started as well you can better envision the steps to take, what needs to be done and how, thereby providing a better structure to your plan. Knowing the next step and what it means specifically (“write body paragraph 1” vs. “research about ____ and find 2 pros and 2 cons for ____”) will greatly increase your efficiency. Also, think about your attitude (read this).
Tying it together
With a little introspection, you find out that procrastinating is because of fear (see previous post).
In fact, two other reasons for procrastination:
Ego protection (fear of failure)
- Don’t know how to…
- If low % or performance it’s because I had little time and I rushed it.
Being consistent (fear of success)
- Whilst the previous point involved not knowing how to do something, this time, it’s knowing that you can do it, and you do it WELL. So what’s the problem? It’s as simple as wanting to live up to people’s expectations, including your own.
- Starting but never completing projects: fear of success? You succeed but cannot handle the changes, the responsibility, and ultimately, you fear failing.
- Excuses, excuses, excuses: protecting your ego from failing?
- “They vs. me” statements (ex.: they are built for this, not I): why are you comparing yourself to others? Why make someone the superhero who can achieve anything and make yourself the unimportant passerby (remember: your life, your story).
We avoid failure to appear successful, but we fail in order to avoid being successful. So we fear both failure and success. But resort to success (stick with what you know) to avoid failure and resort to failure (self-sabotage) to avoid success. Human logic? Hmm.. So if failure and success are both a problem and a solution, the issue lies deeper. In fact, it all comes down to the uncertainty of life. Surprise! On top of the fear of failure, fear of success and the fear of change, we alas, face another threat: the lack of control. We like to control things.
Anyways, I will not get into the details of this topic at the moment, but this is just to get you thinking. Next week we’ll be wrapping up this 4-part Goal Achievement series with a post dedicated to rebooting your journey. See you next week and don’t be afraid (hehe) of leaving a comment below.