Why you are Procrastinating.
So we all procrastinate, if you think there is something you are not procrastinating about just stop lying to yourself and go clean the fridge, do your taxes, Mow the lawn or write that book.
There is a heap of ways to deal with your procrastination and even more blogs about it. But to me, they all appear to be treating the symptom, not the cause.
So what is the cause of your procrastination? I think it comes down to four things; habits, wrong focus, fear and self-discipline.
Every habit we have, it was started because it served a purpose at the time. Be that a good or bad habit there was a reason for it. If you have a habit of smoking, think why did you start? social acceptance? You had a reason at the time. Are you gym Junky? how did you start that habit, that became your lifestyle?
You are probably thinking, how did I get into the habit of procrastinating? Well like I said on opening there are 4 components that cause us to procrastinate and habits are just one part.
We start the habit of procrastinating when we are very young, we learn that when didn’t pick up our toy’s then mum or dad would do it for us. When we didn’t clean our room, if we held out long enough Mum would cave and do it for us. We got the result we wanted from our behaviour and the habit was born.
Now Mum may come by and clean your fridge and Dad may come by and mow your lawn (excuse my gender stereotypes but you get the drift) but no one is going to solve your real procrastination problems but you.
A psychologist may tell you that everything we do, every action we take comes down to one reason. To avoid pain. If that pain is physical or emotional it makes no difference our brains react the same way regardless.
When we are procrastinating on things a large part of that can be that we are focusing on the pain of the task, rather than the pleasure of the completed project. If we have a default setting to avoid pain at all costs this hypothesis makes sense, even if we are unaware of the choice as a conscious level. Did you realize that we don’t have pleasure receptors, only pain ones?
Fear of success or failure is an often quoted reason for procrastination, but I’m going to call you out on that one too. Fear is a primary emotion, it happens in an instant and then passes over to something else.
Fear is not the problem. Fear is a reaction, to something that activates without notice like surprise. Primary or initial emotions are something that we react to automatically, once our brain has it registered it then moves to something that we can act on rather than react to. So we don’t have a fear of, succeeding or failing that is causing us to procrastinate but rather anxiety about the potential outcome.
Self-discipline is that thing that is always thrown about as if having more will solve everything wrong in your life. Sadly that can be true. Your habits of not completing something can be considered a lack of self-discipline but that’s a lazy answer.
self-discipline is more about what you are choosing to do than not do. I like to think of self-discipline to be the crossroads where habits and focus meet. If you have a few good habits and a bit of focus, you will have a reasonable about of self-discipline.
How to Cure? Procrastination
Self-discipline, just get some more and all your problems will go away, just kidding, but not really.
There are a few facets to consider every time we look at a big issue. I just presented the main facets. so let’s look at them as to how they interact.
If you have gotten into a habit of letting things distract you or putting things off. You will require a focused period of habit breaking. Habits are not that hard to break think more along the lines of replacement than breaking. You replace clutter with clear, replace noise with quite.
You need to be 100% honest with yourself and look at what is wasting your time, audit it. You only need to do this for a few consecutive days that would normally represent your day. Set an alarm for ever hour and spend 2_5 minutes recording what you did for the last hour. Don’t distort your response if you spent 45 min surfing Facebook then record that.
A time audit will focus your actions but you will still need to focus your mind.
To focus your mind you need to go to the worse case scenario about what will happen if you don’t take action if you keep stalling and procrastinating.
To get there you need to ask what will happen if no don’t do this? And then what will happen? Consider this example.
What will happen if I don’t finish this assignment? — I will fail the course. And then what will happen? — I will have to do it again. And what will that mean? — It will cost me more money, it will push back the timeline on finishing. Which will also push back the timeline on getting full-time work, which means I’m still living in my parent’s basement.
Now the focus of avoiding the possibility of embarrassment due to failure is now the certain embarrassment of still living in the basement.
As you consider and go through the focusing process you will also identify the anxiety that is causing you to stall. You are now capable of being motivated further as you are no longer looking at the pain you are avoiding but the pain of not completing whatever it is that you were avoiding.
While this may look simplified, I urge you to try it and see where it takes you. The two exercises; a time audit, to identify what you are really doing, and the “what will happen if I don’t” question. Will focus you and the self-discipline will now have a reason to exist.
No stop procrastinating and get on with it.