Have you ever wondered why you procrastinate and are frustrated because you struggle to get things done?
Admittedly, I’m a recovering procrastination addict. I would procrastinate household chores, mundane errands, paying the bills, getting started on new projects, detailed things, important things and I even procrastinated writing this post about overcoming procrastination.
Occasionally I still fall short in this department reverting back to old procrastination habits and patterns, but truthfully, understanding why I procrastinate has helped pull me from the depths of the procrastination pothole much sooner.
You and I know you’ve got important work to do—work that you’re avoiding and will benefit your life and the lives of others. That should be motivation enough, right? But it isn’t and there’s a reason for that.
Keep reading to learn why you can’t stop procrastinating and how to overcome it so you start living and stop avoiding.
01 | your procrastination is protecting you
This one is unique because it’s both a pitfall and a perk. It serves a very important purpose: To keep us safe.
We can’t really blame it for simply doing its job, right? No, but there’s a point when being overly-protective becomes a detriment.
If you’re having trouble getting motivated to clean your workspace, organize your inbox or tackle that overwhelming pile of unopened mail then it’s probably because your procrastination is protecting you from the stress and overwhelm you’re feeling in your already busy life.
This pitfall also causes us to delay anything that challenges our comfort zone and will make every excuse to put off goals that elicit our fears.
how to avoid it:
Figure out what your procrastination is trying to protect you from.
Does it protect you from chaos, stress or boredom?
Does it protect you from scary things like:
- responsibility, or
Which fears stop you dead in your tracks before following through or getting started in the first place?
Once you’re clear about what you’re being safeguarded against, ask yourself:
- Is my fear protecting me from real danger or one that is perceived?
- Does avoidance protect me from stress or contribute to it?
- Is delaying things I don’t want to do helping me or hurting me?
Awareness is a gift. We can only change the things that we’re aware of.
02 | you lack focus
Are you having a really hard time getting started on your goal because it feels big and insurmountable?
I felt this way before the development of my website. When we focus on the bigger overwhelming goal it can paralyze us into inaction.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t know where to start or how”.
When the task is too big it’s daunting which makes us freeze and do nothing or find something more enjoyable to do.
But here’s the thing:
It’s the small, consistent action we take each day that helps us achieve our goals and lead us to success.
how to avoid it:
Break your goal down into small bite-sized actions until the goal or task is so small that the stress and anxiety you feel for starting is gone. Poof!
Do not focus on the bigger goal unless it’s to help you determine what the smaller actions are. By focusing on the bigger goal your energy will be diminished for the task and it will paralyze you into taking zero action. It’s counter-productive in fact.
Another tip is to focus on the result instead of the task itself.
For example, instead of focusing on the task of cleaning your house, focus on the result that having a clean house will bring: a cluttered-free, simplified space for you to fully relax and enjoy!
Which is more motivating?
take action now:
What’s one thing you’ve been putting off that will benefit your higher good and bring you one step closer to living the life you truly want to live?
Write it down now.
03 | you believe it’s harder than it actually is
Have you ever procrastinated for so long that by the time you get around to doing whatever it is you need to do you realize that you’ve wasted more time complaining about it than it would’ve taken to do it in the first place?
This occurs when our mind tricks us into believing that something is much harder, more time-consuming and more difficult than it really is.
how to avoid it:
When I fall victim to this pitfall I like to do one of two things or both:
1. focus on the smaller task.
My mind usually thinks a task is much bigger than it actually is because it focuses on the bigger overwhelming goal. Just like in #2, break it down until your goal or task is so small it doesn’t overwhelm you.
2. be intentional & prepared
Here’s what I mean:
Before I write a coaching follow-up email, a blog post or complete my own self-development work, etc., I make the activity intentional by lighting a candle, burning incense and clearing my chakras (a breathing exercise to help me become present).
I also clean my physical space to help minimize distractions and create an environment that induces creativity.
By making it intentional, your task becomes much more enjoyable, too.
04. you lack interest
This pitfall conjures up every excuse in the book to put our important work off because the goal or task bores us to tears. It’s not interesting, and frankly, we just don’t want to do it.
I find myself procrastinating a lot when it comes to organizing business or household paperwork like bills, receipts, or anything to do with financial statements and budgeting.
It’s not my forte, but, it’s extremely important and isn’t something that can be or should ever be avoided.
The harsh reality is that sometimes we just have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s called being a grown-up. Boo!
how to avoid it:
When it comes to accomplishing goals or completing tasks that I don’t want to do I apply one or several of the earlier tactics mentioned.
For example: when I had to organize a massive pile of household paperwork that needed to be filed I prepared for the task by purchasing the supplies I would need for the job (i.e new file folders, page protectors, a proper filing container) and then I carved time into my schedule (a few hours) to complete the task.
To make it enjoyable, I found a movie on Netflix, turned on the fireplace, sat in front of the TV with a big ol’ glass of wine and completed my goal. Check!
Look for ways to enjoy the task and psyche yourself up to get ‘er done.
…and If all else fails, delegate!
Is there someone in your household who would be better suited for the task or might naturally enjoy it?
If not, is there a service out there willing to do the entire task for a fee?
Maybe enlisting the help of friends or family for an afternoon will help you get the job done? I guarantee that there’s someone out there either willing to help you or do it for you.
05. you want things to be perfect
I’ll admit, for years I thought that being a perfectionist was a good thing. I would tell potential employers that my weakness was “perfectionism” and now I seriously shudder whenever I think back to that.
Unfortunately, perfectionism still rears it’s ugly head from time to time (hello! website launch procrastination) but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to prevent me from getting stuff done.
Of course, it’s important to have high standards and put thought and care into everything we do, but there’s a point when our perfectionism becomes harmful to our success and overall well-being.
how to avoid it:
1. give yourself a deadline.
Perfectionists need strict deadlines because we obsess over every aspect of our project and task to the point we never get it done. It’s important to be realistic in giving yourself a timeframe to complete the task and then honour the time you’ve set.
2. decide when good enough is good enough.
We procrastinate because we’re too busy agonizing over every tiny detail until it’s absolutely perfect, when the truth is, it’s already good enough. That may sound like we’re settling, but it’s better to release your imperfect work into the world NOW than wait for your perfect work—NEVER. You get the point.
3. know that you’re already enough.
Perfectionism stems from a belief that we’re not good enough. We need to show the world that we are good enough so we waste valuable time trying to prove it.
A friend recently shared a beautiful excerpt from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly that summarizes this thought perfectly:
Wondering how to tell the difference between when you need to rest versus when you’re using “rest” as an excuse to procrastinate?
I love this breakdown on Stillness vs. Procrastination: How to Tell The Difference by Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love.
In case you can’t listen now, here are a few key points:
- You feel relaxed and relaxed in your body
- It creates clarity and provides “next action” steps
- Creates momentum and movement
- You feel tense and tense in your body
- You have the sense of “I know I should be doing this”
- You know when you’re procrastinating and shouldn’t be
leave a comment below and tell me…
- Which procrastination pitfall is holding you back?
- How do you stop yourself from putting things off?
- Do you have a hard time distinguishing between the need for rest vs. using it as an excuse to procrastinate?