There is a pungent smell coming from your fridge, and your boss has left a few urgent voice messages about the August report that is due. Your mind feels soggy as you sigh with dreams about laying on your couch to stare out the window. Procrastination has come to visit..
We all share the feeling of not wanting to do what we need to get done. What drives that? Why do we prevent ourselves from finishing projects, being on time, completing work on time?
These are questions that are constantly asked at our office, from our clients to our staff.
To better analyze and understand what drives this behavior, we decided to gather our life coaches and therapists to unpack what procrastination is, what’s really behind it, and techniques to work through it.
If you or someone you know is looking for a therapist or life coach, we are always available and here to help, with a wide array of experts. For more information, please feel free to reach out to: email@example.com
The Truth about Procrastination. What are we REALLY Feeling?
Procrastination is a learned behavior used when we feel or detect discomfort about doing a task or meeting a goal we are faced with. Our mind’s coping tactic is to find a way out of that action and look for a way to justify not doing it or avoiding it.
The funny thing about procrastination is that it masks our true feelings. For example, a person who cannot submit work on time may be struggling with fear of failure, or the person who always shows up late might have social anxiety.
The problem is that procrastination becomes a solution to these uncomfortable feelings and exacerbates the situation every time a person procrastinates and can meet their needs somehow. Whether it be avoiding their boss or a big party, they learn to use it as a perceived option.
How to Work with your Procrastination Tendencies?
The first thing to know is that we all do this somehow, some of us more so than others. Offering yourself grace is always essential when unlearning unhealthy or unhelpful behaviour.
So how do you address this?
First, it is essential to check in with yourself when you are the critical point of “decision making.” When you are getting ready to put off the tasks in front of you, stop, take a deep breath and go a little further.
Challenge Your Thoughts
Ask yourself: “ Is it really true that I will be able to do this another day?”
“Will I be happy with the outcome if I wait to do it?”
“What could happen if I do start this task today instead of waiting?”
Once you have had a chance to analyze your decisions’ actual outcome, you do not want to put off the task at hand.
You can also continue to self-reflect and identify why you might be postponing or putting this task or situation off. These insights will help you with more profound answers on how to help yourself during these critical times.
If you are struggling with a social situation, by avoiding it or being late for fear of arriving with everyone else, call ahead and see if you can arrive a little early and help the host with preparations. This will help to ease into the situation and settle in ahead of time.
If you are worried about submitting something to your boss for fear of failure, set up some check-in points where you can get their guidance as you are going along and work through any issues or corrections, offering you a much more confident final hand-off.
Mindsets to Let Go of:
The way that we approach situations will impact our outcome. It is essential to factor in the goals, timing as well as the other people involved. There are various unhelpful mindsets that we can fall into that we should be ok to let go.
1. Needing to be in charge:
Trying to do everything yourself is exhausting, overwhelming and reduces the overall quality of life. It’s hard to get things done when you are trying to do everything yourself or micromanage everyone else. Collaborating in a group benefits most projects but to be able to do this it is essential to manage your needs for being in control. There are so many underlying reasons why we might feel a need to be in control in unhealthy and disproportionate ways. For example, traumatic events (i.e., growing up in poverty, etc.) might have made someone feel helpless or vulnerable. Working with a therapist can be helpful to learn and understand the underlying causes of this behavior and to find skills for moving away from this behavior.
2. Pleasure Seeking:
Putting things off because it is more important to have fun now and live in the moment can create a lack of responsibility for getting important and essential tasks completed. Approaching life with a more balanced approach offers time for both fun and work. It is never healthy to fall into extremes of either working too much or playing too much. Structuring one’s day can help to balance all the things that are needed to really be your best self and to feel healthiest and happiest.
3. Perfectionism, Fear of Failure/Mistakes and the Unknown:
Perfectionism looks like spending 1 hour to write a 5 sentenced email or skipping a task because what’s the point in doing it if we can’t do it perfectly? The problem is that most perfectionists won’t begin a task until they can do it perfectly! Start by adopting the mindset that being right is only interesting at best, and certainly not the be all and end all. Plus what’s the point of having the right answer to something when it’s taken too long to come up with it and you’ve passed your deadline? We work with bosses all the time who say they’d rather their team work together and collaborate on a solution instead of being hyper focused and inward about producing the so called “right” answer!
The reality is that we are supposed to make mistakes and we are supposed to fail because it is how we learn, grow and get better. Otherwise, we stay stuck (procrastinate) because the truth is that humans aren’t perfect, and we don’t do things perfectly. That is why the term, ‘human error’ exists.
‘Fear of the unknown’ is related to ‘perfectionism’ and ‘fear of making mistakes’ because it is impossible to know how well we will perform in new and unknown situations. Fear of the unknown and the associated procrastination become based on a bunch of self-limiting beliefs that we perceive may happen. Experiencing anxiety and stress about the unknown and failure is expected but it is important to learn how to work through these negative thoughts and feelings and learn new and healthier ways to handle it. Working with a therapist to learn how to navigate situations that are outside of your comfort zone can really help.
4. Low Self-Confidence:
Low self-confidence can be a leading cause of procrastination, but procrastinating is also a cause of low self-confidence. Not doing something makes us think that we can’t do it. Self-confidence means believing in yourself as capable even when you doubt these believes. It is an, “I can do it,” attitude. It doesn’t mean you don’t doubt, feel anxious and incapable but you know you have felt that way before and kept going and because you didn’t give up you succeeded in the end. Because you pushed through these tough feelings and thoughts your confidence in your ability to do hard things increased. You might have made mistakes that you had to learn from, but you tried and you kept going even when you felt like you couldn’t do it. Most of us suffer from “imposter syndrome,” and we have to work hard to manage our self-esteem. Know that you are not imposter just because you feel unsure. If you are struggling with any of this, it is good to reach out and get help from a therapist or life coach.
What is your unhelpful rule or assumption? Where did it come from? What are the negative consequences of thinking like that? Reflecting on these questions can help you clear up your own procrastination. To have successful strategies, you also need functioning strategies,
We all need tools to help us navigate through moments of procrastination, it often requires isolating ways to involve knowing what needs to be done, how to do it and when to do it. Clarity, task approach and time availability is the key. Take a look.
The things that you will need:
- Write a “to do” list: itemize tasks and goal you need to work on. This can be done by day, week or month depending on what is needed.
- Prioritize your list. Number them by most importance
- Break it up. Take each item and break it into small steps, that are involved in achieving the task.
- Timing. Then estimate how much time you think it will take to do the tasks.
How to get it done:
The following are some methods, not all of these are for everyone, you can choose the one that works best for you.
- Knock the hardest off first: Knock out doing the most difficult or least liked first. Getting this done first makes all the other items in the list easier to do.
- Use momentum: start doing a task that you like and that energizes you, and than switch out to something that you have been putting off.
- Use short intervals. Plan to spend just 5 minutes on the task. We can all tolerate doing cumbersome tasks for 5 minutes. Try to do this a few times in a row.
- Set Time Limits: Set a specific time limit to work on a task and stick to it, rather than extending things even if you feel you can.
- Make sure that you are meeting personal needs before engaging in a task, like eating, sleeping, getting well if you are sick.
- Reward yourself: Set up a small reward or treat for yourself for when you finish your planned action. This will offer you something to look forward to.
Finally, working towards having successful strategies to getting things done takes some time and some adjustments so give yourself some grace and patience with your process. Write down and celebrate your successes. It is important to hold a positive mind set when you are working through correcting behaviour.
If you feel like you need to work with a life coach or a therapist, our empathetic staff is highly experiences and always available to work with new clients. Please reach out any time at firstname.lastname@example.org