Procrastination – putting things off – is a common, natural, human reaction to tasks that may seem in some way difficult or challenging. However, severe procrastination that leads to feelings of wretchedness or extreme anxiety may need addressing.
People who procrastinate tend to
- Find it difficult to make a start – ‘I’m waiting till I’m in the right mood/inspired’
- Create diversions – ‘before I start, I’ll just..tidy up/check my emails/have a snack/etc..’
- Waste time by working ineffectively – ‘I spent time on the task but have nothing to show for it’
- Rush at the last minute – ‘I work better under pressure’
- Miss deadlines – then feel guilty, disappointed and reproachful
Commonly procrastination is mistakenly perceived as laziness. Essentially, however, procrastination is caused by inner conflict where there is a want (or need) to do something, matched with a corresponding resistance to doing it. Energy to prepare to act and then to execute the act does not ‘flow’ so there is inaction and then conflict.
Moving out of Procrastination
Firstly, it is essential to understand why there seems a need to procrastinate, to sabotage yourself by not ‘doing’. Some reasons may include:
- A fear of getting it ‘wrong’/doing ‘badly’ – ‘I’m concerned that it may not be right?’
- A sense of being overwhelmed – ‘I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start’
- A desire for perfection – ‘it must be absolutely perfect or it’s not worth doing’
- A reluctance to take responsibility – ‘it’s not my fault, I couldn’t do it because..’
Once the problem is acknowledged there needs to be a commitment to break the habit of procrastinating and make some changes. Consider:
- Achievement is often a process, which inevitably involves some effort and challenge, even struggle as well as success and a sense of triumph. If it is ‘wrong or bad’, changes can be made – if it is done in plenty of time – that is part of the process of accomplishment.
- taking charge by: managing an action plan, develop time management skills, make lists, get an ally to support you in meeting task deadlines, break down large tasks into smaller do-able ones, reward each achievement to develop your motivation.
- Evaluate the importance of the task: if it is not necessary, maybe forget it. If it is important and has to be done, why delay? Consider how you will feel when it is done.
- Focus on what is realistic rather than what is ideal. Don’t get it perfect (that’s impossible) just try to get it done.
- Change ‘I can’t…’ statements to ‘I can’t … but I can…’ (eg ‘I can’t understand what to do but I can ask for some guidance’) Ultimately it is your choice how you respond to tasks.