Procrastination is the tendency to put things off – often to the point where they’re no longer manageable. It’s the disconnect between your intention and action.
And it usually makes hard things even harder.
When you look at most people’s list of bad habits they want to break, procrastination is usually one of them. If you struggle with procrastination, consider which of these 12 reasons have you spinning your wheels (reference: franksonnenbergonline.com):
- Lack of discipline. “I’ll do this later.”
- Fear of failure. “I don’t think I can do this, so why bother trying.”
- Wishful thinking. “If I ignore it, maybe it’ll go away.”
- Unreasonable expectations. “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t even attempt it.”
- Feeling overwhelmed. “This project seems complicated. I don’t have the energy to tackle it right now. Let me think about it some more…tomorrow.”
- Fear of complexity. “I don’t even know where to start.”
- Lack of motivation. “I’m just not in the mood right now.”
- Fear of accountability. “What if I fail?”
- Feeling bored. “I’d rather be having fun.”
- Lack of urgency. “I have plenty of time to do this later. It’s not due for days.”
- Fear of making a decision. “I need more information before I can start.”
- Working under pressure. “I love the adrenaline rush that I get when I’m up against a deadline.”
Procrastination often happens when you have some anxiety about the important task ahead of you. To get rid of this negative feeling, you procrastinate — by opening up Facebook or watching Netflix instead. This makes you feel better temporarily, but unfortunately, reality comes back to bite you in the end.
When you procrastinate, it’s easy for things to snowball out of control. In some cases, it can lead to outright panic, freezing you in your tracks and preventing you from getting anything done.
What’s the solution?
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The most successful people have learned how to plan and prioritize effectively.
If you don’t have a plan, your brain stalls. And that’s when you procrastinate.
Instead of considering procrastination as a habit you need to break, or a hardwired part of your personality, think of it as an alarm, or a red flag—a sign that something is missing. Something is preventing you from getting things done.
Start with priorities. Remember, everything on your plate is not an immediate priority. Force yourself to pick the 1-2 most important tasks on your to-do list and set your agenda for the day/week. Mark Twain said, “If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first.”
Next, identify a specific short-term goal. A goal will force you to focus on one thing (and one thing only).
Finally, identify the steps required to achieve that goal. Break big activities down into smaller pieces (i.e., the divide and conquer approach). Don’t get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the whole task. Big problems are best solved in small bites.
Recognize that you don’t have to be “in the mood” to do a certain task — just ignore how you feel and get started. Instead of focusing on feelings, think about what your next action step will be. Even if it’s an extremely small action, a little progress will typically make you feel better about the task and increase your confidence.
Your time on earth is limited. Procrastinators act as if they have all the time in the world. But deep down, they know they’re wasting their life by sitting in their comfort zone. Don’t squander another second – dive in today!
Stefani is a consultant at The Center and has experience as a leadership educator, consultant, and coach. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has been teaching graduate courses at West Chester University in Pennsylvania for the past 20 years. She specializes in positive, strengths-based, transformational leadership models and has engaged with more than 100 clients as an executive coach.