• berkshirelifecoach

Procrastinating; You are not alone. Why we do it.

Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, if you planned to write a blog post but end up wasting time scrolling social media, even though you know you should be working;  you are procrastinating. If you’re a procrastinator, then you’ve probably asked yourself at some point “why do I procrastinate so much?” or “why do I keep procrastinating even though I know that it’s bad for me?”. These are important questions; understanding why you procrastinate is crucial if you want to figure out how to stop doing it. Procrastination is a complex problem, that different people experience for different reasons. The main psychological mechanism behind our procrastination is as follows: • When we need to get something done, we rely primarily on our willpower in order to bring ourselves to do it. • Our willpower often receives support from our motivation, which helps us get things done in a timely manner. • In some cases, we experience certain demotivating factors, such as anxiety or fear of failure, which have an opposite effect than our motivation. • In addition, we sometimes experience certain hindering factors, such as exhaustion or outcomes that are far in the future, which interfere with our willpower and motivation. • When demotivating and hindering factors outweigh willpower and motivation, we end up procrastinating, either indefinitely, or until we reach a point in time when the balance between them shifts in our favour. The difference between greatness and mediocrity on a daily and weekly basis is slim, yet the difference in results is tremendous. The difference between greatness and mediocrity for a salesperson could be 2 or 3 extra appointments a week, 5 or 10 more phone calls a day. For a manager or leader it could be recognising the good work of one more person each day or delegating a task instead of doing it themself. On a daily and weekly basis these differences seem minor but in the long run they are significant. Each and every one of us has the ability to be great; what makes a champion is the discipline to do the extra things even when - especially when - we don't feel like it. Willpower has a fatigue factor. As we've all experienced, sometimes we have the willpower and sometimes we don't. Leaving it up to willpower alone, you will likely find yourself procrastinating. The Method to Take Back Your Time gives you tools and support structures that make it easier to complete your actions than not to. Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton hold the record for the most World Drivers' Championships, both having won the title on seven occasions. Schumacher also holds the record for the most consecutive drivers' titles with five between 2000 and 2004 and Hamilton holds the record for the most race wins in Formula One history, with 103 wins to date. I guarantee you, they had days when they didn't feel like getting in the car or working out at the gym, but they did. That's because they have support structures in place that make it easier for them to get into the car than not to.

To successfully deal with your procrastination, you need to gain an understanding of why you procrastinate and how your procrastination is preventing you from achieving your goals, so you can formulate a plan of action, that will help you deal with your reason for procrastination.

Here are just a couple of the most common demotivating and hindering factors.

Abstract goals People are more likely to procrastinate when their goals are vague or abstract, compared to when their goals are concrete and clearly defined. For example, goals such as “get fit” or “start exercising” are relatively vague, and are therefore likely to lead to procrastination. 

However,  a goal such as “go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday straight after work, and spend at least 30 minutes on the treadmill, running at high speed” is concrete, and is therefore much more likely to lead you to take action.

Prioritisation of short-term mood People often procrastinate because they prioritise their feelings in the present, and do things that will help them feel better right now, even if this comes at the expense of taking action that aligns with their long-term goals, a phenomenon which is known as short-term mood repair. Essentially, this form of procrastination, which is sometimes referred to as hedonistic delay, occurs when people give in to their desire for instant gratification, and engage in behaviours that are satisfying in the short-term, instead of working on the tasks that will benefit them more in the long-term. This kind of behaviour relates to the concept of the pleasure principle, which is the tendency to seek out pleasurable activities and avoid unpleasant ones. While this tendency is natural and instinctive, it becomes a serious issue when a person is unable to control it, since it causes them to continuously pursue short-term satisfaction, at the expense of long-term achievement and development.

One thing that can help is to reward yourself for your accomplishments. You can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate by associating rewards that are pleasant in the short-term with actions that are good for you in the long-term. You can reward yourself either for getting started on a task, for completing it, or for working on it in general. Create streaks One way to motivate yourself to get things done is to create streaks of completed tasks, that you don’t want to break. For example, you might decide that each day that you successfully write another 3 pages of your book counts as another day you get to add to your streak. How you keep track of your streaks is up to you, but the more meaningful you make the streak, the more you will want to maintain it, and the more you will be motivated to avoid procrastinating.

Feeling overwhelmed People sometimes procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed with regard to the tasks that they need to handle. A feeling of overwhelm can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as having a single task that feels huge in terms of scope, or having a large number of small tasks that add up. When this happens, a person might simply decide to avoid the tasks in question, or they might attempt to handle them, but then end up feeling paralysed before those tasks are completed. For example, if you need to clean your entire house, the fact that the task will take so long and involve so many parts might cause you to feel overwhelmed, in which case you might avoid getting started on it in the first place.

One solution that may help you is to break large tasks into smaller ones

Breaking large tasks into smaller sub-tasks can prompt you to take action, by making large tasks feel less overwhelming, and by allowing you to experience a continuous stream of rewarding progress.

You can break tasks apart as much as you want. A good rule of thumb is to create subtasks that take no more than a single session to complete, meaning that you can finish them before you need to take a break.

If it helps, start with a small first step. Some people find that it helps to start with a small first step, in order to make it easier for yourself to get over the initial hurdle of actually getting started.

You don’t have to outline the entire project from the start. If you’re dealing with a big project, you don’t need to start by outlining all its upcoming steps, and doing so can even be counterproductive. Instead, it’s often preferable to start by figuring out only the next few steps that you need to handle, and then add new ones later, once you’ve made sufficient progress.

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