Why Do We Procrastinate?
Do you ever find yourself scrolling through your phone when you should be working? Or folding the laundry when you’re supported to be filling in your tax return? So why do we do it to ourselves?
What Is Procrastination?
Firstly, it is important to explore what procrastination really is, because a lot of people think they are procrastinating when really it is something else. Procrastination is putting off an important task.
It’s not putting off unimportant tasks in favor of something else – that’s prioritization.
It’s not putting off an important task when you’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to do it – that’s looking after yourself. When we know that, we can replenish and make sure that we have plenty of energy to do it the next day.
During this current global crisis, it is really important to give ourselves compassion and not hold ourselves to too high a standard. The impact of the pandemic on our psychological well-being cannot be underestimated, and it is more important to prioritize our energy and mental health right now than ever before.
One of the most overwhelming reasons that I see for procrastination is that the person is depleted of energy. They are burnt out and are putting tasks off because they just don’t have the energy to even pretend to do the task. The first question that I would ask a client who is procrastinating is “how is your energy?” Before even tackling the reason for procrastinating, we need to fix the energy issue.
It is time for some urgent self-care – sleep, rehydrating, eating good food, get out in nature, have a massage. Tune in to your body and find out what it needs. That is step number one and can remove at least half of the procrastination right there.
If your energy is great, then what are the other reasons we can procrastinate?
This is one that I can suffer with occasionally! This is where you’ve been on a slow, low energy, like after a holiday or a long weekend, and it has been so long since you were in action that it takes an immense amount of energy to get going. Because the energy to get started again is so huge, this can cause us to procrastinate.
To fix this, I teach my clients a process of energy management where you create daily, weekly and monthly energy plans to help you in the future. For a quick burst to get started, I also recommend setting a timer and getting one job, any job started and finished. This could be as simple as clearing the junk off your desk or organizing your emails.
Out of Alignment
Sometimes we might procrastinate because the task that we have to do is not in our natural skill set or doesn’t flow for us. We all have different talents and really work at our best when we work to those strengths and delegate the other tasks. It may even be something unpleasant or not enjoyable which you really don’t want to do, but have to.
But if it is something that you have to do, and can’t delegate, the best thing you can do is to “Eat That Frog”. This is a concept introduced by Brian Tracy in his book by the same name where you get it done first thing in the morning and then give yourself a reward. Make it the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk and then congratulate yourself with a nice cup of tea or a dance around the office.
When we are in a state of overwhelm, it is common to procrastinate, because we can’t see the next right thing to do through all of the mess.
If my clients come to me overwhelmed, I teach them a process to triage all of the tasks they have to do to help them see past the overwhelm and get control. If this applies to you, please get in touch and I will talk you through solving this problem on a discovery call.
This is a really common cause of inaction. Perfectionism can stop us in our tracks because if we can’t get it done perfectly then why even bother starting?
If perfectionism is an issue for you, then in the longer term it would be a good idea to work with a coach to dig into what has caused that so that you can reframe and release any limiting beliefs that are triggering this.
In the short term, it can help you to overcome perfectionism to do this task by looking to the future and imagining the worst possible outcome. So imagine you are avoiding doing an article for your website in case you make a mistake. Have in your mind the article up on your site with the mistake in place. You see that spelling mistake. What’s the worst that can happen? You notice it – you fix it. Big deal right?
We evolve over time and the content we create when we start out in our career will inevitably look so different from what we can develop after ten years in the business. We have to forgive ourselves for that and understand that it helps our audience sometimes to see the human side of us. To connect to our authenticity.
Being unable to make a decision about the right path is one of the other reasons that I see clients procrastinating. It is a bit like lack of momentum, but essentially the inertia is caused by being unable to make a decision.
For this, I would work with my clients on the three centered decision-making process to help them to bring their whole self wisdom to the situation. Once we’ve done that, taking action, any action, even the wrong one, is generally better than doing nothing at all.
I’d love to know – when was the last time you procrastinated and what was the cause?
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