To Stop Procrastinating Identify Root Causes
It can be tricky at times to tell whether procrastination is the culprit or a symptom of legitimate reasons for delaying action.
First of all, let’s be clear about one thing … we all procrastinate from time to time. It becomes a problem when the delays and excuses become chronic and we end up wasting hours and days before getting around to the important work.
There are many reasons for procrastination; obviously some are more evident than others, and they do not all have to do with being lazy or unfocused. In fact, we often assume that to cure ourselves of procrastination, all we really need to do is concentrate harder, focus ourselves better and become more self-disciplined.
But what if procrastination is a symptom rather than the actual disease?
Whatever label you choose to slap on the behavior, the bottom line is if you find yourself procrastinating you’re stuck and not making progress. The only way to stop the behavior once and for all is to identify the root causes.
The following list is designed to help you consider various behaviors and circumstances in order to identify potential underlying causes for procrastination as well as areas that may need additional work.
Potential causes for procrastination:
- You’re already overextended: Feeling overwhelmed can stall even the most ambitious among us. Is it even possible to meet all the obligations you currently have on your plate? If not, can you omit, reschedule or delegate some of these obligations?
- Inability to prioritize: Sometimes the real question is not what priority something is, but whether it should be done at all. Prioritizing is essentially a way of saying that some items aren’t going to get done. You might as well make this a conscious decision.
- Low motivation: Is the task you keep putting off actually relevant to you personally? Is it another person’s goal rather than your own? Is it possible to find some personal reward or relevance for your completing the task? Are you really interested in the project? If not, can you find a way to make it interesting or let go of it all together?
- Lack of training: Are you unprepared or incapable of completing the task with your current knowledge and range of skills? Is there an unknown element you’re afraid of? Are the expectations ambiguous? You may want to ask for guidance, support, or a new perspective from someone who is more familiar with the process or skilled in the area.
- Faulty assumptions: Are you assuming (hoping) that if you ignore the task long enough it will disappear? Are you unclear about how much time and effort the job will take? Try sitting down and writing out a step by step plan of the job, how long each step will take, and then tackling the job one step at a time.
- Perfectionism: Are fears of doing a less than perfect job interfering with your productivity? Remember that perfection is unobtainable. Often it will feel worse to not do a job at all instead of doing it in a less than perfect manner. Ask yourself “what level of performance on this task would I expect from a friend/co-worker?”
- Fear of evaluation: Could you be overly concerned with another individual’s response to your performance? Try to assess how much total impact upon your life this one reaction will have. No one performs highly all the time, or in every area. Try to focus on completing the task with a goal of lessening your workload and anxiety, regardless of the evaluation.
- Avoidance of negative experience: Do you just HATE DOING THIS TASK? Does it rate up there with painful dental visits or cleaning out the refrigerator? Is there any way to make it more pleasurable or enjoyable? If not, try doing the dreaded task first, while you still have energy.
- Difficulty making decisions: Inability to make decisions can plague many areas of your life, and cause you to freeze … which looks an awful lot like procrastination. Effective decision making is like building muscle, it takes time and the more decisions you make, the more self-confidence you will gain.
- Basically you are lazy: Yes, sometimes it really just comes down to this. There are two types of laziness. 1) A behavior pattern of wanting to do only what you want all the time, living in the present only for your pleasure, and 2) you just can’t seem to get started because you have not found your passion in life. Not much I can say about the first one except on some level it must be providing some level of personal satisfaction; but if it’s a case of feeling lost in life, it really is a matter of taking the time to do some serious self-evaluation and come up with meaningful goals. If this sounds just too overwhelming, then you may want to consider working with a life coach.
The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started. ~Dawson Trotman
Once you’ve identified the root causes behind your procrastination, the simplest and most effective solution to moving forward is to just take action. Don’t get stuck in analysis, that’s just another form of procrastination. Start by taking small steps, but start anywhere in the task. Don’t think too far ahead. Just aim for a little progress to generate forward momentum.
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