Why Do We Procrastinate?
Procrastination is a bitch!
You’ve promised yourself you’d stop procrastinating, but you don’t.
Heck! You even procrastinate about that.
You were going to work on your report last night, but spent a couple of hours gaming instead.
You need to lose those 15 pounds, but dessert was impossible to resist.
You planned to get up and write for two hours while the kids were still in bed, but you turned off the alarm and went back to sleep.
You know you need to be more productive, and there are so many things you want to do (even plan to do), but you just never seem to get around to them.
You’re driving yourself and everyone around you crazy.
Why can’t you stop?
What Is the Main Cause of Procrastination?
In short, it’s choosing instant gratification over long-term gain.
Procrastination is a battle between two opposing forces in your brain — reason vs. emotion.
Think of it as two friends pulling you in opposite directions. One is thoughtful and focused; the other is impatient and impulsive.
It is easy to impulsively succumb to temptation — to choose all those delicious bites of life that surround you, rather than doing the “hard stuff” when it needs to be done.
Seven Questions That Will Help You Stop Procrastinating
1. How Often Do You Procrastinate?
Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but if the behavior interferes with your life and your ability to reach goals, you may want to consider what you can do to break the habit.
Just for the heck of it, take this quick quiz from “Psychology Today” to see where you stand on the procrastination scale.
How did you do? Were you surprised?
Is it time for you to take action against your tendency to procrastinate?
If your answer is ‘yes,’ continue with the questions.
2. What Stories Do You Tell Yourself to Justify Procrastinating?
Every procrastinator has his/her favorite stories.
Do any of the following sound familiar?
- I’ll do this tomorrow/later because I don’t have time right now (or I’m too busy, or I don’t have everything I need).
- I work better under pressure; I am more efficient/creative.
- Delaying this for an hour/day/week won’t make any difference.
- I need a block of time (X Hours) to do this.
- I was born a procrastinator — that’s just who I am.
These five stories, plus variations, are among the most common, but there are many more. People can be extremely creative when rationalizing their choice to procrastinate.
What are your favorites?
Take a few minutes and list the ones that you use frequently.
When you recognize your favorites and keep them in mind, they signal a potential choice to procrastinate.
As soon as they appear, you can STOP yourself and choose to get IT done instead, whatever it is.
3. Are You Willing to Continue Paying the Price for Procrastination?
It is easy to convince yourself that there is little or no-cost for procrastination but take a closer look.
The costs can be enormous — some tangible, others more subtle.
When you tell yourself, “I’ll do it later/tomorrow/next week,” many times, you get to it. But, what happens if you don’t, or if you procrastinate too long?
This is the underbelly of procrastination that very few people consider, but it is real.
Time is money, and there is always a cost for how you choose to spend your time.
The cost of procrastination may or may not be immediate. But, the longer you put things off, the greater the cost.
The ripple effect will eventually impact you personally and professionally.
It’s Time to Tally-up the Cost
Four areas of cost for procrastination in your personal life:
- Finances (Current and future costs – late fees/penalties/bad credit/no retirement)
- Health (Unnecessary health problems, even death)
- Relationships (Lost or damaged relationships)
- Missed opportunities (Opportunities pass quickly, often no second chances)
Cost of procrastination in your professional life:
- Loss of clients
- Loss of sales
- Poor performance reviews
- Loss of respect
- Loss of job
- Loss of income
There are many other costs to consider such as safety and protection – if you don’t have the breaks fixed, someone could be hurt or killed; if you don’t have home and auto insurance, you could lose everything; if you don’t plan for retirement, you may end up working until you drop, or even worse.
The costs of procrastination add up quickly and are quite scary when you really think about them. So, maybe it is time to think about them.
4. Where Are You Going with Your Life?
Do you know what you want your life to look like in 20/30 years?
Are you making choices today that will take you there?
Or, are you making choices that will slow you down, or permanently derail you?
It is important to know where you want to go.
Living life with “an unknown destination” is risky.
What Does a Destination Have to Do with Procrastination?
When you can see the value (the long-term gain) in doing what is necessary minute-by-minute and day-by-day, to reach your destination, procrastination becomes less appealing.
When you have a life plan – a clear route to follow with intermittent goals along the way, it makes smart choices easier.
Of course, there will be occasional setbacks, but when you know where you’re going, you will be able to get back on track quickly.
5. Will Today Be a Boom or a Bust?How we spend our days is how we spend our lives – Annie DillardClick To Tweet
A good, productive day is always a BOOM! The best way to ensure continual BOOM days is by planning ahead.
A well-planned day locks out procrastination because the choices are already made regarding how you are going to spend your time.
A daily schedule planner can be a valuable tool for this purpose.
There are many available on the internet, including Google Calendar – it is free, simple to use, and sends reminders.
It may be challenging at first to ignore distractions and stick to your schedule, but it gets easier with practice.
Accomplishing what you plan to accomplish each day allows you to live without the constant companionship of stress and anxiety. It will be an amazing change.
6. How Do You Deal with Distractions?
This is a tough one because procrastinators actively look for distractions.
The biggest one of all – TECHNOLOGY – is right there in your face, begging for attention.
How many times have you said to yourself, “It will only take a minute to check my email or answer a text, it’s not a big deal.”
REALLY? Who are you kidding? It’s a very big deal.
What about TV? How many hours a day do you waste on this one?
A good solution for those who love TV is to schedule specific times to watch your favorite shows.
With streaming, Netflix, etc., TV time can be scheduled day or night so it won’t interfere with doing the things that have a positive impact on your life.
If you are a Millennial, you may prefer the internet – it’s in your DNA.
Gaming, surfing the internet, and social media can eat up hours of time – the perfect “fun” distraction. This may be the biggest “instant gratification” temptation of them all.
Finally – the smartphone – the continually distracting electronic leash. If you don’t turn it off, or leave it in another room, it will distract you.
Technology is a big part of life and you get to choose how you will handle it.
Will it continue to be a major distraction and a tool that aids procrastination? Or, not?
Is There a “Stop Procrastination” App?
Yes, of course. Isn’t there an app for everything?
Remote Bliss can help you. They have compiled a list of 25 anti-procrastination apps. There should be one to fit your needs.
When you first stop using technology as a distraction, you may suffer from separation anxiety, but you will survive.
Ridding yourself of distractions will minimize the temptation to procrastinate and significantly boost productivity.
7. Are There Any Specific Tips That Can Help?
There are a million ways to answer this; but, the following three things are time-tested tips for overcoming procrastination.
- When a project involves others, talk to them immediately and keep things moving. Avoid using the need to speak to them as an excuse to delay taking action.
- It’s time to stop striving for perfection. It is a waste of time and energy. What really matters is that you are willing to start and to give it your best. Remember, good enough is often good enough.
- Visualize how great you will feel when you have finished whatever you are tempted to postpone. A sense of accomplishment can be a great energy and confidence booster.
There You Have It!
In summary – instant gratification is more important to a procrastinator than potential long-term gain from doing what needs to be done in each moment.
When you are willing to acknowledge and accept that truth, you will have the silver bullet to stop procrastination in its tracks.
It’s very simple:Say NO to instant gratification and commit to doing what needs to be done right now!Click To Tweet
This is a lot of information, and your inclination may be to “think about it tomorrow,” but ignore that thought and go for it today.
Changing your mindset and behavior patterns requires commitment.
Depending on where you land on the procrastination scale, it may be a big change for you.
But, don’t worry! You don’t have to eat the elephant all at once – just a bite at a time.
Start right now by answering the first three questions (which shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes).
Quiet introspection that comes from answering hard questions often makes the change process easier.
As your awareness sharpens and the truth burrows into your consciousness, you will begin to notice that you don’t procrastinate as often.
Over time, it will become easier and easier to recognize the “stories” when they appear, and you will quickly respond with a clear NO to procrastination.
You will finally be able to keep your promise to yourself to stop procrastinating.
You will know where you are going, and you will be making choices that will take you there.Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone – Pablo PicassoClick To Tweet
Related Article: Wasting Time on the Internet (7 Sure-Fire Ways to Stop)