10 reasons why we procrastinate
Reading Time: 11 minutes
Do you know why YOU procrastinate? What are the factors and reasons why YOU postpone the important tasks? We all have our own reasons depending on our situation, experience and environment.
Take a look at the procrastination equation. You see that there are demotivating and hindering factors which make us procrastinate when they overweight our self-control and motivation.
I will list here ten different factors that are quite common reasons for procrastination. Not all of them might be relevant for you and you can just skim through them. Hopefully you will get some inspiration to figure out your obstacles and get some encouragement to create a few good habits that help you.
* I have added some ideas for habits for each strategy. Use them for inspiration and change according to your situation and needs. But remember to keep them as tiny as possible!
Is your focus constantly shifting between different tasks? Are there distracting noises? Do you see something that makes you lose your concentration? Do you smell something, feel something? Are there other people who come to disturb you?
Distractions have a big influence on you. They make you lose focus and you can find yourself doing something totally different than the important task that you are supposed to work on.
Observe yourself and determine the distractions that are usually appearing for you. See if you can remove them or at least make them appear less frequently. Create habits that remove some of the distractions or decide beforehand how you will behave when a distraction appears.
After opening the laptop in the morning, I will silence my phone and put it into the drawer.
After I start working on writing the report, I will tell my coworker not to disturb me during the next hour.
After someone asks for help during my focus time, I will tell them to come back later.
Do you know what exactly you should do? Is the task clear for you? Do you know how to reach the end-result?
If the task at hand is too broad or you don’t know exactly how to get started, then quite often you tend to procrastinate. The big project can be intimidating and confusing.
Make sure your goals and tasks are as specific and clear as possible. The more concrete the assignment the easier it is to get started. Divide the bigger projects into subtasks and plan the time when you will be doing them.
Instead of writing “finish the report”, note down “On Monday from nine to ten I will work on the x paragraph of the report”
After I write down a task, I will ask myself “Do I know how to get started?”
After I receive a big assignment, I will break it down to subtasks
After I’m given a complicated task, I will schedule a time with my boss to brainstorm how to do it
Is the task at hand something that you really don’t like to do? Something that is uncomfortable for you or even makes you feel bad? Sometimes it happens, but you still have to do it.
Try to make the task more enjoyable and find aspects of it that you can care about. Change your perspective and create your own reasons for doing this task.
Maybe it is a good experience for you, maybe you learn something new, maybe you grow your willpower muscle, maybe you can share the task with somebody, maybe you can find a new and fun way to do it. Be creative.
If possible, connect it with some other task that you enjoy doing. Do the workout while watching your favorite series. Go to a cozy coffee shop, have your favorite drink and write the boring report there. Make it a competition with your coworker – who can finish more boring tasks in one day?
After I write an unpleasant task on the to-do list, I will think about why it is important to do it
After I receive a difficult task, I will think how to make it easier and more fun
After I feel bored with a task, I will tell myself: “The faster I do it the better”
Are you occasionally wondering, what if the result will not be as good as you want? What if your colleague or competitor does a better job? What if the outcome will not be the best in the world?
Sometimes we just want to do it perfectly and since we know it is not possible, we better not start at all. Then it at least still has the potential to be perfect when you start working on it in the future.
You can try to avoid a perfectionist mindset by accepting that your work will have some flaws. It is totally normal. Everybody is making some mistakes and you can’t be the best in the world in everything. There is always somebody who can do it better. It doesn’t matter, don’t compare yourself with others. Do your best and it is enough!
After I notice the feeling of uncertainty, I will tell myself “I’m good enough!”
After I receive a compliment, I will say “Thank you!” and enjoy this moment
After I make a mistake at work, I will say “**** happens, what can I learn from it?”
Fear of failure
Have you had doubts whether you can manage to do the task? What if you fail and all the colleagues will laugh at you, your boss will be mad and you might even lose your job? What if you decide to go to the gym, but are not able to lift as much as others are doing or drop the weights?
Fear of failure can be connected to perfectionism, but in this case you are afraid that you can’t do it at all. If you have low self-confidence or low self-esteem, you are more likely to procrastinate.
Focus on what you can control and learn from your mistakes. Often the things we worry about are out of our hands and you can’t change them anyway. Figure out if your fear is rational at all.
Also make it a habit to learn from your own and from other people’s mistakes. When something goes wrong, take some time to reflect on it and make a plan for the next time this situation arises. What will you do differently? If you have a plan ready, you are more confident.
After I mess something up, I will ask myself “What can I learn from this situation?”
After I receive a scary task, I will think about the possible outcomes
After I start doing a similar task I have done before, I will remind myself how did I do it last time
Lack of energy
Do you feel physical fatigue? Do you have a lack of sleep or exercise? Do you have unhealthy eating habits?
If you are not physically and mentally fit, it is very easy to postpone tasks. So maybe the way to start fighting with procrastination is through your eating and sleeping habits?
What could you do to be more fit in every way? Drink more water? Stretch during brakes? Have a healthy breakfast? What one tiny action could you add to your day to become more fit?
After I stand up from the desk, I will stretch myself.
After opening the laptop, I will fill my glass of water
After watching the evening news, I will prepare myself for bed
Do you prefer to do things that result in instant gratification? And postpone activities that would cause you some immediate discomfort? Although you are aware that in the long run, you could enjoy the results of the effort.
This is very natural for all of us. Our brain works like this. It seeks pleasure and avoids pain. This means that we tend to postpone difficult tasks and choose to do something easy and fun instead.
Try to become aware of the consequences of not doing the important but difficult task now. Think about the future self. Think about how good you will feel if this task is done on time and how bad you will feel if you have to work on it the whole night before the deadline. The future you will be very thankful for your good decisions.
After I postpone a task, I will think about how my future self will feel about it.
After I receive a big, difficult and important task, I will imagine how useful it is for my life to finish this on time and how good I will feel when it’s done
After I finish an important task, I will say “You are welcome, future me!”
Do you feel that there is just so much to do that you can’t manage? Do you have a really big and difficult task at hand and you don’t know how to handle it? Do you feel overwhelmed with everything that is going on?
There can be different reasons why you ended up in this situation. Maybe you don’t know how to say “no!”? Maybe you are not used to asking for help? Maybe you need to learn some new skills to be more efficient?
Whatever the case, try to stay calm and untangle this situation one knot at the time. Start from the smallest and easiest knot. From something that you can do right now, that doesn’t take a lot of effort.
Maybe you can make a list of everything that you have to do and get clear on the exact steps that you need to take. Maybe there is someone who you can ask help from. Maybe you just need to relax and take some time off. Maybe even a nap will help.
After I notice I’m becoming overwhelmed, I will take three deep breaths
After I receive a big task, I will divide it into smaller steps
After I feel stuck, I will ask for help
Lack of motivation
Do you lack interest in the task? Do you have no wish to do it? Do you feel unmotivated?
As you remember from the procrastination equation, you need to have enough motivation to outweigh the hindering and demotivating factors.
Motivation is also one of the main components in the Fogg Behavior Model that says – if you don’t have any motivation at all or the motivation is not enough in correlation to your ability to do the task – you will not do it.
So you have two options – you have to raise your motivation or you have to make the task so easy that your current motivation is enough to do it.
Start from making the task easier and then find ways to motivate yourself. You can use subtasks, delegate a part of the task, make it more concrete and clear, make some preparations or learn something new that helps to do it. If this is not enough, figure out what would motivate you to do it.
After I feel unmotivated about a task, I will figure out the first tiny step that I could do
After I get frustrated about a task, I will ask advice from a friend or colleague
After I sit behind the work desk, I will look at the photo of my partner/children/family/loved ones and remind myself that I’m doing it also for them
Lack of self-control
Do you find yourself often scrolling social media, cleaning your desktop, reading news, browsing online shops or doing some other easy replacement activities instead of working on your important assignment?
Self-control reflects a person’s ability to self-regulate their behavior in order to bring themself to follow through on their intentions, and take action that is in their best interest, particularly in the long-term.
Lack of self-control often leads to procrastinating. You will start doing things that you don’t need to do while saying to yourself that you will start working in just a couple of minutes. I will just finish this article, I will just watch one more video, I will just scroll to the end of the Facebook feed.
There is a method called HALT. The letters mean hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. It is said that when you have any of these, it is not a good time to make decisions. They will affect you and you are not able to be rational. They will also influence your decisions about delaying the tasks because you lack self-control.
So if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, it means that you are more likely to procrastinate. When you start working on important tasks, make sure you don’t have any of those feelings. Have a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, try to avoid any situations that make you angry or lonely.
After I notice myself feeling angry, I will take 10 deep breaths
After I get ready to go to work, I will put a bag of nuts into my pocket
After I go to bed, I will start the sleep tracking app
These were only a few reasons we tend to procrastinate. Probably some of them are relevant to you as well and hopefully you found some ideas of what you could do to improve yourself.
Become aware of the reasons why you procrastinate and make a plan how to overcome them. Create some small habits that will take away the demotivating and hindering factors and that help you to gain more self-control and motivation.
I will dig more into this topic and write about some other practical solutions and steps that you can take to fight against procrastination. There will be new blog posts and we are also focusing on this topic in our Be a Bit Better newsletter.
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