Day 3: Why we procrastinate

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow

– Mark Twain

Imagine this situation: It is late at night and you prepare for a presentation for the next day. You are anxious. What if I can’t finish this on time? What if it’s not good enough? The worst part you’ve known about this presentation for at least a month. So why haven’t you finished it so far? A family emergency?

No.

Just plain old procrastination.

I have been in this sort of situation a thousand times. Consequently, I decided to do a “30 days without procrastination” challenge. In order to do so, it is time to learn something about procrastination. Know thy enemy or so.

So why do we procrastinate? There are multiple reasons. Some scientists see procrastination as a short term mood regulation method. Task avoidance as a tool to regulate our emotions (1). Basically, if a task causes negative emotions we fall back to task avoidance. Delaying the task leading to more stress in the long run. Deadlines move closer and important but none urgent to-dos will forever stay on your to-do list.

If you wanna procrastinate at this point, here is a quiz to check your level of procrastination:(2) https://procrastinus.com/procrastination/measure-my-procrastination-3/

In the following, you will find a list of possible procrastination causes:

Lack of focus:

Maybe you are one of those people who get easily distracted and have a difficult time focusing on one subject for an extended period of time.

Adrenaline Junkie: 

Maybe you like the way you feel when you have a limited amount of time to finish a task. You enjoy the stress of a tight time frame.

Too many options / Inability to decide

Maybe you have a high number of options? Or don’t easily make decisions. A combination of both would be especially deadly regarding procrastination.

Bad time management

It could be possible, that you are just bad at time management. What if you actually think you have plenty of time when actually a task takes longer than expected?

Lack of energy

A lack of energy often causes procrastination. Are your energy levels low? Are you always too tired to do anything?

Lack of motivation

Maybe you don’t have enough incentive to achieve a goal or do a to-do. Maybe you don’t see a big enough long term benefit.

Fear or anxiety 

I think a big part of procrastination, especially for me, is fear and anxiety. There are many fears that can lead to procrastination, such as the fear of failure or humiliation. As well as the fear of disapproval or the fear to succeed.

Depression 

Maybe you are depressed. Studies show, that people, who are depressed often postpone tasks.

Perceived lack of control

Did you just move? Or a lot changed? When you feel out of control a coping mechanism often includes procrastination.

Task aversion

Sometimes your heart isn’t really into the task. Maybe it goes against your values or you really would like to avoid the outcome.

Feeling overwhelmed

Sometimes tasks or actions turn out so big you are simply overwhelmed. Where to start? Instead of tackling the mountain of an issue you might delay.

Not wanting to miss out

At times you have many options and you would like to try everything. Rather than choosing, you postpone the decision.

Outcomes and rewards in the far away future

Sometimes our goals are so far ahead and so are the rewards we expect. Therefore, they aren’t incentive enough to get us started.

Vague goals/ tasks

The goals and tasks are so unclear you have no idea how to start and what you will achieve by the end of it.

Senseless tasks

If you think your task doesn’t make any sense and you have to wonder why you should do it you can turn up postponing it.

Obviously, in order to grow, I want to overcome procrastination. Knowing why I procrastinate is an important part of beating it. This is how I am going about it on day 1.

As a first task, I take a pen and paper and write down all the goals for this year. Next, I write down, which actions need to be taken to accomplish them. In the next step, I break the tasks into monthly to-do lists. Then into weekly to-dos and finally, write down what has to be done on a daily basis.

Additional Literature:

  • (1) Sirois, F. and Pychyl, T. (2016). Procrastination, health, and well-being. p.164.
  • (2) The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Stuff Off and Start – By Piers Steel

 

 

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