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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How to Tackle Them

Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How to Tackle Them

Procrastination is the antithesis of productivity, yet you’ve likely found yourself asking, “Why do I procrastinate?” more than once in life. Procrastination is a habit, and one that many people don’t even realize they’re engaging in.

However, it’s possible to learn how to overcome procrastination once we know why people procrastinate.

Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It can make time management useless. This often appears at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

So why do people procrastinate and self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 main reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own life and learn how to tackle the source.

1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

If you put off a task long enough, then you don’t have to face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things “just right” may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

How to Tackle It

Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

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For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confidently, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

Imagine your boss telling you how impressive your presentation was. Think about how it would feel and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Simply put in your best effort and realize that’s all you can do. This will help you stop asking, “Why do I procrastinate?”

2. The Dreamer’s Lack of Action

This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal-setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

How to Tackle It

Once you have your idea, write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

For example, if you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering to different ideas.

Learn more about goal-setting with this article.

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3. The Overwhelmed Avoider

This is one of the most common answers to the question “Why do I procrastinate?”: the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether, choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

The search then starts for a more enjoyable task, and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

How to Tackle It

Break the challenge down into smaller tasks, and tackle each one individually.

For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles.

Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help, or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

If you’re asking, “Why do I procrastinate?” it may be that you either have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

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Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another, or spending too much time deciding what to do.

This often happens to people who like to multitask or have a variety of things to do all the time. Things can get mixed up, and prioritization can become an issue.

How to Tackle It

It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task, and make a list in order of importance.

For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with “urgent” emails from colleagues, but you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

If you’re not great at prioritization, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix[1], which helps to organize tasks based on their importance and urgency:

Why do I procrastinate? Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize.

    5. The Distraction-Prone

    Another common answer to “Why do I procrastinate?” is simply distraction.

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    Research has shown that our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time, and it looks for something else. Throw in a bunch of chatty colleagues or the desire to mindlessly check social media, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    It’s also important to note that our attention spans depend largely on the task and on our individual brain. Dr. Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, explained, “How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”[2].

    How to Tackle It

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting things done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focused, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Final Thoughts

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    And that’s ok! Most people ask “Why do I procrastinate?” and most are likely to find answers here. Fortunately, that means there are specific steps you can take to overcome procrastination and be more productive. Get started today!

    More Tips on Overcoming Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on January 20, 2021

    Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    Procrastination is in a human’s biological makeup. Thanks to our limbic system, the neurological powerhouse that controls our emotions and memory, we are inclined to feel before we think. To avoid experiencing negative feelings, we keep away from tasks that may overwhelm or inconvenience us.

    Because we are inclined to seek and enjoy pleasure first, we tend to give in to things that make us happy instantly. It is so instant that we don’t see a point in neglecting ourselves. But it blinds us from viewing the consequences due to procrastination — more than 3 hours go missing every single day, and about 55 days — almost 2 months are lost every year.

    It All Comes down to Our Emotions

    The essential way to overcome procrastination is by regulating these emotions. When obligations are dreadful, they drag our feet to complete them. Most people tend to confuse work with emotional suffering because the task at hand may appear to be complicated or difficult; which can cause anxiety or despair.

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    The more complicated or challenging the work may be, the more challenge-averse we become. All of these negative feelings and reservations add up, making people avoid the tasks altogether to keep from experiencing suffering or negativity.

    Adjust the Task and Your Mood Will Change

    Difficult or complicated tasks tend to easily overwhelm people, causing them to lose interest in the project and faith in themselves. The key is to make these tasks more manageable.

    How do you do this? By breaking them up into smaller, digestible elements that will eventually add up to complete the big picture. This way, a lot of the strain is lifted, and you can find a little more enjoyment in your work.

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    Before breaking down the tasks, as a whole they appear to be time consuming and challenging.  Small, manageable parts you can take action on immediately.  The smaller the tasks, the easier you will find them to manage.  So it’s good to break down your tasks into elements that will only take you 45 minutes or less to complete.

    Keep the big picture in mind, but keep your workload light and only focus on one small task at a time. When you commit your attention to one element at a time, you are gradually making your way towards the larger goal.

    Since we are inclined to seek out things that bring us pleasure, small rewards can go a long way to help to satisfy our need for pleasure and positivity.  Rewards give you small goals to work towards, which will help to keep you motivated. Even if you aren’t able to physically reward yourself, still celebrate the progress you’ve made along the way.

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    Celebrate the completion of each small step to encourage morale. Keep up momentum throughout the entire project, and tiny celebrations will help you to do just that. Expecting to see results of the task at hand immediately is unrealistic. Accomplishments are measured by the differences you have made along the way, not the end result.

    Imagine holding an event at work.  You must find a venue, caterer, and entertainment.  You also need to come up with a theme, and decorate the venue and table settings.  This is a huge project.  Break it down into smaller parts.  For example, maybe focus on deciding on a theme first.  When you’ve completed that, give yourself a small break as a reward before moving on to the next part.  One thing at a time and reward yourself to stay motivated.  Then the big project will not overwhelm you.

    What if no matter how small the task is, it’s still dreadful?  No job is perfect. You will always at some point find yourself faced with tedious and uninteresting tasks that you must complete. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and push through.  To stay motivated, plan to complete positive tasks along with the negative ones.  This will regulate your emotions, and ensure that you don’t only do the things that you “feel like” doing.  Always remember to keep your eye on the big picture, which will give meaning to all of your tasks (even the tedious ones).

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    When you alter your attitude towards your obligations, it will make the tasks seem less tedious.  It takes a lot of practice and reinforcement, but eventually it will change your work ethic.  Refer to these tips to help you beat procrastination every time!

    Learn more tips about how to stop procrastinating: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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