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Last Updated on September 9, 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

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

    How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

    The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

    Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

    Here are some study tips to help get you started:

    1. Use Flashcards

    Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

    Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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    To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

    One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

    Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

    As Tony Robbins says,

    “Repetition is the mother of skill”.

    2. Create the Right Environment

    Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

    Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

    3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

    In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

    An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

    4. Listen to Music

    Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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    5. Rewrite Your Notes

    This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

    Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

    To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

    6. Engage Your Emotions

    Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

    Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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    For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

    7. Make Associations

    One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

    Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

    To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

    You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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    Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

    Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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