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7 Major Reasons You Procrastinate And How To Deal With Them

7 Major Reasons You Procrastinate And How To Deal With Them
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If an area of your life is not where you want it to be, odds are that it’s partially because you are not taking the actions you know you should be taking. Whether you need to do research, have an important conversation, complete paperwork or head to the gym. Whatever it is, you keep finding excuses not to do it. We have a fancy name for putting things off, “to procrastinate,” but the truth is that it is just stubborn avoidance.

The key to dealing with avoidance is to first understand why you are avoiding. Here are some of the most common reasons that my clients have for avoiding doing something in their lives, and the solutions I recommend for each.

1. You like to stay in your small, comfortable box

I find that this, believe it or not, is one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate. Let’s say that you were to do your tasks early. Then what? Well, you’d have to do more. You would have time to take on the big dreams that you have been putting off because they are scary or uncomfortable. While you might say you want those dreams, the truth is that the prospect of success actually scares the pants off of you. It seems really appealing, then, to live your life in procrastination-mode, always just one step ahead of a deadline, so you don’t have time or energy to go for something bigger.

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The solution: Get comfortable with your dream. Tell people about it. Think about it. Admit that it scares you, and take steps to deal with that fear.

2. The task brings up painful memories.

One of my clients was recently struggling with cleaning out her attic to make space for her new child. After a few weeks of promising that she would and then not delivering, we delved a bit deeper and found that there were boxes of her grandmother’s belongings in the attic. My client deeply regretted not having been around for her grandmother’s last days, and so the prospect of sorting through her boxes seemed like torture. No wonder she put it off.

The solution: Usually, there is something you can do to be at peace with those memories. In the case of my client, I had her write a letter to her grandmother, and read it aloud “to her” in an apple orchard (her grandmother loved apple blossoms).

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3. You are too tired.

Yes, it’s true that life is busy. Many of my clients feel like they don’t have enough energy left at the end of the day to take care of other important tasks. That all they can do is rest on the couch and catch up on their TV programs.
The solution: First, ask yourself if this is really true, or if it’s just an excuse. I have found that 75% of the time, it’s an excuse, and that if you really wanted to, you could muster the energy. For the other 25%, I coach my clients to “mind their energy” by figuring out how to get good quality sleep and eat the right foods.

4. You don’t want to ask for help.

You can’t complete the task easily on your own, but you are unwilling to ask for help. This can be because you feel stupid that you need help, or that you don’t like the person you need to ask, or that you like to be in control and so would rather do it on your own. Regardless of the reason, your unwillingness to ask for help means that you are stuck.

The solution: Re-examine your underlying priorities. Is the purpose of your life really to save face? Or is it to achieve great things? Once you are connected with your deeper values, your insecurities in asking for help will seem petty.

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5. You are overwhelmed.

Overwhelm is actually a very good protection mechanism. This is your mind saying “there is something huge and unknown in the future. I need to protect myself. And so you retreat to somewhere comfortable and safe.

The solution: Recognize that there is nothing about a task that makes it inherently “overwhelming.” You are the one who labels it as such. What is overwhelming to one person isn’t overwhelming to another. So choose to label your task differently. Focus on the most immediate step in front of you. Know that you are capable of so much more than this task. Truly.

6.You plain out just don’t want to do it.

Yes, life is full of things that you just don’t enjoy doing, like filing your taxes, that you simply have to do.

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The solution: Develop a good sense of self-control. Studies have found that children with good self-control do better in life than those who don’t. But know that self-control is something you can cultivate if you want to. Practice making and keeping small daily commitments in your life so you can practice this skill.

7. You don’t have time.

This is probably the most common reason my clients put things off.

The solution: Yes, life is busy, and there will always be more to do than can ever be done. The secret is to be crystal clear on your priorities, how long they will take, and executing them. It’s really that simple. Don’t promise to do 20 things in a day when you know you can only do 8. Know those 8, commit to them, and let the rest go. It’s really that simple.

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Are you avoiding doing something in your life? What is the reason behind it? What solution will you use to get unstuck? Write me a note and share.

Featured photo credit: A via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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