Have you ever had those days when you have so much to get done, but you just can’t bring yourself to start the task or run the errand?
Then, it gets to the last minute when you’re overwhelmed with what you need to do - forcing you to cram a day’s worth of work in less than a couple of hours? Welcome to procrastination.
The truth is, everybody does it. Whether it’s procrastination to go to the gym, get a task done at work or have a difficult conversation with a friend - we all put things off at some point in our lives. It’s simply human nature.
With procrastination, there are a few misconceptions about what causes it: poor time management, lack of motivation, and tiredness - all valid reasons but not the true cause of procrastination.
“Experts define procrastination as a self-defeating behaviour pattern marked by short-term benefits and long-term costs. Many of us know it as putting off things that we need to get done, no matter the level of difficulty behind the task.” - McLean
So, why are you procrastinating?
You’re a perfectionist and afraid of making mistakes
If you’re someone who naturally wants to achieve highly and is incredibly critical of your own work, you may be reluctant to start a task if you don’t feel “ready” or even qualified in your own mind to do so. The fear of making mistakes can lead you to freeze, and then overcompensate when the deadline approaches because you know you need to get it done.
You struggle with anxiety, ADHD, or OCD
Being neurodivergent or suffering from an anxiety disorder (or both) can be incredibly debilitating, leaving you struggling to complete even simple tasks at work, and being able to hold conversations, as well as being overwhelmed in social situations.
A large percentage of individuals who struggle with their mental health or are neurodivergent will find procrastination is something that they regularly deal with.
Let’s be honest - January blues for a lot of us are kicking in! And, many of us may feel emotionally exhausted from the holiday period and having time off. Emotional exhaustion can be linked to physical exhaustion, and when you don’t feel on top form or simply motivated, then procrastination is more likely to happen.
Emotional exhaustion can be from a number of things: perhaps you’re dealing with grief right now, or, you may be having a challenging time with your family. Or, you could simply be feeling a little down - all of these emotional factors can be heightened when procrastinating, and trying to process these emotions can also be a contributing factor.
Ironically, procrastination can happen to us when we are most busy. There is a balance between feeling motivated and having the right level of stress in your work and personal life to make you flourish: yes, stress can be considered a good thing!
But, if you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the brink of burnout - this can lead to avoidant behaviours and thus, procrastination.
Resistant to criticism and/or feedback
Relating this back to our first point - the perfectionist is already incredibly self-critical, so another round of criticism can feel like a breaking point. If you struggle with feedback or you’ve had negative experiences with feedback in the past, this can also cause you to procrastinate.
How can you start to work on your procrastination?
Try different working methods: Trying techniques to help you get tasks completed can take time - but it’s important to experiment. Whether it’s setting hard deadlines or the Pomodoro technique, find what works for you and enables you to manage your procrastination better.
Talk about it: Odds are, you’re not the only person feeling like this. So many of us struggle with procrastination - so have an open conversation about it.
Reduce the number of tasks you’re trying to do: Eat the elephant: one bite at a time.
Physical exercise: Whether it’s going for a walk at lunchtime, or taking up yoga or cycling, physical exercise can help you to clear your head, give you some time to yourself - and take you away from the tasks causing you to procrastinate
Recognise that it’s completely normal: Normalising how you feel and understanding that procrastination isn’t the be-all and end-all can be a comforting relief. Too often, we can create problems in our heads or magnify issues when in reality, it’s just a part of life and we can’t be perfect all the time.