Saturday, February 26, 2022

Procrastination - what are the causes & how to get productive

When the going gets tough … the tough gets on the sofa and does nothing.

Procrastination. Possibly one of the most frustrating qualities/ past times that I engage in and yet in some way, the most enjoyable. If you don’t know what procrastination is, it is the act of putting off/ delaying tasks until the last moment. Some of us use cognitive distortions to make ourselves feel better about it such as “i work better under pressure”. And indeed, I do work well under pressure and have produced good results in a small amount of time before - however, I also feel that I would work well with a sense of peace knowing my work is done and there aren't miscellaneous tasks that I need to complete floating around my mind.

Anyway, my understanding now is that procrastination can be linked with a number of things;

  1. Fear of the unknown/ uncomfortable: We are afraid to leave our comfort zone yet at this stage it is not even comfortable any more. The comfort zone becomes the discomfort zone - the familiarity zone if you will. However, psychology tells us that at the core of human behavior is a need for safety. Familiarity is safe for us. Think about it, when change comes whether it be positive or negative it is often uncomfortable for us, until it becomes familiar. Therefore, our brain/ thoughts encourage us to avoid change and discomfort. 

  2. Fear of failure: We’re so afraid to fail, it is safer to not try at all. 

  3. Core Beliefs: we may internally hold core beliefs about rich or successful people i.e. they have no morals/ disliked by everyone/ portrayed badly in the media. We therefore may subconsciously avoid reaching those levels of success. Alternatively we may hold core beliefs about ourselves such as ‘I’m not good with money’ or ‘I'm lazy’ which interfere with our ability to take action to move towards our goals. 


I believe the key to overcoming this barrier is to improve your understanding as to what’s causing it. Procrastination is ultimately self sabotaging, a way in which we prevent further growth within or outside of ourselves. For me procrastination has led me to judge myself, label myself as lazy and generally caused a lot of negative internal dialogue. However I recognise now that this is often developed as a coping mechanism and a way to avoid/ manage the difficult emotions mentioned above. 

At times it may be that, if an exercise is perceived as too difficult or too easy, we will avoid completing it, and it’s that simple. Alternatively, procrastination is the symptom of the underlying wound and so, in order to improve upon it we must identify what emotional need it is satisfying. Treating symptoms without exploring the underlying cause is unhelpful. 

Useful tips:

As well as understanding the underlying drive to your procrastination a number of things iv found of help including:

  • `Use a to do list/ brain dump to help organise your mind of what needs to be done and which of these are *urgent*/ priorities.

  • Don't overload yourself - feelings of overwhelm are like pure gasoline to the roaring fire of chilling.

  • Commit to 20 minutes only - after this time you are completely free to conclude the activity and you have contributed 20 mins of work towards it. Chances are, since you've been going for 20 minutes, you’ll be in flow and want to carry on. It becomes harder to stop than to continue. If not like it said, you’re 20 minutes of work ahead than you previously were. 

  • Just take action - nothing will give you motivation like taking action. A technique I learned from Mel Robbins is the 54321 - count yourself down like a rocket ship, imagine yourself lifting off when you reach 1 and just GO. 


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