Ever wonder why you procrastinate? Avoiding work at school, university or your workplace?

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is a common part of human behaviour. Often people mistake procrastination for “laziness”. In everyday language people use definitions like, “putting off”, “postponing”, “delaying”, “deferring”, and “leaving to the last minute”. Here at Living Life Psychology, procrastination and anxiety presentations are relatively common and is usually linked in with other unhelpful cognitive and behavioural patterns so thought why not put it out there for those who may be going through this.

Procrastination is making a decision for no valid reason to delay or not complete a task or goal you’ve committed too, and instead doing something of lesser importance, despite there being negative consequences to not following through on the original task or goal.

It is important to remember that everyone procrastinates. However, problematic procrastination can be distinguished from more general procrastination, by how bad the negative consequences are of us not following through on things.

Why though?

There’s an endless list- but there are the most common culprits.

  • Needing To Be In Charge (e.g., “Things should be done my way. I shouldn’t have to do things I don’t want to, or just because someone else says so”);
  • Pleasure Seeking (e.g., “Life’s too short to be doing things that are boring or hard, fun should always come first”);
  • Fear Of Failure Or Disapproval (e.g., “I must do things perfectly, otherwise I will fail or others will think badly of me”);
  • Fear Of Uncertainty Or Catastrophe (e.g., “I must be certain of what will happen. What if it’s bad? I am better off not doing anything than risking it”); Low Self-Confidence (e.g., “I can’t do it. I am just too incapable and inadequate”); and
  • Depleted Energy (e.g., “I can’t do things when I am stressed, fatigued, unmotivated, or depressed”).

What can be done?

This is where I tell you to book an appointment in to tell you more and you go “yeah, nah”. Because what’s better than procrastinating about addressing your procrastinating?

Tongue in cheek aside, here are the usual steps we’d use in session to address changing this behaviour and reaching your end game.

First step- monitor your procrastination. Identify what sort of procrastinating behaviours you engage in. For some people, it’s browsing their phones and social media, for others it’s Netflix, taking naps etc, be real with yourself and identify this.

Next, record when you were procrastinating, what happened before you started and was there some discomfort or feeling you were trying to avoid. Establish an awareness of the unhelpful patterns and the solution will be much easier to tackle, should you choose to. For example, some common thoughts that keep you procrastinating may be:

  • “I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow”
  • “I don’t have everything I need, I can’t start it now”
  • “It is better to do it when I am in the mood”

It’ll also be helpful to capture when you blazed through a task and busted through the procrastination cycle- what sort of helpful thoughts or things did you do to help motivate yourself?

Once you have this information, make a plan of action of how you’d tackle each of these behaviours. Make SMART goals. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Of course, everyone have their individual cognitive patterns which may make this tricky, and usually it’s a trial and error process- find someone to help you through this process and keep you accountable. The process is rarely a straight forward one, but once you get started it’ll get much easier to bear with.

To end with a favourite quote of mine- “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step”- Sun Tzu

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