Ultimate Guide to Procrastination

time management Feb 25, 2022

“Procrastination is my biggest fault.”

 

My community, clients, and friends tell me this constantly. My heart breaks each time.

 

In today's article, I will take a closer look at procrastination. It’s the most common thief of people pursuing their dreams. It’s a success killer.

 

Procrastination Defined

 

Our definitions of procrastination often differ. Let's explore a few for a minute:

 

“The act of voluntary voluntarily postponing something, despite knowing that it'll have negative consequences.”Wikipedia

 

“Allowing my doubt and fear to win at least momentarily.” Bethany Clemson

 

“A delay or postponement to press pause for a moment to process.” Tollisha Joseph

 

“The act of deferring action. On something when taking earlier action would arguably have been a better decision.” Damon Zahariades

 

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” Dr. Tim Pychyl

 

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. So, whether you refer to it as procrastination or akrasia or something else, it is the force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.” James Clear

 

I'm sure you're even more confused now that you've read all these definitions. 

 

To clarify, procrastination is NOT laziness.  Laziness is the art of doing nothing.  Often, when you procrastinate, you are organizing a closet or cleaning out your inbox (this is definitely not doing anything).

 

Procrastination Examples

 

Feeling like the above definitions might have left you more confused let’s try giving examples of procrastination:

  • You binge-watch Netflix instead of going to the gym
  • Reading blog posts when you are supposed to be writing one
  • Scrolling instead of creating content
  • Meticulously organizing the spice cabinet instead of managing your finances
  • Choosing to move to the next subhead instead of writing more bullet points

 

Why do I procrastinate so much?

 

If you find yourself asking this question, it might help to explore these common classifications of the different types of procrastinators.

 

The Perfectionist

 

Are you afraid to start? Pay close attention to all the minor details? Then this might be your jam.

 

The Dreamer

 

Do you enjoy making the plan more than executing it? You’re a dreamer, highly creative but have a hard time taking action.

 

The Avoider

 

You are a classic avoider if you believe that it's better to do nothing than make a mistake. Someone who is so afraid of failure or being judged, they would rather do nothing.

 

The Crisis-Maker

 

These are the people who always wait until the last minute. They get an adrenaline high by waiting until the deadline to get something done.

 

The Busy Bee

 

Their list is just sooo long they have no idea where to start. They can’t seem to prioritize where to get started.

 

I dive more into each of these (and some quick fixes) here.

 

Books about Procrastination

 

My favorite books on procrastination are:

 

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

 

Not the recommendation you would expect, but finding self-compassion is important when you fall into procrastinating.

 

Getting Things Done by David Allen

 

This is where the two-minute rule comes from. If you can get something done in less than two minutes, simply do it.

 

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

 

This book is for writers but the framework of looking at procrastination as a dark force can be applied to any creative.

 

The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins

 

Huge Mel fan right here.  If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must act quickly (or within five seconds) otherwise your brain will start to lean towards procrastination. This technique lets your brain eliminate doubts, fears, and emotions that hinder you from performing

 

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

 

A deep dive into the Mark Twain quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” In other words, if you have a difficult task, it’s best to get it done first.

 

Poor time management vs Procrastination

 

Wondering if you are a procrastinator or just have poor time management skills? Here are a few things to consider.

 

How are your planning skills? This includes attention to detail, critical thinking, project management, good communication skills, good organization, thinking ahead, and seeing the bigger picture. 

 

Are you able to prioritize? You have to have clarity on where to focus your time and attention to make progress on your top priority. Check out this post for more.

 

Finally, are your goals clear? Imagine starting out on a race without knowing where the finish line is. How would you know where to run? In the same way, you must know where you’re headed to set your goals and subtasks.

 

Still think procrastination is the problem. Let’s move on.

 

First step in committing to overcoming procrastination

 

The fact that you are reading this blog post is a sign that you are making a commitment.  That is simply being aware that it’s become a problem for you.

 

This is similar to any change you want to make in life. Before you can make that change, you have to be aware of the reasons why you want to make it in the first place.

 

Next I would advise you to scroll up a bit and identify what type of procrastinator resonates the most with you. Examine your habits and thoughts that lead to procrastinating.

 

Bonus points if you write this down.

 

Benefits of Procrastination

 

Yes, you read that right. There can be an upside to putting off that thing we know we should be doing.  I had never considered this idea until a colleague listed procrastination as her superpower. So, I did a little research, and here’s what I dug up.

  1. Procrastination gives us an energy boost. Typically, we procrastinate on tasks that we don't like. When we think of it, we have all the energy of a sloth. But anxiety about a deadline releases adrenaline, an energy source. In other words, procrastination is using fear as a motivator. The consequences of not doing the work on time are too frightening. This releases adrenaline, a natural painkiller, which makes it easier to complete those less desirable tasks. 
  2. Waiting until the last minute forces us to focus and waiting until the last minute, kind of keeps task laser focused so we're less likely to scroll social media, or less likely to go check emails, or basically do anything else except finishing the task at hand. 
  3. Lack of time makes us work faster because we have less time available to complete the task. We get it done faster. The task you don't enjoy will be in your life for less time overall because you gave yourself the minimum amount of time to get it finished. 
  4. Eliminates perfectionism. You don’t have the time to go back and mull over a project before turning it in. Procrastination forces you to lower your expectations
  5.  Procrastinating makes other things seem easier like organizing your closet or your spice cabinet or whatever. This one is so true for me.

 

Strategies to overcome procrastination

 

Again, I urge you to read next week’s post on your specific procrastination style but for now, let’s dive into some actionable strategies to overcome procrastination.

  • Have a system to organize your life (everything from carpools to product launches). When your mind doesn’t have to worry about all the little details of everything, it will be more likely to focus on the work that’s in front of you.
  • The 2-minute rule. If something can be done in 2 minutes or less, DO IT. Also don’t move a task more than twice, if you keep putting it off it's time to delegate, delete, automate or just get it done.
  • When you do slip into procrastination (we all do it) practice self-compassion. Silence your inner critic and try to speak to yourself like you would to your child. “So you waited until the last minute again, what can you do next time so you don’t have to feel this stress?’
  •  Find someone to hold you accountable. If you’ve committed to meet a friend at the gym, you’re more likely to show up. 
  • Limit distractions.
  • Delete, delegate or automate boring tasks whenever possible
  • Break the cycle of procrastination. Each time you procrastinate it sets you up to procrastinate again when the urge strikes

 

I’m looking forward to exploring the pitfalls of procrastination with you in the upcoming weeks. Stop breaking my heart friends. Implement one of the suggestions and let me know how it goes.



 

 

 

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