Even the people behind the press release (the National Association of Professional Organizers) weren’t 100% sure if we should be celebrating procrastination this week or working on eliminating it from our lives.
Either way, it’s a good time to think about why we procrastinate and whether we’re sabotaging ourselves by putting off important tasks. After all, procrastinating can lead to major stress, late nights, and missed opportunities.
Based on my own personal experience and what I’ve observed with my career coaching clients and workshop participants, the following are the main reasons behind our bad procrastination habits:
1) We put off unpleasant or difficult tasks. This one is pretty obvious. The solution here is to re-evaluate to see if you can delegate, get some help, or find a different approach that isn’t so off-putting. If that doesn’t work, try to focus on why you’re performing the task and not the tedium or pain of the task itself. Think about the bigger goal of a payday, a cleaner house, or a happy and grateful friend.
2) We procrastinate when we’re afraid. If you keep putting off a project that is important to you, it may be because you’re afraid of failure or equally terrified of success. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge what you’re afraid of and get clear about your worst-case scenarios and the alternative, which is to never even try.
3) We procrastinate when we’re swamped. This is an issue that comes up regularly for me. I get so busy reacting to other people’s immediate deadlines and expectations that I neglect longer-term and more important projects. Sometimes you have to say no or at least “not right now” to clients or friends. I try to build time into my schedule for important projects that require my attention but aren’t due tomorrow. Even taking an occasional 15 minutes to jot down ideas can help to keep you on track.
4) We procrastinate when we’re overwhelmed. Sometimes, we put off important projects because we just don’t know where or how to start or we’re overwhelmed by the number of options. Get serious about breaking your task down into small steps and do something (anything). Pick an approach and try it out. Don’t let yourself stay paralyzed.
5) We procrastinate when we’re focusing on the wrong things. At times, we procrastinate because we’re trying to force ourselves to do things that we don’t care about. We’re trying to live up to others’ expectations or present the right image, so we set goals that we have a hard time getting excited about. If you find yourself repeatedly procrastinating a task, ask yourself if it’s really something that will carry you forward or if it’s only on your list for reasons of ego or appearances.