4 Fundamental Reasons Why People Procrastinate (and what to do about it)

August 8, 2017 •   6 minute read • by Saeed


“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

Procrastination.

It’s the thief of time. It sabotages success. It corrodes your self-esteem. It’s the curse of productivity.

Not sure if you’re a procrastinator?

Do you put off making decisions or completing important tasks? Do you start your work at the eleventh hour because it doesn’t get exciting enough until time is running out? Do you (erroneously) think you do your best work under the gun because that’s when you are most creative?

Then you are by definition a procrastinator.

The stereotype of procrastinators is that they are lazy or undisciplined. This is far from the truth. It’s important to understand that while procrastination may look similar on the surface, the source of all procrastination is not the same.

Procrastination is strongly influenced by your personality type and personal psychology.  Once you understand that, you will understand that the disease has a cure.

1.   You Procrastinate Because You Are Holding Out For Perfection

The Problem: You are the over-thinker. You suffer from paralysis by analysis. You are afraid of making a choice or a decision because it commits you to a course of action. You pontificate until it’s too late because you are waiting for the perfect idea, time, person or whatever. You are waiting in vain. Perfection will never come. There is a time you’ll have to reconcile yourself with that reality and get down to business.

The Solution:  Realize that you are on a thinking luxury cruise and at some point you’ll have to get off the ship. Put a time limit on your pontification. Have a process for weighing up and writing down the pros and cons, the consequences, and even the fears you have. Regarding your fears, develop a “Plan B.” Realize that there is a point at which more information will not lead to a safer decision that protects you from all possible negative outcomes. Now jump in and do it.

2.   You Procrastinate To Avoid Responsibility

The Problem: It’s the old classic. You can’t take ownership because deep down you’re afraid of being blamed. This comes down to a lack of mental maturity. You can be heard covering up your lack of mental maturity by saying ‘Yes, but…’ a lot. Your default is coming up with excuses instead of solutions.

The Solution: Not accepting responsibility all boils down to being passive. Passivity is toxic to a happy and productive life. You have to become active and engaged and that may sometimes mean accepting blame for something you did wrong. It’s not the end of the world. People won’t reject you if you make a mistake. They may, however, reject you when they figure out you have a pattern of not taking responsibility for those mistakes. Start with exchanging your excuses for actions. If they are the wrong actions, learn from them and be better this time. Success is made up of this loop of experimentation. It’s what takes you from point A to B in life.

3.   You Procrastinate Because You’re a People Pleaser

The Problem: You agree in order to fit in. You take on tasks even though you don’t have the time, skill, or expertise. Now you procrastinate for fear of conflict, disapproval or rejection. The contradiction is that over time, your procrastination will lead to conflict, disapproval and rejection.

The Solution: Go inside yourself and find out what your self is afraid of if you allow you to assert yourself. Realize that people will still care about you regardless of the decisions you make or the outcome of your efforts. Help yourself by communicating your concerns (or insecurities or doubts as the situation permits) to win others’ support. Know that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes are learning opportunities.

4.   You Procrastinate Because You’re An Adrenaline Junkie

The Problem: You procrastinate until the stakes are so high that if you don’t produce you’ll be in deep trouble. You need this external stimulation to actually do the work. You are likely not intrinsically motivated or just lack the discipline habit. The excitement and danger is the fuel for your creativity. You feel like you can’t be creative without it.

The Solution: Realize that by taking small bites off the apple does not hamper your creativity, it enhances it. When you give yourself more time because you start earlier and do work in smaller chunks, you leave room to work on details that you might miss when you wait for the last minute and do it all in one big stroke of creative output. Yes, it’s thrilling but the stress you’ve caused yourself leading up to your moment of triumph is slowly eating away at you. All the time you spent fretting about not doing the assignment, could have been spent doing other more productive things that help advance your career or your life.

The Summary

You may exhibit one or several or even all of the above traits. Now that you can better identify and pin point which of these traits is the source of your procrastination, you can begin to surgically work on the cure. Procrastination doesn’t make you more creative. It doesn’t help you please people, it doesn’t help you avoid blame or responsibility and it doesn’t  lead to perfection.  What does all of those things is self-discipline.

Good Luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

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