Over the past year, I’ve noticed the topic of procrastination cropping into conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. Why is this such an issue? Likely, it’s always been there and I’m more attuned to it as I keep myself motivated while working from home. I'm always curious to learn more, so I did some digging and found, not surprisingly, there has been a lot written about procrastination. This isn’t just a “me” problem.
What is procrastination? One definition is "to put off intentionally and habitually something that should be done" https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/procrastinate. That definition alone was a bit of a wake-up call. Was I really being intentional about not writing? Was postponing writing really a habit?
Turns out, when I reflected on what was getting in my way, intention and habit were part of the picture but there’s more to consider. I asked myself a few questions and kept asking “why” until I gained more clarity.
· Do I procrastinate on many things or just a few?
· If it is just a few things, what defines the types of things I procrastinate on?
· Do I intentionally put off doing those things?
· Has putting off doing those things become a habit?
If you were to ask yourself similar questions, what would the answers be? Learn more about different styles of procrastination.
Nic Voge provides another perspective on procrastination. He says that procrastination is very predictable and that it's linked to self-worth theory. When people procrastinate we're often stuck between our high fear of failure and our high success orientation. When we attach much of our self-worth to doing something "right", it can become a barrier to getting things done. In other words, we want to do a really good job and we don't want to fail. For many of us, we get "unstuck" when our fear of not getting something done overcomes our desire for perfection. Unfortunately, that can take much longer than we would like.
I now know a lot more about procrastination and specifically some of the reasons why I procrastinate. Knowing why you procrastinate is a first step towards understanding how to shift out of the pattern of procrastination. If procrastination is predictable, it's about intention, and it's about habits then we can use intention to change habits and get unstuck.
The challenge isn't just knowing enough about why we procrastinate, the challenge is actually using what we know to guide our action plan and make the changes that we need to make.
In general, climbing out of the pit involves a few key steps:
· Acknowledging that you are procrastinating;
· Understanding your motivations for procrastinating;
· Setting some small goals (e.g., ½ an hour of writing); and,
· Rewarding yourself in ways that tap into your motivations.
Learning as we go, sharing what we know…
What anti-procrastination strategies have worked for you?
If you’re putting off things that you know need to be done, identify 2 things that you’re going to try in the next month. Share your successes here!
There’s always more you can learn. Here are a few links. Feel free to add more links that you have found useful.
Heidi Grant - How to make yourself work when you just don't want to.
Dr. Alice Boyes - In this article, the author provides provides a few tips to stop procrastinating as well as links to other articles that she has written about procrastination.
Cathie Scott, PhD, ACC, CEC