Have you ever wondered why we procrastinate?
Many people don’t really know because in reality we just hear ourselves coming up with an excuse as to why put getting things done off for later. But there’s always an underlying cause.
And it’s worth finding it out and defining it clearly so that we can do something about it.
Procrastination can get not only in the way of our productivity and daily accomplishments, but of our life goals in the long-term. Not being action-oriented and slowly building the habit of making excuses instead of doing things creates an awful type of comfort zone that we can’t easily leave.
But there’s a solution to that.
First of all, though, you should be absolutely clear about the reason why you procrastinate. And almost every time, it’s one out of 9 common ones. Here they are:
The Top 9 Reasons Why We Procrastinate
1. The big picture scares us.
It’s when we’re looking at the whole thing (task, activity, project, etc.) and it seems overwhelming.
We think about how long it will take us and how hard it may be to get it done.
But that’s just another excuse to not actually take the first step and work on it.
Truth is, anything looks big and scary in the beginning. But if we look closely, we see it’s just a combination of many small elements, each of which is a step we need to take that will get us closer to completing the task.
So what must be done is break down the thing in front of us into manageable tasks. Then each will be pleasant to look at and not at all scary. We’ll see how fast and easy it will be to just do something about one item of the list now and thus finish the whole thing sooner.
2. We don’t feel like doing it.
The problem here is lack of motivation. And it may be caused by a few things:
- not having any interest in doing the thing we’re procrastinating on – there are many distractions in life and so many things we can be doing at any moment, so we’re basically choosing what to pay attention to first all the time. And it’s no wonder that we choose what’s most interesting and arouses some enthusiasm in us;
- it’s boring – if a certain task seems really boring, we’ll find something better to do before it. That’s why many people put their financial tasks (planning, analysis, paying bills, calculating, accounting, etc.) till the last moment, for example;
- negative attitude – we only focus on the bad sides of the whole thing and see it only for the obligation it is, how long it might take, the fact that we can fail, etc.
So something similar provoked your lack of motivation and now you’re making sure you won’t have to work on the task any time soon by avoiding anything that can remind you of it.
And the more you put off until later, the worse you feel and the more stressed and anxious you become.
But there’s always something we can do to turn things around and become the most productive version of ourselves.
3. We fear we might fail.
Fear of failure is a strong reason why people procrastinate. But what actually causes it is not wanting to be judged by others, not having any hope (for which there are deeper motives too) and being disappointed in ourselves because of previous mistakes.
Part of the problem is that we deny this fear. Because admitting it makes us look even weaker, which is yet another reason to procrastinate.
But we can deal with all that. And it’s easy.
It all comes down to mindfulness. I’m talking about noticing the fear, accepting it and even getting to know it so that you can effortlessly let it go.
You’ve got unrealistic expectations, want to either do things perfectly or not at all. And because you can’t be certain about it, you procrastinate.
Does this sound familiar?
Don’t worry. You’re not alone. There’s a certain amount of perfectionism in all of us. But in this case it’s the negative one, where we’re using it as just another excuse, think the conditions will be better later or that we’ll be better prepared and it will be easier and smarter to take action then.
As a result, this exact procrastination problem comes in 3 main forms:
- Waiting for the right moment.
- Waiting for the perfect conditions.
- Waiting for ourselves to be or feel ready.
Needless to say, each of these turns our live into a waiting room. And we won’t be able to get out of it if we don’t analyze our behavior and mindset so that we can do something about it.
5. We overanalyze the situation.
That’s a self-destructive behavior. But the consequences of overthinking go way beyond just procrastinating and not getting things done.
Finding the solution starts with understanding overthinking and the damage it causes.
I’ve written about that in details in this exact chapter of my latest book on procrastination.
6. We don’t know where to start.
That’s when you don’t have a step-by-step plan on what to do first, and that’s why you prefer to procrastinate and make excuses.
But if you feel so overwhelmed by not knowing where to start when it comes to a daily task from your to-do list, a particular activity, or even a new project at work, it’s no wonder that you’d prefer to do anything else right now and thus put this off.
When later comes, however, you still won’t know what to do first. And you may soon find yourself falling behind on important things and not moving forward in life just because of this one procrastination excuse.
But you should keep in mind that not knowing where to start itself isn’t something you do wrong. It’s a result of something else – starting big.
7. It feels like an obligation.
Have you ever wondered why we hated homework at school? It was because no one really told us why we should do it, they just made us do it. It was also when we least felt like it.
What about our lack of desire to read as children? It’s because they made us do it without telling us how reading can change our life and how much we can learn from it. It’s because they just put a book in front of us and expected us to start right away. Not to mention it was never on a topic we enjoyed.
And because of that wrong approach of parents, teachers and other authorities in our childhood, we kept our hatred for homework, or anything close to it.
Unfortunately, that prevents us from getting things done and creating a better lifestyle for ourselves.
So what can we do about it? How can we stop procrastinating on what feels like an obligation and take action right away instead?
The solutions I offer in the book are tips on how to let go of expectations, how to start doing things for yourself rather than for others, and how to make any task fun and pleasant.
8. We don’t believe we can do it.
Lack of confidence in your abilities leads to procrastination too.
In this case, you’re not just insecure, but have deeper confidence issues that prevent you from taking action in the present moment. You don’t even need to imagine the end result and be negative about it (as it happens when you’re afraid to fail). The issue is right here, in your lack of self-esteem.
But there are actionable ways to boost it that will help you be more determined and productive.
9. We focus on the negatives.
At any moment you have a choice.
You can either focus on how much you don’t want to get things done, or you can be aware of the benefits and look forward to feeling accomplished in the end.
So if negativity stops you from working on your important tasks and life goals, then a change in the mindset and your attitude towards life needs to be made.
These are the most common reason why we procrastinate. And if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit we face at least one of these challenges.
Then, we can define the problem more clearly and dig even deeper to see what can be done about it.
I wrote my latest book How to Kill Procrastination One Excuse at a Time because of that.
It’s for the ones who don’t know where to start, the perfectionists and those who secretly fear failure so much that they don’t ever take the first step towards working on an important new project, for those who aren’t motivated enough to start getting things done, for people who have been insecure for too long and don’t have the determination and confidence to simply take action.
It’s for these people. And for me. Because I used to be there – in the procrastination trap. And I managed to get out of it.
I’m now mindful of the excuses I make and am action- and purpose-oriented. And it feels great.
So if you feel like this book may be worth your time, check it out here.
It’s structured in a simple and understandable way and yet gives an in-depth look at every possible situation as to why people procrastinate.
Each chapter defines the problems we just talked about and gives a step-by-step solution.
So what about you?
Are you ready to do something about becoming your most productive version today?
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