Common Reasons Why People Procrastinate and What to Do About Them

Whatever your reason for procrastinating, don't get discouraged.

working alone

Who among us does not have days when it is difficult to move forward in our work? Some suffer from procrastination now and again; others are labeled unreliable since they are notorious for putting off their duties. Even though it might look like a case of laziness or a conscious decision, procrastination is a serious problem that prevents people from feeling fulfilled.

Whenever you feel like judging others for choosing a more pleasurable and easy task, stop for a moment and reevaluate. After many hours spent coaching procrastinators, I am confident that that judgment is far from true. Yes, procrastination is created by you and your mindset, not by the activity itself. Yet, the ease and enjoyment factors are very rarely its true motives. I am certain that the pursuit of the underlying reasons is the best way to become truly productive.

Let's assess together the foundational causes of procrastinating.

What if a decision fatigue makes you postpone your responsibilities?

Many people feel so tired from making many decisions during the day that eventually they don't have the bandwidth to make one more tiny choice. Every project a person needs to do is paved with small decisions. Let's imagine you want to start practicing a sport. You need to choose when to do it, for how long, what clothes to wear, who you want to practice with, etc. It's the same with writing a proposal — what to do first, what idea to start with, what font to use, etc. It might sound silly, yet every single decision depletes your energy. Isn't it easier to put it off to another day?

If you plan it, you can manage it.

Commit to an action and schedule it in advance in your calendar. Find regular time slots for things you usually put off — exercise, administrative work, paying bills. It will reduce the problem of decision fatigue. One of my clients decided to have one hour blocked weekly for small repairs that he used to postpone. Progress wasn't visible from week one, but it was very consistent.

What if relationship-related issues stop you from moving forward?

Procrastination can relate to other people, too. You may either feel isolated or rely too much on the support of others. In the first instance, a sense of loneliness can prevent you from engaging in tasks that require a lot of solo work. Instead, you seek entertainment and connection with friends. You call, meet and invite people over, even as you know you're getting behind on your work. It's the same when you decide to do a tedious and demanding task together with someone else and they keep putting it off. Together, you are on a downward spiral of not meeting your goal.

Find a sparring partner who sticks to deadlines.

Relationship-related procrastination is easily solved by being honest with the people with whom you cooperate. It's good to have a working buddy when you cannot find the energy to move forward by yourself. Still, they need to be good at managing time. Shared responsibility becomes unbearable when there is a lot of nagging, stress and resentment involved. Look for a trustworthy collaborator and be clear about the deadlines you expect to stick to.

What if your brain is the culprit?

As I discovered through my work, there are plenty of people who commit to a new responsibility with too much optimism on the brain. Later, they act on it with a realistic brain, which means realizing they don't have enough time, knowledge, skills or desire to follow through with a task. At the time, the excitement blurred their reasoning so much that they simply overpromised. Think about New Year's resolutions. Toxic optimism makes you plan all these great changes, and often, nothing really changes.

Be the guardian of your boundaries.

Before you take on a new responsibility, set boundaries for yourself. One of my clients who was over-attracted to new collaborations at work created a series of questions to ask anybody who approached her with a new idea. The list helped her sieve through the projects she was presented with to find those she was both excited about and capable of doing. Another client learned how to agree to new projects more slowly by writing a pros and cons list (either by himself or with the person who contacted him) to be clear when to say yes.

What if your beliefs about motivation are a huge source of the problem?

Many of us wait to feel highly engaged before beginning a project or task because we believe that if there is enough motivation, execution will follow suit. Do you know, however, that excitement and motivation are not always required to get down to work?

Start to manufacture motivation by doing the task.

Instead of paying attention to the fact that you are not motivated enough, just set on an alarm clock for 20 minutes and start working. If you don't want to continue after the alarm goes off, don't. No pressure. However, most people decide to keep going after the 20 minutes because the mere act of focusing for a short amount of time kickstarts their energy and they discover they have the necessary momentum to continue.

Whatever your reason to procrastinate, don't get discouraged. Experiment with solutions and look for ways to get steady progress.

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