Why do I procrastinate and how do I stop?

by PJ McClure on March 14, 2013

procrastination6Frustration reaches a critical point when we have something we want to do, there’s nothing in our way, and we still don’t do it. Every time you look at the task, a sick feeling in your stomach appears.

We tell ourselves that we “should” do it and might even convince ourselves that we “need” to do it… but don’t.

So instead, we beat ourselves up and accept the label, procrastinator.

Similar to fear, procrastination is a generic diagnosis that has multiple causes. We could take a room of 100 people that are putting something off and drill down to find out what is actually keeping them from moving.

Once we’ve reached the core of their individual issue, it could be different from everyone else. In the thousands of people I’ve worked with that considered themselves procrastinators, all of them had unrealized, underlying reasons for avoiding the action.

Once we brought the real reason into the light, they were able to address it directly and the bias for avoiding action disappeared. You have that same opportunity.

Pay attention for places you want to label with procrastination and make note of what we uncover. You’ll see that procrastination is a symptom with many causes. Fix the causes and the symptoms go away.

And another thing about procrastination…

Have you ever wondered why we only hear certain words in one form? Take procrastinate as an example. If there is a pro (in favor of) in the word, I automatically wonder what the word is without the pro. As it turns out, the root word of procrastinate is from the Latin, crastinium, meaning tomorrow. So procrastinate means, in favor of tomorrow.

 “I could do it today, but I’m in favor of doing it tomorrow.” It’s easy to see how the word comes to mean, delay. That’s the point I want to start with. Procrastinate means to delay or put off action. It is the ACT of deferment or postponement, not the reason.

When a baseball game doesn’t start on time, they say it is postponed. The reason might be rain or lightning. In other words, postponement isn’t the reason for postponement. It’s the result of something else. When the something else is handled, the postponement goes away.

For our purposes here, procrastination is the exact same. It is not a cause, but an effect. So why are bookstore shelves full of books that address procrastination like it is the disease? It’s like trying to use a band-aid to heal a compound fracture. We have to find the source and treat it there.

Procrastination is the symptom of multiple causes of which the tools are available to find and treat. Over the years, I have seen every Element of Personal Choice be the root cause of procrastination at one time or another. Let’s start at the top and see what rings a bell for you.

Awareness is maybe the easiest to fix. People go unconscious in their pursuit of a goal and simply do not realize they are delaying actions. This is the easiest to fix because as soon as you are aware that you’re not taking action, you can.

By making a regular check-in part of your process, you make awareness easier to maintain. The check-in can also help you identify which of the other Elements is causing the delay.

Vision is just as simple to fix, but requires a little more work. How can a lack of vision cause procrastination? If you are unsure of where you are going, you are less likely to make a move. Having a clear vision of your goal attained assures your moves are going to pay off.

Purpose brings additional assurance to your vision. Knowing which steps to take is incredibly useful, but knowing why you are taking them changes the entire landscape. With purpose, we can evaluate a step if unsure. “This action is in the direction of my vision, but does it also align with my purpose?” Double reinforcement for added incentive.

Forgiveness is a sneaky cause of procrastination. Most of the forgiveness issues we hold on to do their work out of sight. We collaborate with the resentment or guilt for an internal dialogue that distracts us from the tasks or obstructs our vision from what is really happening.

By identifying and releasing the issues, we have a fog-lifting type of experience. We see things as they are and refocus our attention to what needs completion instead of clouding our thoughts with things already passed.

Action seems obvious since actions are what we delay. The aspect of action I’m referring to though is making sure you’re taking the right ones. For example, we can fake ourselves into thinking we are taking action by asking for accountability from others.

I believe strongly in actual accountability, but not how I see it used so often. Telling a friend about your goal and thinking that is enough to keep you on track is delusional. Accountability is not about letting someone else in on your secret. It is literally giving an account for your ability. Making sure you do what you are capable of doing.

As Kris Vallotton says, “Accountability isn’t about making sure you aren’t smoking. It’s about making sure you’re on fire!”

Turn up the energy and put it all toward accomplishing what you need. Tell people about your results, not your plans, even though it’s doubtful you’ll even have to tell them. Results are typically obvious.

 Be your best,

PJ

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