Procrastination is the number one barrier to getting things done as reported by most US adults. Procrastination is manageable when you begin to understand its underlying causes. For most people, procrastination tends to be a result of habits and lack of discipline, but there are some key contributing factors that cause people to procrastinate:
- You don’t know HOW to do something
- You don’t know WHAT to do
- You may want to do things RIGHT and not have time
- You may NOT WANT TO
- You may want to AVOID CONSEQUENCES
Below are some of the key reasons why people procrastinate and tips for beating the procrastination cycle:
- Too Complex – Complex projects often seem daunting and cause many people to procrastinate. If it’s overwhelming – chunk it! Or break the project down into smaller components and tackle each component individually.
- Hate It – While many people tackle tasks they enjoy you’ll tend to avoid projects you feel are unpleasant. Although not all tasks are enjoyable, some may still need to be completed. To avoid procrastinating in this situation, you may want to design rewards as you accomplish milestones.
- Can’t Prioritize – If you struggle with categorizing and prioritizing you may have difficulty getting anything done. If you find yourself constantly task-switching while deciding what to do next, try listing all of your tasks and then rank them in order of importance.
- Unclear Goals – Once you have your priorities, create realistic and reasonable goals and try to knock off a certain number of tasks within one hour. After that hour evaluate your progress and see how much you actually accomplished. Revise your goals accordingly.
- Can’t Decide – This is near and dear to my heart because I believe decision-making is the great equalizer among all skills related to procrastinating. If you labor over decisions procrastination will haunt you. While it is important to weigh your options and make informed decisions, too much time spent trying to make a decision can not only cause angst and anxiety, but also create significant project delays. To avoid this potential problem, set a timeline for yourself to complete the decision making process.
- Can’t Fail – If you can’t fail you’ll likely procrastinate outcomes. You may even subconsciously sabotage your projects by delaying to avoid the reaction that their project will elicit. If you are paralyzed with the thought of failure, you may do well to visualize yourself succeeding in the project and imagine the steps that you will need to take in order to succeed. Once you have visualized the steps, take action before that fear comes back home to roost.
- I’m Bored! – You’ve heard the statement – “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Why is it that it is so true? People who’s days are not varied and who experience what I term “sameness”, can be plagued by boredom. Believe it or not, boredom is also a cause for procrastination. Lack of challenge can lull you into routine and not allow you to access adrenaline and excitement. Vary your days and do things you like. Switch tasks, scenery and options often.
- Distractions Aplenty – Distractions are everywhere and are a major cause of procrastination. The temptation to chat, email, surf, play games or do other non-work related tasks are so high when you want to procrastinate. Set up your workspace to minimize distractions and schedule time for meetings and downtime to catch up with friends, families and co-workers. This will help to prevent procrastination and keep your project on schedule.
- MOVE IT! – Sometimes you need a change of scenery or a change of pace. Different people have different likes and dislikes. Sometimes I like to get out of my office and away from my computer. I’ve found a change of scenery, different room or the atmosphere of the coffee shop can really spark my creative energy and put me in a very productive mood.
- Burn Out – If you are finding yourself listless, lifeless and demotivated, you may be procrastinating due to burn-out. If you’ve done too much, or gone without sleep, exercise and not addressed your basic human needs in a long time, the only cure for this type of burn-out based procrastination is to take a real break… YEP – Time for a vacation – or a complete job change. Time away and time to reset, revive and rejuvenate can have an incredibly motivating affect.
Need help managing your tendency to procrastinate? Check out my workshop: Managing Time To Get Things Done.