Frankly, it’s infuriating. Infuriating for all involved. You sit there stuck, waiting for a wave of inspiration, permission to start. Tomorrow will do, it’ll be better to start afresh, a clean slate, an empty mind. I’ve always been a high functioning procrastinator. It wasn’t until I started studying again that I realise just how much it impacted my ability to get sh*t done.
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With deadlines for assignments looming and exam prep underway, I was shocked at my inability to just get started on the task at hand. The house was spotless, I had meals prepared for the week ahead, I read anything but what I was supposed to and my Google Drive has never looked so ordered as it did during that time. I was a serial procrastinator and there was nothing to be done about it.
Much to my disappointment there’s no quick fix for procrastination. It’s a hugely complex disorder that can massively impact motivation, progress and achievement. Apparently the first step to overcoming it is to being to understand some of the complexities associated with it, figure out which shoe fits and address that as best you can, either yourself or with the professional help. It’s also important to note that the underlying causes are deep rooted, vast and personal to each individual. Outlined below are some of the most common causes:
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is one of the major causes of procrastination. And it makes sense. If you fear the consequences of failure then the natural inclination is to do anything to avoid that possibility and so you put a halt to any action.
Procrastination as such is a comfort blanket, a protective defense against the possibility of real failure as opposed to the more subjective failure that comes with not attempting something in the first place.
In order to overcome this fear of failure it’s necessary to understand and accept that failure isn’t fatal. Most mistakes can be fixed and you will get a second chance to right any wrongs. On top of that you can train yourself to understand that failure to give something a go is actually worse than being unsuccessful in its execution. If you try and you fail then at least you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. If you never try at all then you have nothing to show except a long face and a beaten down soul.
If you’re an self professed perfectionist then it can be really difficult to take action unless you know you can do a job you are wholly satisfied with. This becomes a huge problem when it comes to trying something you’ve never done before. It can be a real show stopper. Because of your ingrained perfectionist mindset you will either consciously or unconsciously worry about being able to deliver and end-state that will be to your liking.
It’s great to be proud of the work and to want to deliver your best work every time but when your mental picture of something you want to complete is beyond what you can reasonably deliver then you have a problem. Inherently you know you won’t be able to deliver something as well as you want to therefore it’s easier to deliver nothing at all. This excessive perfectionism encourages you to put off attempting a task until you think you can do it perfectly. In many ways it’s similar to the fear of failure except instead of fearing that you cannot succeed you fear that you cannot meet your own high standards.
The key to overcoming perfectionism is to aim to do your best, and be happy with the output. You won’t always have the time or brain power to deliver your best but it’s all about progress, not perfection. Once you shift into that mindset the rest will follow.
Lack of Focus
Lacking focus and not having clear goals to work towards is an obvious cause of procrastination. Although some people claim to travel further when they don’t have any clear path this is rarely true for those predisposed to procrastination. Lack of focus brings with it the feeling of drifting through life. With no clear path it’s easy to end up expending all your energy in the here and now without progress in any direction.
The first step in resolving this is to set some inspirational but achievable goals. It’s important to set the bar high enough to inspire action but not so high that you’re likely to fail (cue poor motivation and drive). A good goal encourages you to take action because you don’t want to disappoint yourself by failing to achieve what you set out to do.
Low Energy Levels
Another underestimated cause of procrastination is low energy levels. It stands to reason that when you’re dealing with periods of low energy the last thing you feel like doing is going all out on the action front. This is an especially common reason for those with an insufficient self-care routine. Lack of sleep, poor diet and burning the candle at both ends can make you feel sluggish and tired, not quite the state to inspire you to get off the sofa and crack on with things. Luckily this one is relatively easy to identify. Take a health audit and honestly assess whether your diet and lifestyle are contributing to your low energy levels.
With a certain level of discipline and a desire to boost your output overcoming this is a relatively easy feat. Work on developing a healthier lifestyle and experiment with sleep, diet and exercise to find the balance that works for you. There is a mound of information online to help you make those positive changes so fret not and start making tracks today.