Procrastination involves the habit of delaying your tasks or decisions, usually focusing on less urgent but more enjoyable things to do or to think about instead.
The habit of putting off our tasks stems from a lack of self-control – when we need to get things done, we rely on our self-control and motivation to bring ourselves to do it. When we lack motivation or struggle with self-control, we start procrastinating – postponing something although we know there will be consequences.
Procrastination can undermine your potentials, skills, and chances for success, especially when it comes to work and career.
The Difference between Procrastination and Laziness
People often confuse procrastination with laziness, but they are different things. Laziness is the feet-dragging habit that involves one’s apathy and unwillingness to act. On the other hand, procrastination is an active process in which we choose to do something else instead of what we should be doing.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
We all procrastinate sometimes. And we do it for different reasons. For example, you may postpone your tasks because you feel aversion toward tasks, hate your work, or because you feel overwhelmed by your workload. You may procrastinate because you are a perfectionist. Some people procrastinate because they lack confidence or struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression. Also, you may postpone your tasks and decisions because you lack energy or motivation.
However, one of the primary reasons for procrastination is fear. We often procrastinate because we are afraid of failure or negative feedback and judgment. When fear and anxiety surmount our self-control and motivation, we start procrastinating.
How Fear of Failure Leads to Procrastination
Fear of failure is something everyone experiences now and then. However, when self-sabotaging thoughts behind your fear of failure become persistent, you may reach for procrastination to cope with it. You may start believing that you are a failure. When you make mistakes or fall short of your goals, your inner voice may tell you that you will never be good enough. So, you procrastinate to avoid this fear of failure, which actually causes you to experience the failure you feared.
People with the fixed mindset tend to fear failure, so they are likely to avoid challenges and complex tasks. They see challenges as obstacles that trigger discomfort, anxiety, worry instead of observing them as learning opportunities.
People with a fixed mindset feel uncomfortable in situations that involve uncertainty, procrastinating on taking action toward their goals to minimize this feeling of uneasiness.
How to Stop Procrastinating
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being present here and now. It represents the ability to observe our thoughts in a given moment without self-judgment. Mindfulness practice can help you spot negative thoughts that provoke your fear of failure and spot procrastination as soon as you start with it.
2. Nurture the Growth Mindset
People with the growth mindset view challenges and mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. They are not afraid of failure, often stepping out of their comfort zone to explore the possibilities and find solutions to their problems.
Growth-oriented people know that the brain can change and adapt to new situations by strengthening its neural connections or forming new ones. That being said, people with the growth mindset believe that their skills, intelligence, and traits can change throughout life. Therefore, they enjoy the learning process, focusing on the proves rather than on results and accomplishments.
3. Break Down Tasks
A feeling of overwhelm about the big task you need to handle or a large amount of work you have to do, etc., can cause you to avoid or postpone tasks, feeling paralyzed in front of them.
For example, if you have a big exam to prepare for, the fact that studying will take so long might cause you to feel overwhelmed. So, you may avoid getting started in the first place.
To avoid procrastination, you need to break down the tasks, mapping out what needs to be done, and setting the time frame and deadline for each step.
4. Visualize Success
When at the beginning of a task, work, or project, we tend to create various outcomes in our minds. When negative thoughts take over, we visualize adverse outcomes, fear failure, and start procrastinating.Instead, try envisioning success and achievement. Visualization can imprint pictures of success in your subconscious mind programming your subconscious to attract desired outcomes. At the same time, visualization will improve your mood, increase confidence and boost your self-esteem.
5. Understand Which Type You Belong To
If you have the habit of postponing your tasks, understanding your procrastination style can help you overcome it more effectively. Three main types of procrastinators are:
Perfectionists tend to procrastinate because they are too focused on details. Focusing on details prevents them from finishing the tasks or projects. In addition, they often fear that people will judge their work and see them as incompetent. So, perfectionists seldom complete a job because they won’t accept anything less than perfect.
Delayers have a hard time getting started on any task, so they always find excuses for putting their tasks off. For example, a delayer will complain that they are too tired to complete the work, need a break, or don’t have time to do it. These people are easily distractible, always finding something else to do.
Unlike the perfectionist, the dreamer doesn’t like the details and often overlooks them. Since they don’t pay much attention to detail, dreamers have difficulty implementing their ideas, so they start procrastinating.
Procrastination is a behavior we reach for when we feel overwhelmed by tasks or decisions, postponing them, so we don’t have to deal with them. We often do this to minimize anxiety, discomfort, or fear.
Procrastination can cause self-sabotage, impede your performance and success, and lead to dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression.
However, procrastination is a behavior that can be changed. Understanding why we procrastinate and identifying the most common types of procrastination is the first step in overcoming this inhibiting behavior.