Banish Procrastination at the Root Cause (Part One)

thoughtful-woman-procrastinationI once heard someone say that procrastination isn’t a behavior, it’s LACK of a behavior. You see procrastination is a SYMPTOM, not the cause itself. Therefore it’s a lack of behavior in response to something else. It’s why it seems sometimes that no amount of reasoning and willpower will make any difference—in fact, they’ll leave you sometimes feeling burned out and worse off than before. So what is that something else? It’s different for each of us. If it’s a small thing, it’ can be as simple as we’re just too tired. But if procrastination is cutting into your productivity and potentially affecting the bigger picture or bottom line, it could be something deeper. Here are a few things that could possibly be a deeper issue:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed or over-committed
  2. Lacking motivation or relevance
  3. Too much time or not enough
  4. Magnifying a task
  5. Unclear where to start
  6. You’re afraid of success or failure
  7. You don’t want to acknowledge your shortcomings
  8. You have an “all-or-nothing” mindset/perfectionism
  9. You’re too hard on yourself and lack enough self-compassion
  10. Acceptance of another’s goals
  11. Fear of the unknown
  12. Evaluation of anxiety
  13. Feeling overwhelmed or over-committed?

The task in its entirety may feel huge, but take a moment to look at it from a 30,000 ft view. Once there break it down into a few manageable chunks. Evaluate the chunks and prioritize them. Once you have your top priority, break those down into manageable chunks as well. From there you can plan what you can take on and complete on a day to day basis. Do this with the other chunks once complete. Once we have split it down into smaller activities, it is much easier to tackle.

Lacking Relevance or Motivation?

If something is neither relevant nor meaningful to you personally, it may be difficult to get motivated even to begin. When this happens, typically we allow ourselves to become distracted by something that does or that’s more interesting. What you have to do here is link it to something that IS meaningful and DOES motivate you. So what motivates you? Be creative, and think, how can THIS particular task serve me in the bigger picture of what does motivate me? How does it achieve the bigger goal that I’ve no problem taking action on?

Too Much or Not Enough Time

It’s easy to push something off especially when the deadline seems far enough off and safe enough away. If you know that you typically procrastinate as a result of this, the trick is simply to give yourself a sooner deadline.

Now if you feel you DON’T have enough time, ask yourself: Where is all my time really going? Technology is a huge culprit in today’s society. It’s easy to be distracted by it. Did you know studies show that 205 billion emails are sent every single day–most emails are business/consumption related? This doesn’t include notifications that are sent via social media devices. There is a chemical reaction to notifications that take place in our brains: “Dopamine loops” are what’s responsible for our constant desire to seek information and communication, which is why we may feel ‘compelled’ to check our email and social media accounts, or surf the internet. This is just one example, there could be a wide myriad of things, work, coworkers, employees, spouses, kids, animals, etc. We are all plagued by this, but we must un-train ourselves of this bad habit!

Or it could be more insidious, in that we are being distracted by things we are dwelling on. This can consume hours but feel like only minutes… And if you’re now becoming aware of that, we realize that dwelling or worrying is like a rocking chair, lots of movement, but not going anywhere. Everyone in today’s society has an overwhelming amount of things to do, the question is, what’s consuming your time that may not REALLY be serving you and how can you do less of it? You can create more time than you realize by eliminating distractions, whether it be internal or external, and by harnessing a more empowered and resourceful state of mind.

Magnifying a Task

This is one I was all too guilty of. At times we can make a task seem harder than it actually is. This especially seems to be the case the more we put something off. We can delay starting a task as it seems too big, then the longer we leave it, the more daunting it can seem. The KEY insight here is to realize that what this means is that we are EXPECTING a task to be arduous, hard or painful. We are envisioning the worst-case scenario. We are living that worst-case scenario in our mind OVER and OVER again. The longer we put it off, the bigger it gets, the more the negative feelings towards it build up and it becomes even more intimidating. Finally, we become guilty for having put it off for so long. There are four tricks to this. The first is awareness! The second is to imagine what could go RIGHT because our expectations largely dictate our outcome. The third is to manage our reaction. So in the case that the less than desired scenarios occur, ask yourself:

  • How could this have been worse?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • How can I use it to my advantage?
  • And what would a more empowered reaction be and what would that feel like?

The fourth trick is to take the first step, however small, and go into it with the most empowered frame of mind as possible. Once you start it, you will usually find it was nowhere near as hard as you thought.

Also, take a moment to examine your past of all the negative things. Because expecting something bad, is a result of fear. That fear is a result of a build-up of negative past emotional events. What can you re-frame as not that bad in the grand scheme of things? What’s the positive lesson or gift as a result that can lessen the charge around those events? It may sometimes take training on our part, but it can be done!

To be continued…

If this resonates with you, and you’d like support in how to navigate your challenges with procrastination so you can increase your productivity, contact me!

Jade Goodhue

Jade Goodhue

Jade Goodhue has served in the United States Marine Corp as a company commander, a logistics officer, and a black belt martial arts instructor, as well as completed two combat tours to Iraq. In 2008, she earned her Six Sigma green belt while running Battalion-level Logistics in Iraq. After transitioning from the Marine Corps, she gained a myriad of financial sector experience. She worked her way up from a trader to the director of operations at a financial trading and education firm. During that time, she specialized in trading psychology. She now coaches on leadership development, as well as changing, developing, and sustaining an organizational culture. Jade holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Minor in Japanese from the United States Naval Academy. She is also earning her Master of Liberal Arts in Organizational Psychology from Harvard Extension School.

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