There are so many articles out there about how you can stop procrastinating and I know you’ve read them all. And guess why you’re reading this? Because those “solutions” don’t work. Here are some of those so-called solutions and my thoughts on them:
- “Don’t wait for tomorrow, just start now!” This is like telling a depressed person to “just cheer up.”
- “Set a deadline and write it on your calendar.” This is all fine and great, but the deadline is moot if I never even start. I’ve made SO many deadlines and failed on all of them.
- “Ask a friend to keep you accountable.” Umm, no. That’s weird and embarrassing. Plus how would they know whether I actually did it, or just said I did it?
- “Aim for ‘done’ instead of ‘perfect.’” If it’s not going to be perfect, what’s the point?
- “Promise yourself a reward when it’s done.” The reward of continuing to watch this YouTube video sounds more fun than starting that project and then getting whatever I’m promising myself.
- “Start the day with the hardest task and then it’s downhill from there.” Just no. See bullet point number one.
These tips don’t work because they’re just a Band-aid; they don’t get to the root of the problem. I know you’ve tried all these things and they may work for a little while, but you’ll forget or lose motivation eventually, and then your procrastination problem will come back. You’ll be Googling these generic tips once again and wondering if there’s something wrong with you and why you can’t just stick to this. Seriously. There’s a popular Google search entitled “is procrastination a mental illness” (I’ve wondered this too, not gonna lie). What I’ve learned through my own struggle with this problem is that I’m not lazy and I don’t have a problem sticking to things (and it’s not caused by a mental illness). It actually has nothing to do with laziness, believe it or not. Procrastination is caused by just two things. LACK OF DESIRE and FEAR.
If you dread doing something, be brutally honest with yourself. You either want to do this (enough to actually start) or you don’t want to. If it’s something that’s not an important priority in your life, just give yourself permission to let go and move on. For example, if having a clean and organized home is an important goal that you’re striving for, then cleaning is something you actually want to do deep down, you just don’t like doing it.
For things you WANT to do, your next two steps would be to:
1. Really examine your WHY behind doing this task. Make a list of reasons why you desire having a clean house and what it will do for you and how it will make you feel knowing your house is always nice-looking. Once you remember your original reasons for wanting this goal, you can move on to step two.
2. Make a specific plan of action and then SET UP SOME SYSTEMS to guarantee that you will execute said plan. Don’t rely on fleeting motivation. The systems are what will make you accomplish these tasks even when you don’t feel like it.
You need to ask yourself “Why?” as many times as necessary until you dig down to the ROOT CAUSE of why you’re procrastinating. Personal example of what I did:
“Why haven’t you started working on your blog yet?” Because I feel overwhelmed and anxious when I think about starting.
“Why do you feel overwhelmed and anxious?” Because I think it’s going to be a lot of work and I don’t really know where to start. I feel anxious because I think people aren’t going to read it or like it.
Right here I realized I had a fear as well as a practical problem. I paused and made a concrete plan with systems to help me keep going regarding “how to start” and “where to start.” I made a list of all the things I needed to do or have and then taught myself how to do it. I followed all the steps on my checklist until I was done. That excuse was now knocked out, so I continued to question ‘why’ and deal with the fear.
“Why do you think people aren’t going to read it or like it?” Because I’m afraid to show my true self and what I’m really interested in. I’m afraid that people will think less of me because I love constant self-improvement, or think I’m silly. I’m afraid it won’t be as good as I want it to be, and I’ll never be happy with it.
Keep going until you get your ‘AHA’ moment. You’ll know when it happens because the answers stop being about the task or other people and become about you. Those are the real issues that are causing you to procrastinate. Deal with those ASAP. Give yourself a pep talk, logically break it down, talk to your therapist, do some tapping, etc. Whatever will work for you. Get rid of the fear in any way you can. Once the fear is gone, it’s easy. You will want to do the tasks. And if you don’t, refer back to my earlier point – LACK OF DESIRE.
Procrastination is either caused by a lack of desire or by fear. Once you’ve eliminated both, you will have broken up with procrastination for good.