It’s time to confess: I’m an expert procrastinator. Phew, that took a long time to say. (Pun intended.)
In fact, I’ve been working on this article for the past four months. Yet, as I’m writing it I can’t help but feel guilty, because I’ve put off other important things in order to get this done, so I procrastinated yet again. I can’t help but feel as if I’m in a Catch 22 of the procrastination cycle. I finally had to admit to myself that I’ve been putting this off long enough and it was time to play catch up.
I hope this inspires you to do the same: be honest, and think about what you've been putting off and which distractions you’ve opted for instead—whether you've been avoiding a chore, an unpaid bill, or something that you truly enjoy like writing or yoga.
Procrastination is different than what it’s perceived to be and is much more complex than laziness, which is its most common misinterpretation. It's manifested as making the unimportant important. Simply put: misguided priorities becoming habit. Luckily all habits, healthy and unhealthy, including procrastination, can be unlearned and replaced with healthier ones.
The underlying reasons why we procrastinate are indeed different for everyone but they generally fall into three distinct categories:
1. Feeling tired
When we aren’t getting enough sleep or down time, we're more prone to prioritizing with less clarity (if any at all). There is a tendency when you’re tired to just give it your last shot, or become so overwhelmed you’re paralyzed and can no longer prioritize. If you feel like you just can’t think, take a break, it won’t get better unless you do.
2. Feeling wired
Constant low grade anxiety leads to uncertainty and self-doubt. We begin to question everything as our minds become increasingly foggy and more easily distracted. When this happens, our choices may not serve our best interests. If this is what you’re feeling, take a gentle yoga class, learn to meditate, get a massage, and spend time unplugged from technology to give your mind a break to clear.
3. Boredom & frustration
When I teach yoga, I often encourage people to find enough sensation in a pose that you aren’t bored, but also don’t find so much that you get frustrated and give up. Both of these will feed your procrastination addiction. Boredom is the enemy of happiness, it is its energetic opposite. Instead, find ways to challenge yourself. Try new things, because stoking creativity will help keep this distraction at bay.
On the flip side, if you’ve been setting yourself up to fail with too many things on your daily to do list, it's time to reevaluate your priorities. When feeling overwhelmed, break up your bigger goal into bite-sized pieces so you can celebrate the wins and milestones along the way to your end goal. Otherwise, waiting too long to enjoy the process will defeat your energies to stay with it and will lead to procrastination.
Here are some ways to remove frustrations and keeps your eyes on the prize:
1. Get started.
Don’t wait until you are ready.
2. Stay with it.
Remain disciplined to continue even when there is no visible progress. Most of the time there are long periods where advancement seems invisible. Accept that it’s natural to go through progress plateaus.
3. Keep your focus.
Set clear intentions, set your internal GPS for where you’re going and check in to make sure you’re still traveling in the right direction.
4. Get enthusiastic and connect to your passion.
Just like the famous book and movie, if you’re just not that into it, you won’t stick with it. If it feels lukewarm from the start, then pick something, or someone else.
At the end of the day, it’s not really as important why you are procrastinating as it is to realize on what you’re missing out on as a result. In reality, ending procrastination is as simple as committing to getting out of your own way.
Years ago when I moved to a new city, I had to borrow a friend’s car, which was a stick shift. The hilly terrain made me a little tense, and so I used the emergency brake often. Sometimes I forgot and left it on while driving. As you might imagine, that made it rather difficult to drive.
To me, this is the perfect metaphor for the feeling of procrastination. It’s basically living your life with brakes on.
Today, take a moment to recognize where you've the brakes on and start driving your life full speed ahead.