Now that we have entered the new year, what better time to confront old patterns and habits. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where a looming deadline stays at the front of our minds, yet the task remains untouched. You just can’t bring yourself to do it. Procrastination pulls us into a cycle of delay, leaving us asking ourselves, “Why can’t I seem to take action before the very last minute?” It’s a frustrating dilemma that makes us feel like we are at the mercy of our own brains, unable to complete something we know we must.
Before we even begin to discuss breaking down and overcoming procrastination, we must first understand it. Let’s first look at one of the biggest misconceptions about procrastination: procrastination is laziness. That statement could not be further from the truth. People often do not simply procrastinate because they are lazy and apathetic. Have you ever found yourself procrastinating on an important work task by completing something else that is more trivial? Essentially, procrastinating overwhelming work with tolerable or even enjoyable work? Many people desperately want to be productive but strongly dislike a specific task. To quench their need for perfectionism and efficiency, they avoid the hard-to-deal-with task by doing other things. Confronting why you feel an aversion to something is hard. Avoidance is much easier, at least for a little while. Eventually, your emotions and due date will catch up to you, leaving you emotionally vulnerable in a time-sensitive situation. Procrastination is not just a surface-level inability to work; it stems from a more deep-rooted place.
It is essential to give yourself grace when confronting procrastination. Criticizing and being cruel to yourself will only make the problem worse. Try to understand why you might be procrastinating. It may be a fear of failure, a need for perfectionism, or a lack of emotion regulation strategies. Look within yourself and determine what thing(s) may be causing this behavior. The first step to overcoming something is identifying the root cause. You cannot merely start trying to force yourself to do work. The first step must be identifying why you, specifically, find yourself procrastinating. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I find myself procrastinating the most?
- What do I find myself doing instead of my most important work?
- What do I feel when assigned an overwhelming task?
- When are other situations where I feel those same emotions?
- Is there a connection between those two situations (Questions 3 and 4)? Why?
Try writing down the answers to these questions. Many times, writing things down helps us formulate our answers more cohesively. Look within yourself and try to identify the “why.” Maybe even ask a friend how they deal with overwhelming tasks. Talk through it with them. Try talking to a therapist about this issue. Remember that the journey of overcoming procrastination is different for everybody. Start this journey with self-compassion and a commitment to understanding the deepest parts of yourself.