5 common reasons we procrastinate (and what you can do about it)

Beating procrastination is hard.

Even if you know you’ve to get your work done, it somehow still takes the reins and ruins your work sessions.

Sure, when it comes to fun things you have no problem at all wasting an hour or two.

(And that’s a low estimate).

But when it’s time to get down to business…

…you look for any number of reasons to back out. Ever thought these thoughts before getting to work?

“I’m tired.”
“I’m sleepy.”
“Im hungry.”

…and so on.

When the excuses pour out, you’ll think of anything to distract yourself from working. And most of the time you won’t even realize you’re procrastinating till its taken full control.

Is there a way to fix this? Can we prevent the excuses from pouring out?

You sure can, just keep on reading to find out how.

Common-procrastination

You don’t know why you procrastinate

The reason your mind is making excuses and causing you to procrastinate, is that it’s trying to distract you from the real problem at hand. But since you can’t or won’t deal with it directly, your mind plays mental gymnastics to hide you from the truth.

You’ve never needed to deal with your problem

If we can get by without dealing with an inner issue, we’ll do it. Everybody does this, so you’re not alone. But eventually, if a problem is recurrent enough, the time comes when we need to face it.

5 reasons you procrastinate (and how to beat it)

The first step is to figure out what’s causing you to make excuses, and you’ll find out that cause listed here.

Once you’ve found your source, use the actionable advice I’ve provided to end your pre-working procrastination woes.

1. You don’t want to feel bored

You don’t want to feel bored, nobody does. If you know the work you’re about to do is boring, then there’s a much higher chance that you’re going to procrastinate.

Even worse – when you have to do it.

What’s the solution?

Here’s how to fix it

Make it a game. When the work truly is boring, it’s all you’ve got until you can do the boring work out of habit or change jobs.

Some basic advice:

  • Race against the clock – Make it a competition for more fun
  • Reward yourself (e.g. candy, web surf) when you reach a milestone (e.g. 20 minutes of work done, one “piece” of work complete)
  • Track your overall progress and reward yourself in the big picture (e.g. Good days work is worth an hour of television, bad days gets 20 minutes)

Or you can try out a “gamification” tool if you find it worthwhile. These tools apply a video game like experience to task completion, so – for example – you can earn digital gold by completing tasks and outfit your personal avatar with neat gear.

Here’s a couple games you could try out:

  1. HabitRPG
  2. EpicWin
  3. TaskHammer

I’ve been using HabitRPG with great success over the last few weeks, so I definitely recommend it. You can party up with other players to take down bosses, so it has a social element not found in the other recommendations.

However, if you want a quick and easy gamification experience, then the other apps will work just fine.

2. You lack a work-time ritual

If every time you sit down to work you feel like procrastinating, then you’re training yourself to be that way all the time. You need to do something that prevents your mind from drifting into that mindset, and a work-time ritual is perfect for that.

A ritual is something you do before the actual work begins. It’s up to you to decide what it is that you do, but the point of it is that it eases the mind into work mode because those actions always precede your work sessions.

If you do these actions enough times (i.e. make it a habit/ritual), then your mind starts to subconsciously prepare itself for the work that follows.

What actions can you do for your ritual though?

Some examples:

  • Sniff some peppermint oil (supposedly helps with alertness and memory)
  • Open a window and look outside
  • Prepare some tea
  • Spray some febreze
  • Clear your workspace

It’s really up to you what you do, so long as you do it habitually. Over time, you’ll start to work without realizing you’ve even begun.

3. You don’t know where to start

When you have a lot of work to do and you don’t know where to start, your mind becomes overwhelmed. When this happens, the mind wants to distract itself so it doesn’t feel overloaded anymore – meaning procrastination.

When this happens, there’s only one solution – bite anywhere.

Quickly pick the easiest, simplest piece of work you can do, and start on it. Don’t worry about how important it is or when it’s due, because the urgent problem is that you can’t get yourself to start working.

Why does this work? Because it builds momentum. Once you finish that, you increase the chances of moving onto more important work.

But even if you still don’t feel like moving on to the important work, you can still move on to the second easiest/simplest piece of work you can find.

Inevitably, the momentum of completing these tasks (even though they aren’t significant) will allow you to move on to the important tasks.

4. You feel pressure from the big-picture

Is your work connected to some lofty goal? If it is, then that could be a problem.

The goal itself isn’t the problem though, it’s the effect it has on your day-to-day performance. A big lofty goal can make your actions feel insignificant, as each work session contributes so little in the grand scheme of things.

This can cause us to shrink away from our responsibilities, and then engage with activities that reward short-term behaviors instead (e.g. video games).

How to fix this

The problem here is that you’re constantly comparing your tiny actions to a big, far-away goal, so this is a matter of changing focus.

The best solution is to forget about the big picture when working. It’ll still be there when you’re done, so just forget about it.

(I know, easier said than done).

To enhance the process, dedicate an hour per week to reviewing and assessing your big picture goal/s. Just get it all out in your weekly review sessions, and leave nothing to think about when you’re done with it.

Then when work time roles around, you have no reason to stress over your big-picture goal.

5. You feel disconnected from the work you do

It’s an unfortunate truth that we can’t all do the type of work we’d like to do.

When this happens, you don’t have any strong positive feelings towards your job. And naturally, you feel no reason to do your work other than to get money out of it.

In this situation, there’s only two options:

  1. Learn to love some aspect of your job
  2. Find a new job

Option #2 is one of those “possible to do but requires a lot of work” categories, and is best left to another blog post. Option #1 is what we should focus on for now.

But how do you learn to love your job when it holds no future that you want?

How to fix this

The best solution here is a social one – your co-workers.

You can almost always find some people to get along with at work. Make an effort to befriend everybody, and eventually you’ll find a couple who really get you.

This isn’t a perfect solution, but you can at least use the happiness your friends to help get you through your work day. If you can at least look forward to meeting up with your co-worker friends at work, then it might just be enough to help you with your productivity as well.

Over to you

Have an issue that’s not listed here? What is it? Leave a comment with your answer below because I’d like to know about it 🙂



Photo via Flickr (BK)

 

Comments

  1. the problem with me is #5. I think it is time for me to find place so I can work together in the same room with freelancer like me so I will get more motivated in finishing all of my tasks
    Tiens recently posted…Tips Mengatasi Kolesterol Ketika LebaranMy Profile

    • Freelancers like us have to go a step further than others since we don’t have co-workers around to help us out. Maybe you could form a mastermind group, I’m in a small one (just me and another person) and it helps with just a weekly meeting.

      Another option for social motivation is playing HabitRPG, which is an online habit/productivity tool that lets you form parties with others while you play.

      (I’ve been doing this with great success for the last few weeks).

      But if you happen to find another freelancer to work with regularly, that would be great.

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