Day in, day out you are confronted with dilemmas or situations where a decision has to be made. Do I really want to go to the gym after work or shall I rather lie down on my comfy sofa, continue to stuff my face with crisps? Do I need to get up early I shall I hit snooze one more time? Shall I reply to these emails and WhatsApp messages that I’ve been leaving for too long now or shall I rather watch one more episode on the telly instead?
Hmmm….tricky. What to do?
Recognise this inner dialogue that goes on inside your head? Two parties, each actively trying to voice their opinion, arguments and rationalisations aiming to tip the scales in their favour. One party usually represents what we know what’s good for you in the LONG RUN, whereas the other party is far more concerned what’s better (more FUN and EASIER) for you RIGHT NOW. Who usually wins the fight in your case?
Temporary avoiding or giving up on our long-term goals for an IMMEDIATE AND AWESOME reward; that my friends is procrastination. Although procrastination usually has a bad name, it’s not always a bad thing. For example, if you would never procrastinate you might take to many rash and potentially bad decisions. However, taken to excess, procrastination can lead to missed opportunities, frustration, regrets, dissatisfaction, not being true to ourselves, and unhappiness in general.
So, why do you lose the fight against procrastination so often?
There are many reasons why you procrastinate and each situation is different, so is yours. I know that’s probably not exactly the answer you’ve been waiting to hear so let me give you a few examples you might be able to relate to. Recognising these situations might even help you doing something about it.
First of all, a very common reason why you fail to start or complete certain jobs is that the effort you need to put in it might feel like TOO MUCH. It’s overwhelming, making you not wanting to tackle the task at all. If you perceive a job as daunting or just too much, you simply don’t know where to start, this often initiate a so-called ‘freeze response’ which can automatically and physically stop you pursuing the task altogether because you’re just too anxious to start. ARGH AGAIN.
Second, most examples of lifestyle procrastination – like improving your health, switching careers, getting out of a relationship that isn’t working – are situations in which there is no specific deadline in place. Hence, the real issue here is that there’s NO SENSE OF URGENCY. Without any real urgency there’s no intrinsic drive to do anything about your situation.
There can also be more complex reasons for procrastination, which are more deeply tied to our personality. These imbalances that make you feel stuck or unable to move forward, tackling the issue, are often more adequately addressed via a coaching approach. These include:
- Perfectionism. When you are delaying something because you might have (unrealistic) high standards and expectations of yourself.
- Avoidance temperament. When you often resolve your discomfort by walking away from situations rather than dealing with a situation straight away. These people rather avoid problems than tackle those heads on.
- Fear of failure. When you want to protect yourself from failure. By doing so you might not be fully aware or acknowledge the consequences of that inaction. It is self-defeating.
- Lack of assertiveness. When you tend to put other people’s needs before their own and will often just be too over-committed to be able to complete the task. These people are more likely to be burned out.
So, what kind of solutions are able to fight back or hold off procrastination. Here are three suggestions that might work for you.
The moral of the story here is that fighting off procrastination is quite hard to be fair. What often looks appealing in the short term is totally different when you look at in a longer time horizon. But we don’t do that. So try to hold off temptation as much as you can by purposefully design your environment (your house, your work, your car) in such a way it becomes less easy and less fun to go for the quicker option. On the other hand, make it more easier and more fun to chase your long-term goals instead. See what ingredients work out for you, introduce accountability, make the challenge easier or even harder. Look at your notes from earlier on and see if they can give you a clue what to start with. Just experiment and test what works best for you.
If you need a hand to win this fight, or you could use some extra accountability, you know who to reach out for.