Why You Secretly Love Procrastination
Procrastination is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? Not only does it creep up on you without any warning, but it can also leave you feeling guilty and frustrated. The reason for this is that you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) love procrastination. Sound strange? Stick with me here.
The fact that you’re reading this article right now probably means you’re procrastinating at least a little bit. That’s okay — it can be hard to focus when there are so many things that deserve our time and attention. Between all the work we have to do, the family members who need our love and support, and all the other commitments we’ve made to friends, communities, and causes we care about, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Throw in the constant presence of technology in our lives and the fact that most of us never learned how to properly manage our emotional energy, and it can get downright exhausting just trying to live day-to-day!
It’s no wonder that some people worry about how much time they waste on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube.
But what if — gasp — you actually enjoy procrastinating? Not because you don’t want your website to succeed or you love failing at work (she says with a chuckle), but because your brain is telling you it needs a break from all of the stressors.
Deep down, we all know that procrastinating isn’t the healthiest habit. But procrastination is also something you may struggle with on a daily basis, so it’s important to understand what might be driving it.
One thing that may cause your frequent bouts of procrastination is perfectionism. Perfectionists have a hard time completing tasks because they want everything to be perfect — which can make it harder to complete the task itself. This cycle causes procrastination and this can lead to even more stress and anxiety when you’re running out of time for the assignment or project at hand.
So how do you overcome perfectionism? There are many different strategies for managing perfectionism so that it doesn’t interfere with your productivity or your overall happiness — and in fact, I’ve dedicated an entire course to teaching people effective ways of overcoming perfectionism and its negative effects.
One thing that I always suggest is setting realistic expectations for yourself in terms of how much work you can get done in one day, as well as how long something will take to complete once you start working on it. This will help alleviate some (if not all) of the stress that goes along with trying to make everything perfect before getting started on different tasks or projects.
We have a fear of failure.
The thought of failure can be so terrifying that we find ourselves procrastinating. We allow our desire to be seen as perfect, to avoid any type of criticism or judgment that may come with failing, to stop us in our tracks.
Ironically, by procrastinating and not trying at all, we are guaranteed to fail.
To-do lists give us a false sense of accomplishment.
You know it’s important to make a list of things you need to do, and that it helps motivate you. But there is a danger in relying on lists too heavily: they can give you a false sense of accomplishment.
For example, let’s say that one of your goals is to lose 15 pounds by the end of the year. You develop an elaborate plan for eating healthy and exercising more, and you even stop eating bread for breakfast in order to get started. Now every day when you eat that lettuce leaf and tomato slice instead of your usual English muffin, you feel good about yourself — look at all that willpower!
That feeling is nice, but it won’t help you lose weight if, after lunchtime rolls around, you donut binge all afternoon because your stomach is growling so loud in class. (This happened to me once.) Similarly, checking off those
The more we procrastinate, the more we hate ourselves.
And the more we procrastinate, the more we hate ourselves. That’s because every time we push off a task, it gets added to our backlog of undone things and chafes at our psyche.
The same thing happens with laundry. Lots of undone laundry makes you feel like a slob, while freshly folded clothes make you feel together — even if all you did was fold your dirty laundry that’s been sitting on your bed for three weeks.
Obviously, an ideal solution is not to put things off in the first place — but this is easier said than done. For most people, the act of procrastination is deeply ingrained into their daily routines and habits, which are hard to break. Instead of trying to fight how you were built (and setting yourself up for failure), try looking at your problem as a useful tool for productivity.
For example, let’s say you want to do 20 minutes of yoga every day. It’s going to be tough because exercise isn’t inherently fun (or easy). To make it more enjoyable and realistic for yourself, add some procrastination pressure by creating a monetary incentive or punishment through the app StickK. If I don’t work out today I will donate $10 to Planned Parenthood. It might not be enough incentive right away but trust me when I say that it adds up quickly — and after only four months my body has never felt better! In fact, I have now set my goal of working out six times per week instead of just five!
It’s an addiction.
You don’t need to accept that procrastination is part of your life. You can change it. But the first step is to understand why you procrastinate in the first place, and realize that overcoming an addiction isn’t a matter of willpower; it takes more than just telling yourself “I won’t sit on the Internet for hours again.”
When you have an addiction like procrastination, it feels like a moral failing: you feel guilty about not doing what needs to be done because you know what needs to be done. You probably feel ashamed that you can’t stop this habit even though you want to. But remember: addiction isn’t a moral failing; it’s often a coping mechanism or defense mechanism that we use to deal with the stressors in our lives.
Addiction is also chronic and progressive, which means that it gets worse over time and never goes away completely — but this doesn’t mean it’s hopeless or untreatable. It simply means that getting better requires proper treatment as well as constant vigilance and maintenance once you’re recovered (kind of like having diabetes).
It will catch up with you eventually.
It’s time to face the facts: procrastination is self-destructive behavior. It may be true that your procrastination seems to have no immediate consequences, but like any addiction, it will eventually catch up with you. To put it bluntly, if you continue to put off the inevitable, you could miss out on opportunities and relationships, lose your job or jeopardize your health — or even worse than all of those things combined.
There are many reasons that we put off tasks and each of them makes it harder for us to stop procrastinating except for taking action.
The next time you find yourself stalling and avoiding a task, take a moment to understand the underlying reason. If you can identify what’s driving your procrastination, it will be much easier to move forward and do what needs to be done. This might mean breaking up big tasks into smaller chunks or changing the environment, like going to a coffee shop instead of working at home. If that doesn’t work, try one of these five tips for overcoming procrastination:
- Talk about it: Sometimes the best way to get started on something is simply by saying you’re going to do it. Make plans with someone who’s rooting for your success and tell them that you’re working on this project together (even if they’re not contributing anything). They’ll keep an eye out for any excuses from your end — you can’t tell them that you didn’t get around to doing something if they check in with you later in the week.
- Schedule distractions: Allowing yourself some mindless entertainment is totally fine; just make sure it’s scheduled into your day and not taking over all of your free time. The real issue with procrastination isn’t doing things we enjoy — it’s when we waste too much time doing them instead of tackling our responsibilities first.
- Take care of yourself: Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and other self-care activities will help put our minds back in gear so that we have more motivation to focus on our tasks and get things done. When we feel good about ourselves physically, we’re also more confident about ourselves mentally — and confidence is key to productivity!
- Put money on the line: People aren’t always motivated by material or financial rewards but many people are — so why not use money as a motivating force? Tell yourself that if you don’t complete this task (or series of tasks) by x date then you’ll owe $100 (or whatever amount feels significant) either toward a charity or someone else who would
In the end, procrastination is simply an illusion. It’s something we tell ourselves. ‘I don’t need to do this right now, I can get it done later.’ Of course, it never works out that way. Putting things off until later will only cause additional stress and more work in the long run. And most importantly, there’s nothing wrong with taking time to relax as well. So be sure to schedule your procrastination time (or forget about it). And remember: if you’re going to procrastinate, at least do it efficiently and with a smile on your face!