As someone who formerly had a procrastination level of ‘semi-professional’, I understand that procrastination is an affliction that can get the best of us, even when we may know logically that we would be better off getting on with it.
I’ve found, however, there are often underlying reasons as to why I might be procrastinating, and asking myself any one of these five questions helps me to do what I need to do in order to then focus and get the job done.
- Am I bored with this? – Checking in with how engaged you are with the task itself can make a big difference in understanding your procrastination. Maybe it’s an assignment that doesn’t really get you going, but is still quite necessary to do. In this case, simply identifying that can help you move the procrastination aside. If it’s got to do with work you’re doing and you have a choice to make a change there, looking at what bores you versus what lights you up might help you find that your energy isn’t lacking, it’s simply misdirected.
- Am I distracted by other things that I’m also trying to ignore? – Hey, no judgment. Sometimes we ignore things in order to get other things done. But if it’s something that really needs you to take a big of space and time to process and sit with internally, sometimes (and where possible) doing so can be the thing you need to get moving again. When things are going on mentally or emotionally and we ignore them for long enough, they’re still taking up our attention and energy, even if we’ve ‘decided’ they’re not. Is this something that you can spend 10-20 minutes being with, even if just to acknowledge that they’re there? You might be surprised at how this little bit of time to be with what is showing up for you can then make space for what you need to get on with in the meantime.
- Have I given this task a fair amount of focused energy? – Sometimes we procrastinate before even starting or trying. But often starting is the hardest part, and once we do, we can get on a roll. But we haven’t given it enough of a chance to yet. This is a good one to really assess whether you’ve actually tried, or if you need to give it a fair crack first. One really useful method is to time block. This means setting a timer on your phone for 20 or 30 minutes to start, where you set yourself the goal of sitting with your task and working on it actively without picking up the phone or opening up the browser to scroll socials or do that banking that you suddenly feel motivated to do. It speaks to the part of the brain that needs to know you will get to check in on those things again, because it knows it’ll get its moment when the timer goes off (so you don’t even need to check the clock). This means that your energy can be funnelled into the one thing. It’s interesting to find how much more actually gets started and underway when we allow the space, time and energy for it.
- Have a taken a proper break lately? – Alternatively, another cause for procrastination can be about not taking adequate breaks for rest. If you work a certain muscle group over and over again, without any recovery time, eventually you stop gaining benefits and likely start losing form and causing injury. It’s the same with our energy. If you’re run down, overworked, or haven’t taken proper down time in a while, our productivity levels drop dramatically and things start to take longer to complete, even if we’re working on them consistently. If you suspect this might be the case, give yourself permission to step away work completely for a few hours (or a day) and come back to it after a proper rest.
- When was the last time you revisited your ‘why’? – When our ‘why’ we’re doing something isn’t clear enough (or we’re not clear enough on it), it’s easy for us to falter. When we have a strong ‘why’, and keep it at the forefront of each task we do, the grunt work is suddenly easier to get up and do. Because we have a clear vision of ‘why’ we’re doing it, what we’re doing it for, and better understand that those steps will help us accomplish that. It’s when we have that clear vision that we feel inspired and energised enough to do the work.
In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek quotes:
“Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”
Sometimes that work isn’t so much about the work, butnthe love in our ‘why’ instead.
Procrastination can be looked at and changed. If you typically procrastinate now, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be a procrastinator forever. You’re not stuck. You might just not be asking the right questions.