Procrastination: Why It Can Happen and How to Stop It

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Olin Miller

      Although it may feel like it at times, procrastination is not a disease – it is not something that can be cured. Instead, it is an impulse that needs to be identified and, with practice, eliminated. Most procrastination has a few basic roots. Read on to learn about five reasons many people procrastinate, and how you can work to overcome these issues.

1- Habit. A lot of procrastinators have simply got used to the idea of procrastinating. They anticipate that they will put things off and then their actions match up with their expectations. Delays that might have once seemed unthinkable begin to seem normal. Even the panic that can come with an approaching deadline starts to appear like a fact of life, not something stressful that should be avoided.

Stop resigning yourself to a life where you have to respond to looming deadlines with frantic rushing. Recognize that you have fallen into a cycle of procrastination, and that is it not a healthy cycle to be in.

2- Moods. Sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. You have to postpone what you intended to do, and there is little you can do to stop the external obstacles. People who procrastinate sometimes use a similar kind of reasoning when thinking about their moods. They convince themselves that tomorrow will surely be a better day to get a task done for nothing but intangible, and fickle, reasons.

Next time you begin to mentally postpone a task, consider your reasons carefully. If you are deciding to run errands a day later because of an incoming storm, that is perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, if you are putting off errands because you think you will tolerate them better in a day’s time, stop that skewed thinking in its tracks. Avoid making plans around future predictions about moods and desires. It is usually self-deception at work, and it can slow you down.

3- Fear. Every time you act, you are putting something into motion. Sometimes the change is barely detectable, and sometimes it can be huge. This can make actions scary, especially if you know the consequences could be significant. It can mean subjecting yourself to rejection or failure. Even if you do manage to succeed, the aftermath of success can be frightening. You may need to move on to the next step in an uncertain future, or take on a new challenge that could lead to failure.

It is perfectly normal to be concerned about how you affect the world. However, if you let that concern turn to debilitating fear, you could be doing yourself, and perhaps even society, a grave disservice. Notice if future projects seem to trigger a sense of fear. If you feel it, do not run from it. Confront it. Figure out what it is that frightens you and brainstorm ways you might be able to control it or work around it.

4- Lack of knowledge. Sometimes a project seems like too much to take on because it is. At the time, there may be gaps in your knowledge that make it difficult to proceed without feeling like you are grasping at thin air. The missing knowledge can be in the form of something explicit, like research, or even procedural know-how. Perhaps you have an event to execute, for example, but you have had neither the experience nor the training to know how to swiftly take it on.

If you are caught in this predicament, first pinpoint which parts of the task make you the most uncomfortable. Try to use that tension to assess which pieces of information are missing. Once you have an idea of where the gaps are, patch them up. Delve into more research, or reach out to people who are in a position to help you. With a bit of time, everything should seem more manageable.

5- Refusal to make decisions. One of the easiest ways to push off responsibility is to refuse to make decisions at all. That is not always a conscious choice, but rather an unwitting tendency of many people who want desperately to postpone future events. They may even convince themselves that the choices they are facing are so complex that there is little they can do to even begin deciding.

Life can certainly be complicated, but decisions still must be made. Sometimes it can be helpful to enlist the help of friends and family for these conundrums. Their help is perhaps not best for the content of the decision itself – ultimately, it is up to you, and having a lot of opinions can complicate things. They can be helpful for imposing a deadline on the decision, though. Be vocal about when you want certain decisions to be made, and make your loved ones hold you to it. That kind of push can really get the ball rolling.

Regularly procrastinating can make life more stressful than it needs to be. You do not have to live life from one frantic deadline to the next. With a bit of determination, you can identify the underlying causes of procrastination and break its hold on you.

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