Everybody procrastinates – but it’s not what you think.
You put off doing something because it’s boring, because it’s too difficult, or because you just don’t feel like it. I do it too. In fact, I’m doing it right now! This blog was due to my editor two days ago!
This is all normal. Procrastination seems to be part of our DNA. But why?
Sometimes, the why is obvious. Nobody likes to do their taxes or rake a giant pile of leaves in the backyard. Much of the time though, the reason why we procrastinate is a bit more elusive.
First let’s talk about what procrastinating ISN’T…
Just not doing a thing doesn’t mean you’re procrastinating.
It’s all about intention. Are you truly avoiding something, or are you making a conscious choice to spend your time on something more important?
For example, maybe you should be working on a big project for work, but instead you decide take an hour to go to an exercise class and release some tension. This is not procrastination. This is a conscious choice in favor of self-care!
Procrastination is spending twenty minutes rearranging your refrigerator magnets instead of getting started on that project. See the difference?
In thinking deeply about this topic, I narrowed down three big reasons why people procrastinate.
We procrastinate on things that drain us, expose us, or scare us.
Let’s start with what’s draining. These are the “shoulds” – the obligations or things you agree to do because someone expects you to. Sometimes they are very necessary, and truly have to get done. Other times not. In some cases, you even procrastinate on draining things that are actually supposed to be FUN! Think, scheduling a visit with extended family. When your body senses that its energy is going to be depleted in some way by doing this particular thing, it does whatever it can to avoid it.
Another reason you might procrastinate doing something is that it exposes a lack of ability. You just don’t quite know how to get it done, so you stall out before you even begin. Again, you are subconsciously protecting yourself from something that feels difficult. In that moment, it’s easier to take care of the simple things you definitely know how to do versus take the time and effort tackle something new and challenging.
Lastly, you may be procrastinating out of fear. Perhaps you’re afraid that the result of your work won’t be good enough, or you could be afraid of another person’s reaction to a really tough conversation or piece of news you need to deliver. Whatever the circumstance, fear creates that sense of dread that sends you searching for literally anything to get you out of doing the thing.
Whatever the reason for your procrastinating, it’s often wrapped up in a lot of judgment.
I’ll give you an example.
In early 2020, I leased a car with a monthly payment based on 18,000 miles for the year. Then the pandemic happened, and guess how many miles I was putting on that car? Almost zero. The solution was fairly simple; I needed to call and ask if I could adjust the lease agreement so I wouldn’t be overpaying. It took me six weeks to make that one phone call!
I was judging myself. I felt like a failure. I was afraid that the response would be, “Tough luck, Kerri.” Instead of staying open and curious, I was closed-off and afraid to simply ask the question. When I really thought about it, that phone call itself wasn’t a big deal, but there were definitely some big feelings and fears wrapped up with it.
I finally did muster up the courage to make that phone call, and guess what happened? I ended up with a new car and a lower payment. It all worked out.
The antidote to procrastination is inner authority.
Unfortunately, procrastination not a simple thing with a clear, linear solution. “If I do x-y-z, that will fix it.” Life isn’t that easy. (If it were, we wouldn’t all still be struggling with it!) There isn’t one single answer, but there is an antidote you can cultivate for yourself.
You have to take the time to know yourself, to slow down and take the observer’s view of the situation. If you can separate the thing from the feelings, beliefs and fears about the thing, you can figure out why you are procrastinating. Then you can take action from a grounded, confident place. Sometimes taking action looks like tackling the thing swiftly and baggage-free. Other times, it might mean letting go of the thing altogether in favor of choices that are more aligned for you.
It takes work, and procrastination will probably never go away for you completely, but choosing to act from your inner authority instead of from your fear and self-judgment is how you’ll make the stuff that you say you will do tomorrow be something you take action on today.
Increasing your inner authority is part of what happens in the transformational coaching I do with my clients. So if you could use some help getting to that place, I’d love to chat!