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Road to Nowhere Green Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Procrastination’s final destination, if left untamed.

We’ve all procrastinated at some point.  When we do, our best intentions of getting things done are threatened.  There are many reasons why we might find ourselves procrastinating.  Here are a few of the most common ones.

Perfectionism:  Perfectionism may mean that you take your time to do things.  This can be of great benefit as long as you plan for it.  The difficulty is being so concerned that something is perfect that it can feel almost dangerous to do whatever it is that needs doing and risk it not being perfect.  As a recovering perfectionist myself, I can definitely identify with this.  Consider the following question: What would happen if you finished and it wasn’t perfect?  Then consider whether your concerns are based on fact: What evidence do you have to support this conclusion?  Then think of the ways you are equipped to deal with potential scenarios: What resources do you have to deal with the results?  If you take a little time to think about these things, you are likely to find you’re able to challenge perfectionist tendencies when if they threaten to sabotage your progress.

‘Adrenaline Seeking’:  Some people thrive on leaving things until the last minute because they claim that they work best under pressure or simply enjoy the rush.  A little ‘stress’ can help you to be productive but if you’re constantly under pressure it is likely to have a negative impact in the long run.  (I will cover the topic of stress in more detail in another post soon.)    This used to be me.  What I found was that in order to change this habit I had to associate more pleasure with the feeling of getting something completed than a so-called ‘buzz’ could give me.  I also considered how tired I would feel for days afterwards once I had finally completed the task.  Consider: What kind of impact would sustaining this habit* have on your life?

Distractions: The world around us is full of distractions, and with the increasing amount of technology in our lives, you’re never far away from a buzzing phone with a Twitter @ or a computer pop-up attempting to do an automatic restart.  If you work from home you’ve got the added potential distractions of general domesticity.  Tackling this could be as simple doing a little forward planning: putting the land line on mute, turning your mobile off and running checks on your computer before you get started.  If you find that your concentration needs improving in spite of this, try setting a timer for 15 minutes and commit to focusing on the task for that amount of time.  Afterwards, you may find that you want to continue for another 15 minutes, and so on, or you could schedule in another 15 minutes at another time later.  What are the distractions that you most frequently find lead you to procrastinate?  What can you do if they occur?

Fear:  This is as much of a Catch-22 situation as perfectionism.  It can be easy to put something off because you are afraid of failing at it.  It can be just as easy to put something off because you are afraid of succeeding at it!  What if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone?! The thing about fear is that it is a natural reaction to help protect you, but if you stop doing things out of fear, it will just close in on an ever shrinking comfort zone.  It’s much better to be growing than shrinking!  Ask yourself, what will the cost be if I don’t take action now?  Make a list.  What will the cost be in each area of your life?  What will the benefits be of taking action?  How will it positively affect each area of your life?  Look back at this list whenever you tend towards procrastinating out of fear.

Procrastination can happen for many reasons and even for all of them at once.  People don’t necessarily belong exclusively to one category as there are many variables in accordance with the individual concerned and the circumstances.  The purpose of this blog post is to break down some of the ‘whys’ of procrastination and not intended to label people as a certain ‘type’.

What ways do you procrastinate?  How do you handle procrastination when it occurs?  Let me know and comment below!