Have you ever found yourself feeling frustrated that you’re not getting enough done? Do you ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?”
Many people have internalized messages about procrastination that make them feel ashamed.
Procrastination doesn’t mean that you are lazy. People procrastinate for many reasons, include as a symptom of mental health issues. If you can gain a better understanding of the reasons for procrastination, then overcoming the problem becomes a lot easier.
Why Do People Procrastinate?
Here are some of the most common reasons that people procrastinate:
- Fear that you will fail
- Fear of success (and the challenges that might come with it)
- Feeling overwhelmed by a daunting task
- Not feeling “good enough” or able to do something
- Not knowing where to begin
- The inner critic takes over and says you can’t do the work
- The task is one you don’t want to do or don’t believe in
- Worries about what others will think
- You don’t want to be uncomfortable doing something challenging
Procrastination can also be a learned behavior. Do your parents or personal role models procrastinate? Next time that you ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?” you might want to dig deeper and ask yourself, “where did I first learn to procrastinate?” If you always feel guilt or shame about procrastinating, ask yourself where those feelings are coming from.
Procrastinators Aren’t Lazy
American society, in particular, floods us with messages about the importance of productivity. Our sense of self-worth can get tied up in what we’ve accomplished. We believe the American ideal that if we try hard enough, we can have anything we want.
When we don’t meet our own expectations, even those that are unrealistic, we may attribute it to laziness. It’s not.
And yet, at some deep level, we often believe that it is. In some cases, this may be related to complex trauma that has left us feeling unworthy and ashamed.
The more ashamed we are, the harder it is to feel like we can do a good job. This can lead to a spiral in which we begin to think, “if I can’t do a good job, then I shouldn’t do it all.” In turn, this can lead to procrastination.
Psychological Causes of Procrastination
There are also other psychological causes for procrastination besides trauma. For example, depression can cause procrastination.
Depression feels heavy. Trying to accomplish even the simplest task might be too much. Therefore, you procrastinate, not because you want to but because you physically and mentally don’t have the capacity to do the job.
Procrastination can be a consequence of almost any mental health symptom. If your mental health is challenging you so much that accomplishing basic tasks is hard, then naturally you’re going to procrastinate harder projects and challenges. You can only handle so much stress.
If your mental health eats away at your self-esteem, then you won’t feel confident in your ability to get the job done. Therefore, you might procrastinate to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that you’re not doing well enough.
Similarly, if your mental health challenges sometimes cause you to struggle with organization and time management, procrastination might simply be a related symptom of your condition.
Link Between Procrastination and Anxiety
People who live with anxiety disorders often struggle with perfectionism. Worrying that you can’t complete something perfectly, you put off starting it at all.
Perfectionism leads to procrastination.
The closer and closer the deadline gets, the more impossible it seems that you’ll be able to do well on the project at hand. Therefore, you get increasingly anxious. It is a negative cycle; the perfectionism of anxiety causes procrastination but then the procrastination causes more anxiety.
Specific types of anxiety can cause their own issues with procrastination. For example, if you struggle with OCD then you may find that you have to complete specific rituals before performing a task. If you “mess up” during the task, you compulsively must start over. This time-consuming behavior can lead to giving up altogether. If you know that this is your common pattern, then it can lead you to procrastinate even getting started.
If you struggle with phobias or social anxiety, then you might begin to avoid the things that trigger you. This can have a link to procrastination as well. For example, you want to avoid getting up and doing a speech in front of your co-workers, because it causes you too much anxiety. Therefore, you put off even writing the speech.
As you get a grip on your anxiety, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming procrastination.
Strategies to Overcome Procrastination
If you want to overcome procrastination, then it helps to figure out the underlying root cause. Ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?” Don’t settle for the simplest answer. Dig deeper.
If you can resolve the mental health issue or fear that’s leading to procrastination, then the habit of procrastinating might go away as well.
In addition to treating the underlying issue, there are strategies that you can utilize to overcome procrastination. Here are a few to try:
- Ask for help. Someone else might see a better way to accomplish the task. Or it might just feel good to let someone compassionate know that you are struggling a little bit.
- Break each task down into the smallest possible components and focus on completing one at a time.
- Build your skills. The more equipped you feel to do the job, the less inclined you’ll be to procrastinate.
- Give yourself more time than you think you will need for any project. However, schedule earlier deadlines into your calendar. For example, if you think a job will take you two weeks to complete, tell the client that you need three weeks. However, mark the project as due in two weeks in your personal calendar.
- Learn to recognize perfectionism. Don’t let a goal of perfection ruin your chance to do a good job.
- Practice positive self-talk and turn negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
- Use meditation, grounding, and centering techniques to reduce anxiety and increase your comfort level with the task.
Do you need help to overcome procrastination? Get a first appointment with us now.