4 Reasons You Procrastinate & How to Stop

Procrastination…the name given to the half-hour I just spent on Twitter while this empty page sat in front of me. We all do it sometimes. I do it A LOT. I’ll procrastinate by doing just about anything except what I need to do. I’ll sleep, eat, go on my phone, talk to people, stare into space…I’ll even procrastinate my work by doing other, less important work. I’ll write a completely useless intro instead of getting into the actual content. Procrastination is often mistaken as avoidance of work – it’s not. It’s just displacement of work.

I could be the least qualified person to write this article, BUT I will say that despite my procrastinating, I do get things done, eventually. So without further unnecessary pondering, here are four reasons you procrastinate and four ways to stop it.

You have a crippling fear of failure.

This is extremely common for our generation. Living in today’s capitalist social-media-driven society means that we are faced with witnessing the success of our peers as a finished product. We don’t see the work that goes into their accomplishments. So when we aren’t automatically and magically good at something, many of us fall into the trap of non-attempt.

How to stop

Remember that failure is yours to define. Don’t compare yourself and your work to other people and theirs. Someone else should not be your example of success. Remember that failure does not need to be feared. 98% of the time, nothing horrific will happen if you fall short of your expectations. Plus, if you don’t try, you will fail. If you try, you might succeed, and if you do fail, you’ll learn what’s not working for you, and you get a little closer to success.

You’re a perfectionist.

This sounds counterintuitive. You’d think that someone focused on doing something perfectly would put time and detail into their work, but not necessarily. Similar to a fear of failure, perfectionists will not settle for anything less than excellence, and for some tasks, this isn’t necessary or worth the effort. The goal of absolute perfection is too daunting of a goal when in many cases, completion is far more important than perfection.

How to stop

Practice self-compassion. Congratulate yourself for your little achievements, and don’t get too bogged down in the details. If you’re paying attention to detail because you’re passionate about the project, that’s great. If you’re agonising over tiny insignificant problems out of self-criticism and ego, that’s going to cause so many more issues than handing in an imperfect assignment.

You have poor time management skills.

We all think that we can do things faster than we can, so we leave something to the last minute, convincing ourselves that we work better under pressure. This whole issue is exasperated when you have multiple tasks to complete. You do not work better under pressure; you just work faster. Keep in mind that I’m writing this post the day before it’s supposed to go up. I’m sure that this post would be of better quality had I started earlier.

How to stop

Make time each day, week, and month to look at what you have to do and when the deadline is to have them done. Keep a list or calendar, and do what you can in small chunks—doing writing assignments are so much less intimidating if you take the time to plan. I loved when teachers gave me scaffolds to follow, it took the “how do I get started” dilemma out of the experience, and I could focus on just getting each thing done. I find that if I start with a list of ideas or dot points, I can arrange them into paragraphs or some other structure reasonably quickly. Later, when the due date creeps up, I go back to a skeleton of an article and elaborate. It’s much more palatable that way.

You get distracted

Sometimes there’s no deep self-worth issue at hand. Occasionally, we just get distracted. We are forgetful, or we want to put things off in favour of something else. Uni students often end up doing things last minute simply because they are busy living their youth, and that’s valid. Work is not the most important part of your life.

How to stop it

Keep the list of things you need to do in plain sight. Sometimes you’ll need to limit distractions, and other times, if you’re getting distracted, it’s because your brain wants a break. The solution to distraction is acceptance. Getting worried about not being able to stay focused will only distract you further.

All procrastination for any reason can be soothed by some good old fashion self-compassion and forgiveness. You’re not superhuman, and your brain is doing its best to get all your tasks done to the best of its ability. Procrastination largely stems from fear or self-criticism. Certainly if you sat through this whole article, you know that.