I think most, if not all, of us have been guilty of putting things off (i.e. procrastinating) from time to time. You know, when you really should be doing some paperwork, the tax return, household admin etc., but you watch just another episode of a Netflix drama because it doesn’t require any brain power?! That’s fine, usually we will pick things up again and move forwards, it was just a little hiccup, a small delay and no harm done.
But have you started to notice that it’s becoming a pattern for you? Perhaps you’re avoiding doing the big priorities and you find yourself calling a friend, reading a magazine or even doing some housework? I know there’s some serious procrastinating going on for me if suddenly I find cleaning out the fridge or doing the ironing is more appealing!!
Are you feeling really stuck and you know that you’re not moving forwards, not getting the important things done and you just can’t figure out why? Or maybe deep down you do know why, but you aren’t facing up to it and you certainly aren’t doing anything about it?
Before we dig into the reasons for procrastinating I think it’s important to understand what we actually mean by the word. It’s ‘putting off something important till later’.
This is different to prioritising, which is ‘putting off something that’s less important in order to deal with the most pressing matter first’. If that is what’s going on, that’s ok – but just a word of caution. Make sure that this urgent matter is urgent for you, and you’re not simply dancing to someone else’s tune.
Finally there is paralysis. This is a frozen, stuck state when you can’t seem to make a decision about anything… and so nothing ever gets done.
These behaviours occur in relation to tasks, jobs and chores, but they are also present when some of the big life decisions and transitions come our way. These are often the times when clients find the coaching process so useful.
But as a quick overview today, let’s go through a few possible reasons for procrastinating – I wonder which will resonate with you?
Lack of Knowledge.
Sometimes you have a goal in mind or there is an expectation on you to achieve something but you simply don’t know how to do it. How can you rectify this? Who can you ask for help with this? I confess I’m pretty hopeless at tech and anything with computers. I either fritter away so much time trying to figure something out or I simply avoid doing the job if I don’t know how to – due to the fear of failure and possible embarrassment if I get it wrong! Swallowing my pride and asking my daughter to show me results in renewed momentum for me and she gets to feel good too!
The Task is Out of Flow
By this I mean you’re just not in the right frame of mind or in the right energy state for this at the moment. I’ve talked before about getting to understand your personal energy flows according to circadian rhythms, hormonal cycles, the seasonal changes etc. When you get to grips with this you can decide either to leave the task till you are in the optimal state or delegate to somebody else. Yes, this is a possibility! It doesn’t always have to be you! Have you ever considered this I wonder?
Lack of Planning
As Benjamin Franklin said, “if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail”. I realise you need to set aside some time to actually make a plan, but once done you get real clarity on your priorities and can allocate time accordingly. There are lots of different time management systems available, which can help with this. I offer some different perspectives, which take into account the energy variations I referred to earlier.
Analysis Paralysis and Perfectionism
I think these two are related for many women. You over analyse every situation, second-guessing what the outcome might be, and if there’s any risk that it’s going to be anything less than perfect you are too afraid to even make a start. If this involves making a decision or choosing an option, again the fear of it not being ‘right’ freezes you into complete inaction and inertia. The answer here is to just start; just take a step. Done is better than perfect. The feedback you receive from taking an action can then be used to refine, change or even make a U turn and start again. Mistakes don’t define us. The actions we take and the learnings we take from the outcome are far more important.
Dissonance between your Present Self and your Future Self
This essentially means you are avoiding doing something that will benefit your future selves (like an exercise class), because your present self is motivated by instant gratification (lying on the sofa watching TV and eating cake). How to move out of the procrastinating behaviour here? It’s a case of searching your soul and finding out what motivates you? What is important to you for your future self? What will inspire you to take action to benefit your future self instead of the instant self-gratification behaviour?
So are you going round and round and not taking an exit off the roundabout of indecision? The pull to do the things that give us instant reward lives deep in the primitive part of our brains. It’s the part that is trying to keep us safe, but in doing so it keeps us small and stops us from making progress from our today and into our tomorrow. Can you afford to stay stuck here? What do you want for yourself instead?
I hope some of these tips will help you look these delaying and paralysing behaviours in the eye and move you forwards.
One small step you could take is to book a free (no obligation) discovery call with me to see how I can help you move from indecision and procrastination to productive.