Why You Procrastinate and
How to Overcome It
June 12, 2021
by LaVerne H. Collins, Ph.D., LPC, LCMHC, NCC
If I was going to define procrastination, it would go something like this. Procrastination is a behavioral pattern we wish we didn't do, but we still do it because there's something else that we dislike doing even more than we dislike our procrastination. Read that again, please! LOL
If we're honest, we admit that most of us procrastinate with one thing or another. We procrastinate because the thought of taking a certain action just isn't exciting. There are lots of actions that give us that “Ugh” feeling when we even think about doing them. It could be going to the gym, doing your taxes, making an unpleasant phone call, or scrubbing the toilet.
So, procrastination isn’t really an issue of laziness. It’s an emotional issue. Your brain predicts that you’re going to experience a negative emotion and does its best to help you avoid it.
However, you don’t have to allow your emotions to guide you. They’re merely suggestions you can choose to follow or reject. It’s not easy to take an action that feels uncomfortable, but it can be done. And generally speaking, procrastination eventually leaves you feeling even worse about not taking the appropriate action! Why not save yourself some time and drama and just do it now?
So, what can you do to mitigate procrastination?
- Focus on the physical sensation. When you think about doing the thing you don’t want to do, it creates a feeling in your body. Notice where you feel that negative sensation. How would you describe it?
● Focus on the area of your body where you feel the sensation and see what happens to that physical sensation. See how long that feeling lasts.
● Once you see how this feeling dissipates in a short time, it will be easier to handle it or even disregard it in the future.
- Find an easier way to do the task. Maybe there’s a better or easier way to do what needs to be done. Some tasks are just so big they’re intimidating to even consider.
● Can you do a little each day until it’s done?
● Is there a special tool you can rent?
● Rent a dumpster?
● Hire someone else to do it?
- Promise yourself a reward after the task is complete. Maybe all you need is an ice cream cone, a massage, or a new book to inspire you to get busy and take action. A reward can be a powerful motivator.
- Think of how great you’ll feel after completing the task. There are few feelings better than completing a dreaded task. It’s such a relief to put it behind you.
● Instead of focusing on how awful it will be to do it, focus on how awesome you’ll feel when it’s done.
- Start small. Plan to work on it for just five minutes. Promise yourself that’s all you have to do and then you’ll give yourself a break. You might find that it’s easy to continue after you get started.
● Getting started can be the most challenging part of accomplishing just about anything.
- Get help. Do you know someone that can help you? Having some company can make unpleasant tasks more tolerable. Find a friend to help, and you’ll get done twice as fast. Better yet, find five friends and make a party out of it! Unpleasant tasks are less miserable when you have company.
- Be tough. There are some tasks that simply have to be done even if you don’t want to do them. Summon your inner gladiator and overcome your resistance. Just get it done.
Everyone gets the urge to procrastinate. One thing that separates successful people from the masses is the ability to overcome this urge.
We procrastinate because the thought of doing the task is unpleasant. There are ways to minimize the discomfort of performing a task. Seek out these ways. Focus on the benefits of taking action, get your work done, and give yourself a little reward. You’ll feel great when it’s over!