Procrastination serves a purpose. It can protect us from further responsibilities and higher expectations from others but the flip side of that is self criticism and self hatred. Procrastination is an effective form of avoidance but it only works temporarily. The anxiety always come back again. Ultimately, the costs of avoiding and procrastinating will always outweigh the benefits. Procrastination usually ends in a cycle of anxiety, self criticism and a sense of shame.
Guilt ensues and we end up in a very negative cycle, so it pays to find a way to move forward and get out of this self sabotaging behavious once and for all.
Reasons for procrastination
Perfectionism/ fear of failure
Perfectionists place a lot of pressure upon themselves. They expect perfection and this leads to procrastination. The task seems so hard to do and as a result an individual puts it off. Underlying this is a fear of failure. Thoughts running through a perfectionists mind might be, “What if I can’t do it?”; “What if I fail?”; “What if it doesn’t work out?”. These high expectations can lead to ‘paralysis. Perfectionism creates unnecessary anxiety as many perfectionists fear being found out as not being good enough. Many people have this underlying fear but for perfectionists the fear of not being good enough can be crippling. They also tend to be all-or-nothing types, so rather than do something that isn’t perfect, they don’t do anything at all.
Learned helplessness is a term that Psychologists use to describe extreme apathy. Learned helplessness can emerge after an extended period of stress where a person has tried various strategies to fix the problem but nothing has seemed to work. This leads to exhaustion and the person begins to believe that no matter what they try, nothing is successful. Learned helplessness is often accompanied by depression. When we’re depressed, we don’t want to do much. We prefer to hide under the duvet and avoid the responsibilities of being an adult.
Detachment can occur for a variety of issues. Low self esteem can lead to a sense of detachment, of not feeling capable or competent enough to complete a task. Emotional detachment may also interfere with a person taking action. A person in survival mode is too busy trying to survive to worry about tasks.
How to stop procrastinating
It’s not easy to break the cycle. However, one of the best ways to break procrastination is to begin taking baby steps away from the inaction in your life. Identify some short term and long term goals. Take a look at the short term goals initially. It could be anything and your goals will depend upon your current circumstances. If you are severely depressed, there may be loads of procrastinating going on. For the severely depressed person, a short term goal of taking a daily shower may be a good first step. For someone with perfectionism, their first baby step might be to send an email.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works really well for all causes of procrastination as it reaches individuals to challenge their thinking. We can find out what failure is to them and look at ways to reframe that so that they fear failure less. For a depressed client, a CBT counsellor can help put together a plan of action in terms of what small changes can be made each week to move towards doing rathet than just existing.
Perfectionists are encouraged to think that they are good enough and that what they do is good enough. It’s okay to make mistakes, it is better to send an email that isn’t perfect that to send no email at all. Making mistakes is not directly proportionate to self worth.
If you work from home and find that you procrastinate, you might want to try: Focusmate
It is free to use with unlimited sessions.
I recently came across this concept while watching the programme Click on BBC. Basically, you find another person who works from home through Focusmate and you both set up webcams so that you can see each other. The theory goes that if you have someone keeping an eye on you, you are far more likely to work. This idea relies upon the concepts of social pressure, accountabilitiy and commitment to help you to be more productive instead of procrastinating. I think it is a fantastic practical way to ensure that you are more productive. You work in silence for 5o mins with your webcams on each other.
Check it out of you procrastinate too much when working from home – very clever idea!!