Tuesday. 10:12 a.m.
I had my breakfast. I walked the dog. I had my first cup of tea (coffee doesn’t go well with my digestion). The second cup of tea is already next to my computer. It’s quiet. Nobody would disturb me any time soon.
It’s time to work!
But what if I played a game on the phone? Just one.
What about something sweet?
Is my sister working today? Should I check on her?
No. I better check the blog’s FB page first. That’s called work… right?
Laziness and procrastination could easily be my first and second names.
After over five years of working from home, being my own boss, and managing my time, I’ve realized the harsh truth: I am a lazy person who loves the job but hates the work.
I would have days when everything goes so smoothly, and I get tons of work done. I call them “power days”. And then… the “lazy days” are sneaking in, and the only thing I could do is feel guilty for doing nothing… while still doing nothing about it, if that makes any sense.
Are you the same?
Do you procrastinate and then hate yourself for doing it?
Do you have piles of unfinished work, half-started projects, and tons of new awesome ideas that just collect dust in your mind?
Do you really, really, REALLY want to get rid of procrastination and laziness once and for all… but do not know how to do it?
Today, we explore the art of procrastination, the curse of laziness, and the drama of feeling guilty but doing anything about it. On top of that, I will give you a special FREEBIE to aid you on your way to improving yourself and bettering your life (keep reading to find out how to get it).
Meanwhile, check out this cute video below to make you smile!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you sign up or make a purchase I might get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business. See full disclosure.
Table of contents:
- What is Procrastination?
- Understanding Procrastination
- Levels of Procrastination
- What is the Root Cause of Procrastination
- Negative Effects of Procrastination
- How to Overcome Procrastination
- Beating Procrastination – The Unconventional Way
- Recap and Wrap-Up
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of deferring, postponing, and delaying something that one must do despite knowing one would suffer from that decision. The most popular conception is that one procrastinates on boring or unpleasant things. However, that’s not always the case.
Of course, saying that something is boring or doesn’t bring satisfaction explains most cases of procrastination – however, not all of them.
For example, postponing working on the side hustle that will bring you money and you are excited about it doesn’t make sense. Yet, it happens most of the time.
What about practicing your hobby? You call it a “hobby” because it makes you happy, takes you away from the everyday mundane life, and brings you peace and self-satisfaction. Yet, it is common to procrastinate on it as well.
And here’s a big one for you!
Do you like planning and creating lists? Those actions are a form of procrastination. If planning your day takes you more than five minutes, and you write and re-write your lists daily, you have entered the maze of regular procrastination.
If you’ve ever struggled with procrastination for more than an hour, then you would agree that frequently postponing performing tasks isn’t just a sign of laziness but a harmful behavior that you grow attached to.
What’s disturbing is that we get immersed in that negative behavior even though we all agree it does us no good. Scientists say that procrastination is indeed failed self-regulation.
Here are some of the most popular reasons we procrastinate.
- The task we have to perform is boring;
- The outcome would be less than expected;
- We are stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work we must do;
- We have too many other things that bring more positive emotions;
- We struggle with perfectionism and think that the outcome will never be as good as it should;
- We resent the work that we have to do;
- We feel that we can handle the negative consequences of the postponement;
- We fear failure;
- We struggle with depression;
- We are in an anxiety period;
- We procrastinate because it has become a habit.
Levels of procrastination
In my research on procrastination and its expression in our everyday life, I have found at least three different levels of procrastination.
As you can guess, this is when a person procrastinates on studying and completing tasks for school/university.
It deserves its own spot on the article because over 50% of university students admit they regularly procrastinate.
Delaying and postponing specific tasks is called situational procrastination.
People who practice it would agree that they usually aren’t lazy, but when it comes to ____(insert a task or category of life), they can’t help themselves but skip and delay it as much as possible.
A good example of situational procrastination is when someone regularly avoids cleaning their room/house. They would do their job perfectly, and would never be late with paying bills or making appointments. They are active in every aspect of their life except cleaning their living space.
To identify yourself as a situational procrastinator, you would have to answer the following question: Do I procrastinate on the same things repeatedly while advancing on others with no problems?
A chronic procrastinator is a person who has adopted procrastination as a lifestyle and practices it despite regularly suffering from the negative consequences of that behavior.
The chronic procrastinator would get bad grades at school and postpone studying for exams regardless of those bad grades.
He would postpone doctor appointments (like dentist appointments) until the pain gets almost unbearable.
Delaying working on projects until the last day is a rule, and even though the chronic procrastinator knows that it would affect the quality of the work, he would defer it regardless.
To identify yourself as a chronic procrastinator, you would have to answer the following question: Do I procrastinate every day on different aspects of my life and wait for the last moment for over 80% of the tasks I have to do?
What is the Root Cause of Procrastination?
Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University (Canada) says that the secret behind cultivating and practicing laziness and procrastination regularly lies in the gap between “intention and action”.
We know what we have to do, but we choose to do nothing about it. That summarises it well, right?
What lies in that gap between intention and action, though?
Scientists argue that it could be one or a combination of the following few things:
Lack of self-discipline
When I hear the word “discipline”, I have just one image in my mind: military training, dirty faces, and an angry lieutenant who shouts insults toward the exhausted soldiers.
Yet, when it comes to the army, the one thing you would never experience is a lack of discipline.
I have an uncle and a cousin working in the army for years, and they don’t know what procrastination means. When their phones ring in the morning, they just get out of bed without second thoughts about it. If they have a place to go, an event to prepare, a task to do, they would just go for it.
Looking at them, I often feel like something’s missing in their mind; why wouldn’t they question EVERYTHING before going for it?
Or maybe there’s something I’m missing…?
Lack of self-discipline could answer to over 80% of the times I’ve procrastinated on something.
Is it the same with you?
Inability to manage time
The second underlying reason for regular procrastination is the inability to organize and manage our time.
Here we will talk about all those moments when we did the wrong calculations based on beliefs that we will “make it happen in time”. In reality, we are usually late with getting out of bed, preparing the kids for school, finishing projects, and making appointments.
Failing to organize our time in a proper way is a huge part of procrastinating on tasks. And let me use the opportunity to mention that spending too much time organizing and re-organizing tasks goes into the same category.
Inability to regulate moods and emotions
Have you ever waited for the “right moment” to start a project?
Have you ever postponed something because you aren’t “in a mood” for it?
What about delaying performing a task because you “hate the thing”?
Yes! Most of us are guilty of those. Waiting to “feel like” doing something is poor self-regulation of emotions and moods.
It sounds illogical to be in a mood to do our jobs, study for exams, and solve our problems, yet we all have had those moments.
Moreover, recognizing yourself in this section means that your emotions and moods dictate a big part of your life and are the key to solving most of the problems you face.
Perfectionism and procrastination
And then there are the perfectionists who don’t want even to start performing a task if they aren’t sure the results will be great, awesome, and flawless.
The perfectionist’s issue occurs when there is an underlying fear of failure. I would know that. It took me forever to launch my business because I was too busy perfecting the little details.
Are you the same?
Do you delay hitting the Publish button on many things in life just because you are afraid they aren’t perfect enough and would be considered a failure?
Negative Effects of Procrastination and Laziness
I already mentioned several negative effects of procrastination in the previous points above. However, a summary is always a good idea.
Anxiety and stress
While one of the surfacing reasons to procrastinate on tasks is anxiety, it is at a significantly lower level compared to the amount of anxiety most people experience after they’ve procrastinated and failed to finish their tasks in time.
Progressing further with stress and anxiety, I must mention that they affect our physical and mental health.
You know exactly what I mean with this one.
It’s the guilt of procrastinating while procrastinating that grows into feeling even more guilty later after we’ve failed to do things properly.
Feeling guilty regularly affects our self-esteem, disturbs our sleeping habits, causes stress and anxiety, and could lead to depression and self-hatred.
Poor performance at school or work
I don’t expect to surprise you with this, but recurring procrastination leads to poor performance in the categories we procrastinate on.
Studying for exams at the last moment is okay once or twice. Doing it all the time would sooner or later lead to bad grades which seriously affects a person for the bigger part of his life.
Postponing work, being late with projects, and overlooking details because we were in a rush, would make us look irresponsible in the eyes of the boss. That could affect a future promotion or job reference.
The real danger of procrastination
This negative effect of procrastination is a bit hidden, and I must admit you have to be persistent in postponing stuff to get to this level.
Accumulating stress and anxiety, dealing with guilt too often, having a poor performance at work or school, and adding all of the health and mental problems that might occur from all those things… of course, it all means we do not live a life we enjoy.
And the thing that amazes me the most is that it is all self-made yet – fixable and avoidable.
How to Overcome Procrastination
After so many explanations of what procrastination means and how it affects our lives, it is time to learn how to beat procrastination.
Here’s the deal, though!
You have to be open-minded and willing to do the one thing that would truly make a difference in your behavior.
Are you ready for it?
Do you often find yourself procrastinating because you expected to procrastinate? It has become such a habit that you don’t even question it.
You know an exam is approaching, and (also) you know that you will study for it in the last two days. There is no doubt inside you that you’ll make yourself study earlier. You want to, but never take even one action step towards it.
What about work? Your boss asked you to prepare some reports by the end of the week, and you have already decided that Thursday late afternoon is the perfect time to explore the task a little more.
You act this way because you are already aware you are a procrastinator. You don’t expect anything different from yourself and you don’t give yourself a chance to change.
The root reason?
Lack of self-forgiveness
If you forgive yourself for failing to do something on time and procrastinating, you will be willing to give yourself another chance next time.
And let’s be honest, you probably did that a while ago. It didn’t work. You are in the same situation right now and don’t even consider forgiving yourself for being lazy.
And that is where you make a mistake.
Regardless of how often you have to go through the process of self-forgiveness, you should still do it.
Do you know why?
Because, somewhere deep inside you, it is working.
The urge to defat procrastination led you to read this post. You haven’t given up on yourself yet, and that’s amazing.
You took the first step; it is time for the second one.
Forgive yourself for whatever you failed at in the past, and remember that the only sure thing right now is that you have another chance to make things different.
And if you are ready to forgive and give yourself another chance, here are a few strategies to use.
Remember: These strategies will work only if you approach them with the mindset, “I can do this!”.
Handle the “mood” problems
As mentioned above, most people procrastinate because the tasks aren’t enjoyable. We wait to be “in a mood” for it, so we do nothing about it.
Handling the “mood and emotions” problem is challenging even when procrastination isn’t involved.
Yet, there is an easy way around it.
Studies have shown that rewarding yourself for finishing a task is way more effective than punishing yourself for not doing it (the guilt issue).
Next time you feel too lazy and procrastinate on a task, come up with a reward that is big enough to make your move. It could be anything from buying yourself something to spending quality guilt-free time with a friend, a trip to the desired destination, or enjoying delicious food.
What if it doesn’t work?
I know the idea above isn’t something you’ve never heard before. Maybe you even tried it, and it didn’t work.
If that happened, return to the point with self-forgiveness and keep trying. Change the reward to something even bigger, and do not reward yourself for failing to complete the tasks.
No, I am not suggesting you punish yourself, just don’t reward yourself.
It’s something like training a puppy. If you’ve ever had one, you know that you would reward the behavior you want to encourage and would ignore the behavior you don’t want to encourage.
Train yourself the same way.
Forgive yourself. Pick a reward. Ignore if you failed. Forgive yourself. Try again.
Managing the tasks one at a time
Here’s the truth!
We cannot avoid procrastination. We can change our approach to it.
Too often, when we decide we want to change, we dive into the deep waters expecting to start swimming immediately.
Waking up tomorrow morning and telling yourself, “Starting today, I will be a different person”, won’t work.
You don’t change overnight (unless it’s a forced change caused by external events).
Change on a deeper level happens one day at a time, one task at a time.
If you’ve procrastinated for the last 25 years, it might take a full year (or even more) to stop procrastinating on everything.
Give yourself time.
Go for it one task at a time. On some days, you might be doing amazing while failing on other days. It is okay.
Forgive yourself. Try again.
Develop the right habit
This point is an extension of the previous one, but I needed you to pay extra attention to it.
The habit you try to develop isn’t to stop procrastinating. Instead, it is to never give up on fighting procrastination.
Regardless of how long you’ve been trying, developing a habit could take over 200 tries. All you need is persistence and self-forgiveness.
Often, we don’t even start something because it just looks like a giant mountain, and we feel tired before making the first step.
It happens to me just these days.
The post you are reading right now is a post I had to re-write. The previous one was hideous, lacked research, and wasn’t bringing any value.
If you aren’t familiar with writing articles, let me tell you that writing a post that helps people takes a lot of time.
The previous post took me an hour. This one has already taken over five hours of my time. I expect the total to be 7-8 hours.
To me, that looked like a mountain I didn’t want to climb.
However, after procrastinating on it on Monday, I sat down on Tuesday morning and wrote the introduction only. I read a few research articles and called it a day.
Wednesday, I sat again and wrote just 1000 words. That was the chunk I felt comfortable with.
Today (Thursday), I will finish it off and leave the edit and photos for tomorrow.
Splitting the big task into manageable chunks or work helps me progress more than feeling guilty all week and doing a sloppy job on Friday.
Try the same.
See the bigger picture
Would you agree that we procrastinate on the important stuff and favor something more enjoyable at that point?
This, my dear, is ignoring long-term happiness and favoring short-term happiness.
Something that gives you pleasure at this very moment might not matter even a week from now. At the same time, a finished task today could bring you peace and happiness for months ahead.
See the bigger picture. Always. And look at it positively.
Avoiding a task today could sound tempting, and you might be willing to deal with the guilt for a few hours… However, does it genuinely serve YOU?
Does it make you the person you want to be?
Does it take you a step ahead toward the future you’d like to build for yourself?
Ignoring, delaying, and procrastinating sounds okay for a day or two, but do you see your life five years from now if you turn it into a habit?
Would you be happy if you’d become that person?
Ask yourself what the important thing is: short-term enjoyment or long-term happiness?
Which one are you willing to sacrifice? Trust me, regardless of your choice, one of them will disappear. Which one is it going to be?
Beating Procrastination – The Unconventional Way
There are a few additional ways to trick yourself and stick to the productive part of your Self.
You know you are on one of my blogs if I suddenly start talking about journaling.
Yes, procrastination can be positively affected by journaling. And no one says you have to do it daily. Biweekly journaling in a self-reflective manner would drastically help you understand why you avoid finishing specific tasks.
Let’s be honest!
I could easily write another five articles on reasons you might be procrastinating, but in reality, I can never know why YOU procrastinate. I could lonely list the most commonly reported reasons, and some of them would resonate with you.
However, what if your case is slightly different than everyone else’s? What if the reason you procrastinate is because of long-term exhaustion? What if it’s about self-hatred and you unknowingly use procrastination to punish yourself? What if you are facing deeper issues that have started from your childhood?
I can never explore your individual case… but you can!
Self-reflective writing will help you peel off the top layers of your behavior and unravel the soft and unique combination of personal reasons you avoid doing things in time.
I’ve prepared a mini-journal, free for you, with 11 prompts that will dig deep into your real reasons for procrastinating. If you’d like to get your copy and start journaling now, click here.
Find the right rhythm
Many people report that listening to music helps them stay focused and enter the Flow state. Flow is the state of mind where you forget about time and ignore everything else while immersed in whatever you are doing.
Scientists say that this is the ultimate productive state of mind. Moreover, the longer you stay in that state, the better results you will get from completing your tasks.
Listening to music helps me write as well. I get easily distracted if I listen to songs or if the music is too cheerful. I like listening to soft piano music or lofi tracks.
If you are into soft music, you could come along and work with me on Youtube. (see video below).
My favorite channel for lofi music is this one here.
Follow the pattern
Do you know why so many people brag about establishing a morning routine so you can be super productive and smash your goals?
Going through a specific chain of little habits and connecting them to doing something productive afterward is a great way to overcome procrastination.
Why and how?
Let’s say you started a new job that requires you to wake up an hour earlier than you do now. For the sake of this story, let’s establish that the new wake-up time is 6:30 instead of 7:30.
In the beginning, you will hate the alarm, drag your feet around the house, complain to your new colleagues that you can’t get used to it, include an extra cup of coffee in your day, and count the circles under your eyes any chance you get.
However, a few months later, you will notice that, on some mornings, you wake up just a minute or two before the alarm goes off. You will feel like this wake-up time is okay-ish and won’t need that extra cup of coffee anymore.
It is because your body has adjusted to the new routine you’ve introduced.
It’s the same with getting into a productive state.
If you can teach your mind and body that the sound of the alarm means you have to get up, you can do the same with getting things done.
All you need to do is introduce a specific habit or chain of habits followed by doing the job.
For example, making myself a cup of tea, setting the phone aside, and turning some music on, are clues that I have to enter a more productive state of mind.
Regardless of what else I’d like to do, in over 95% of the cases, I end up working for at least an hour with no interruptions.
What type of pattern could you create for yourself? Meditating for five minutes? Stretching yourself or doing a few cardio exercises? What would work for you?
Recap and Wrap-up
Procrastination is a bad thing. Avoid at all costs!
Okay, it is more complicated than that, and we explored that in over 4000 words above.
As a farewell, I invite you to challenge yourself and do only one thing: never give up.
Regardless of how much you have been disappointed by yourself… Regardless of your natural talent for procrastination and laziness… Regardless of what others tell you about you… Keep going back to the same cycle: forgive yourself and start over again.
Grab your free mini-journal with prompts by clicking here, dive deep into your own personal and unique reasons for doing this to yourself, and know that procrastination exists only when you practice it. You are still the boss of it.
Blogger, dreamer, procrastinator, and lover of everything soul-touching. My mission is to make you laugh, provoke your thoughts, light up your day and inspire you to fall in love with life and yourself.