Procrastination 2 – Why Do We Do It?

The behaviour of procrastination affects almost everyone at one time or another in their life.  For some it is a continuous habit, part of who they are, a not-so-endearing character trait; for others it may be a situational thing and doesn’t affect too many events in their life.

For whatever reason, people put off things they don’t want to do.

Why?

Because You Are Afraid

No one likes to admit that they fear something, but fear might just be the reason you put off doing what you know you should do.  Whether it’s fear of failure or fear of success, it’s still fear.

Fear is a paralyzing emotion.  It has the ability to stop us in our tracks – literally.  Some writers fear failure so they never write that epic novel they have churning around inside of them; some fear success and the result is the same. If you procrastinate compulsively, and who doesn’t enjoy doing that, then you may fear that once you’re successful at something you’ll suffer the compulsion to continually be successful. This will require you to work and finish what you’ve started and that will cut into your compulsion to procrastinate.  It’s a never ending cycle.  Fear can cause us to procrastinate.

Because You Don’t Think it’s Important Enough
You don’t place a high enough priority on the task at hand, it’s not vital and so it’s not worthy of you beginning it.
You know the task needs to be done and you may already have decided that you’re the one who must do it.  However, there is always something else more important on your to-do list that keeps bumping that particular job back to the bottom.  Let’s say you know that that the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.  You’ll get to it later, after you go grocery shopping.  Grocery shopping is more important because if you don’t have food you’ll starve to death.  Besides, no one can see that the dishwasher is full of clean dishes.  After grocery shopping you need to eat, because you’re hungry.  Besides, you can just take a plate out of the dishwasher and use that.  That’s sort of unloading it, isn’t it?   Unloading the dishwasher isn’t a priority and that’s why you procrastinate doing it.

You Don’t Know Enough to do the Task

You may procrastinate beginning a project because you simply don’t know everything you need to know in order to complete the task.  You may not have consciously admitted this to yourself, but deep down you know it and it’s coming out as an aversion to starting the project. You need to determine whether or not this is because you haven’t collected all the data on what you have to do, or simply because you want to stall for more time.

Because You’re Too Busy
Life is busy.  We have jobs and commitments and sometimes, just sometimes, we can’t get to a particular task because we’ve run out of time in our busy day to complete one more thing.

Because It Works
Unfortunately, procrastination can reinforce itself.  If we avoid something we don’t want to do (like cleaning out the rain gutters) by engaging in behaviour that we want to engage in (like hanging out with friends) then getting to it later, we can say that putting it off wasn’t that bad after all.  And besides, we had fun while we procrastinated.

You Haven’t Committed To the Job
You may think the job should belong to someone else, it’s not really your job to do and the job is a waste of time.  If this is how you’re looking at this particular task, then you need to ask yourself what will happen to you if you don’t complete the job.

You Just Don’t Want To Do It!

Everyone is faced with jobs in life that they simply don’t want to do.  They’re either disgusting, like having to clean toilets, or they’re dangerous, like climbing up on the roof and cleaning the leaves out from the rain gutters.  We put off doing the task at hand because we simply do not want to do it. There is no underlying psychological reason for putting it off.  It’s that recalcitrant two-year old in us coming out to say “I don’t wanna and I’m not gonna”.

You Could Just Be Lazy
Yes, that’s what I said. I know it’s not an easy thing to hear about yourself, but sometimes facing the truth about ourselves can help us overcome bad habits and succeed where we otherwise may have failed.  You need to find a way to motivate yourself out of your habit of being lazy in order to stop procrastinating.

So how do we change the pattern?  We’ll look at that tomorrow!

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