What is the root cause of procrastination?
If you've ever pulled three all-nighters in a week, if you're rushing to put the finishing touches on a slide deck minutes before you're due to present, if you're frantically putting a portfolio together while you're on the phone with a client...it might be fair to wonder if you have a procrastination problem. If these examples sound familiar, you might (particularly if you're looking to get better at managing your time) want to find out why. Figuring out the reasons behind your procrastinating ways will go a long way towards solving them. At the very least, it will help you understand your motivations better.
The good news? Everyone procrastinates a little. If you started working on every new assignment that came in, regardless of when it was due, it actually wouldn't make too much sense from a time management perspective. So your tendencies might not actually be too far off from what's optimal. Take that as encouragement as you begin to deep dive into some of the possible reasons why you like to put things off.
You’re avoiding something
It's a fact of life that parts of work can be quite unpleasant. Perhaps there's a client you dread speaking with, or you hate crunching numbers. Whatever it is, it’s not enjoyable - otherwise, it’d be done already. So you find ways to steer clear, sometimes virtuously taking on another productive task (your house never looked so clean)! Avoidance is one of the leading causes of procrastination. But, as you know already, avoiding it doesn't make it go away. It only delays the issue for another day and potentially sets the stage for more stress.
Your standards are too high
You're an avowed perfectionist, and you accept nothing less than the best. While your commitment to quality is admirable, this attitude often breeds procrastination. If you find yourself unable to move on, always caught up in the details and agonizing over elements that don't feel quite right, you will likely find you spend much more time than you have on anyone task - time that could be better used elsewhere.
You’re easily distracted
Your phone is continuously buzzing with reminders, texts and alerts. You have things to do at home, at work, and in your personal life. You might even have a (neverending) list of Netflix shows you want to catch up on. We live in an age of distraction and it makes it very hard to focus on anything in particular. We take multitasking to the extreme—sending emails while we're making dinner, reading the news on our phones while we’re watching TV, listening to a podcast while we work—that it almost seems foreign to give something our full attention.
You may find more than one cause behind your procrastination, or that the reasons change when different tasks are involved. If putting things off has become second nature, some reflection and mindfulness may be needed for you to pinpoint why. The next step? Figuring out how to overcome it.
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