I would be willing to bet we have all struggled with procrastination from time to time. For some of us, it’s a minor bump in the road. For others, it’s a significant stumbling block to our success.
In my life, procrastination often stands between me and contentment. It’s a vicious circle really – I know I will feel much more satisfied once a task is completed, but I still have a hard time getting started. The longer I stay stuck, the more anxious I feel about digging in.
I believe there are three main mindsets that cause us to procrastinate. Understanding these mindsets is critical to helping you shift back toward momentum and productivity.
I’ve long struggled with perfectionism. It wasn’t something that anyone had to identify for me, nor was it something that was surprising. But, for longer than I’d like to admit, I missed the connection between my perfectionism and my ongoing struggle with procrastination.
I did notice, however, that there were certain tasks I never put off. I would line them up and check them off the to-do list with no problem and couldn’t understand what the difference was between these tasks and those I really struggled to get moving.
It was only when I started paying attention to what I thought about those neglected projects that I began to notice a theme. Many times, I was putting off starting because I was telling myself that the outcome wouldn’t be good enough. I didn’t want to start until I was sure I could complete the task perfectly.
I see this in the women I coach as well. They are smart, capable, hard-working women. They have more accomplishments than they can remember. But, there are a handful of tasks that stump them. Projects they just can’t seem to tackle that leave them stressed and disappointed. As we work together it becomes clear that they often put these tasks off because they are afraid their efforts won’t measure up to the standards of their inner critic. They can’t face up to that negative voice in their heard, and so they do nothing.
“I Don’t Know Where to Start”
Have you ever stared at the file on the corner of your desk that you knew needed attention and been unable to open it? How about the email that required a response, but instead sat ignored in your inbox for a week?
Sometimes, when the tasks we are putting off are complicated or new to us, we procrastinate because we believe we don’t know where to start. This dynamic is really a corollary of procrastination by perfectionism, because what we’re really saying is that we don’t know the “right” place to start.
Opening that file, reading that email and trying to take action bring up feelings that we would rather avoid. The feeling of being out of our comfort zone. The fear of being inadequate. The smothering sensation of being overwhelmed. In the moment, facing these feelings seems like too much. So we avoid them.
Overestimating the Time Required
“I don’t have time to start on that now.”
“Ugh. I don’t even want to think about that project. It’s going to take forever.”
How many times have thoughts like these stopped you from getting started on a task? I would be willing to bet it happens fairly often. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of scheduling the time to do things and allowing plenty of time to complete them. But what I’m talking about here is blowing a project or task so out of proportion in your own mind that you can’t muster the will to address it.
Often, this happens with the most mundane or routine projects. An email that you know you need to send. A phone call you should make. An appointment you should schedule. We put many of these things off by telling ourselves that are too time consuming, when the truth is actually very different.
Why? Because if a thing is easy to do, it’s easy not to do. (Tweet that!)
There are any number of things that can lead us to procrastinate, but in my experience, the majority of them fall into one of these main buckets.
I’d love to hear from you. What keeps you from getting started on a project?
Be sure to come back next week for Part 2 of this post. I’ll tell you why knowing what’s causing your procrastination is essential to defeating the problem once and for all!