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What Causes Procrastination And How To Combat It

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Most people have huge potential within themselves, so why do they not live up to it? Procrastination. Here are some of the common causes of procrastination and how to combat them.

#1 Inaction

[One of] the biggest cause [of procrastination] is inaction. If you don't know what to do, DO SOMETHING. Just do something, that will be my advice. Because you will never find motivation or focus by doing nothing. You will find the motivation and the focus while moving or doing.

Contributors: David de Ponte from FullMusculo

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#2 The Bologna Technique

Almost no one could eat an entire bologna whole (and who’d want to try?!) but if we cut it up Into little slices it’s edible. It’s the same with any task. This long-established time management technique has helped countless people overcome procrastination for decades - including me!

If you have a paper to write, for example, break it up into smaller sections of work - initial research, choosing a title, additional research, making an outline of points you wish to cover, etc. Set a timer for periods of 45 minutes during which you’ll work, then take a brief break to relax, phone a friend, have a cup of tea, whatever. If at home use your microwave timer. If you’re out, use your phone.

By breaking a task down into smaller “slices” that are easier to tackle, it seems less onerous, more doable,  and actually gets done!

Contributors: Arlene B. Englander from ArleneEnglander

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#3 Fear of failure

Fear of failure is the biggest reason of procrastination. Within whatever the task is we feel, even if only on a subconscious level, that we may fail at whatever the task is. The failure may even be that we won't get our desired outcome and thus we aren't motivated to try, and put the task off.

Contributors: Joyce Blue from Empowering You Life Enhancement Coaching LLC

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#4 3 Reasons people procrastinate

There are usually 3 reasons people procrastinate.

  1. They don't know how to do it.
  2. They don't want to do it.
  3. They don't have the ability to do it.

The first is the easiest because you can be trained to do it. It's difficult to combat the second because there's no motivation unless it involves not getting paid or being fired. The third means you're in the wrong slot and not the best use of the talent you do have.

Contributors: Gayle Carson from Carson Research Center

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#5 Lack of Energy

Lacking energy can be frustrating for people who are willing to get up and do the work, but simply don’t have the energy to do so. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are lazy. Lost sleep, a poor diet, or insufficient exercise can all contribute to this issue. Procrastination then comes when people believe they will have enough energy to ‘do it tomorrow.’ Developing a healthier lifestyle will help solve this issue. Sponsoring gym memberships for your employees is one way to help them become more productive.

Set Outside Expectations

One of the best ways to combat procrastination is to tell somebody else when you expect to be done with the project. As a manager, help set these deadlines with your reports during weekly check-ins. As an employee trying to move beyond the bad habit of procrastination, create an accountability calendar with a close co-worker. If they suffer from the same issue, holding each other to deadlines can provide mutual motivation. Once you’ve met your deadlines consistently for an agreed upon amount of time, take yourselves out to lunch as a reward.

Contributors: Stuart Ridge from VitaMedica

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#6 A Case of Mixed Feelings

Procrastination is due to mixed or conflicting feelings and involves wanting to do something and also not wanting to do it or fearing doing it. We want to: go to the dentist but hate pain, vacuum the house and also want watch our favorite TV show, find a better job but fear rejection.

Overcome mixed feelings by:

  • Not using the word procrastination which has a negative connotation and leads to feeling bad about ourselves which kills motivation. Just say, I have mixed feelings, a neutral sentiment.
  • If your parents put off doing things they needed to do, you likely picked up this behavior from them-Dad kept saying he'd stop drinking and didn't or Mom swore she'd clean out the basement to make a rec room but never did. They couldn't teach you skills they didn't have, but you can learn them now.
  • Don't bully yourself with words like should/must/have to/need to, which only generate internal rebellion. Replace them with want/wish/desire/would like to.
  • Focus on rewards for doing unlikeable tasks, rather than dwell on why you don't want to do them, a process called leapfrogging. Skip over the bad feeling and immerse yourself in the good feeling.

Contributors: Karen R Koenig from KarenKoenig

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#7 How to Stop Procrastinating: Making The Last Minute Come Sooner

We assume that the brains of procrastinators are wired entirely differently than the brains of non-procrastinators, but they're not. We all wait until the last minute, which is the point where leaving an unpleasant task undone actually feels worse than going ahead and doing it.

The only real difference between non-procrastinators and procrastinators is that for non-procrastinators the last minute comes sooner! If procrastination is the result of being slow -- for whatever reason -- to reach the last minute, then there's a fairly obvious solution: Deliberately make the last minute come sooner! With a little bit of creativity, you can set things up to get yourself in gear sooner so that you can waste less time and energy avoiding an unpleasant task that you'll eventually end up doing anyway.

For example, suppose there's a report you absolutely dread working on that's due in a month. You figure the report will take several miserable hours to complete. Instead of, as usual, putting off the unpleasant task and allowing it to make you miserable for the next three weeks or more, you decide to deliberately make the last minute come sooner. How? You write out a check for $5,000 to a political party you absolutely despise.

Then you give the check to someone you trust with strict orders to mail it next Tuesday unless you show up with the finished report before then.  Will you still dread doing the report? You betcha, you will. And will you still put it off until the last minute? You betcha you will. But by making the last minute come sooner, you'll get the job done sooner and suffer much less.

Contributors: Steve Levinson from Behavioral Dynamics, Inc.

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#8 You Broke A Lot of Promises To Yourself

Just like when you break promises to other people, breaking promises to yourself results in you not trusting yourself, and you will therefore not be able to take yourself seriously. This causes you not to take your responsibilities seriously since you don't really trust you will do them anyways.

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#9 Being Overwhelmed

When there is so much to do and so little time, it can cause you to become overwhelmed, stretched thin and therefore accomplish nothing.  One way to beat this is by making a To-Do list. Writing a listing of everything you have to do that day help to clear out  and organize your mind. After writing the to-do list choose a few things that you can realistically complete that day and leave the rest for the next day. As you cross things off your list things get clearer and you are able to effectively able to complete tasks.

Contributors: Fabiola Paul from Enlightening Counseling & Educational Services

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#10 Plain Old Laziness

There will always be something that you would rather be doing. Being able to choose productivity over comfort is hard. One way to beat this is to attach a reward to motivate you to complete the task. For example, if you had to clean the house a reward could be getting to binge on the latest Netflix show or treating yourself to a massage. You are more likely to get it done when there is something in it for you.

Contributors: Fabiola Paul from Enlightening Counseling & Educational Services

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