What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the behavior of putting off, postponing, or delaying something. Procrastination is an instant gratification coping mechanism. Rather than finish that boring spreadsheet, you fold the laundry. Rather than have a difficult conversation with someone, you organize your paper clips. Rather than doing the thing you really need to do, you
Procrastination typically falls into one of four categories:
Fear avoidance. Instead of facing the fear, you choose to do something else. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. From worry to anxiety. This type of procrastination is a coping mechanism to help you avoid a future that you don’t want to deal with. Maybe you’re afraid to let someone down. Maybe you’re afraid of conflict. Maybe you’re afraid that you’re not up to the task. Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll never finish the task.
Anger avoidance. Instead of honoring your anger and resentment, you choose to do repress and deny. This type of procrastination typically shows up when you really just don’t want to do something, when you’re irritated about having to do it, or when it feels unfair that you have to do it. Instead of honoring the anger, you focus on doing the dishes—a passive-aggressive attempt to own your own time and energy.
Shame avoidance. Instead of acknowledging shame, you choose to focus on something that gives you a quick ego-boost. This type of procrastination typically shows up when trying not to feel intense shame. Shame, a social emotion, is the fear of ostracism. And it can show up as a fear of failure, a fear of success, or a fear of being judged. Instead of honoring these fears, you numb yourself through distraction.
Pain avoidance. Instead of meeting discomfort head-on, you choose momentary relief. In the moment, it might feel good to avoid the discomfort, but this never ends well. Whether you’re avoiding calling your mother back, or avoiding your annual physical—there’s only one way to ultimately find relief and that’s to deal with the issue head on.
Regardless of the type of procrastination, the goal is to move yourself past your internal hurdles and to break through the inertia.
Here are five simple ways to stop procrastinating:
Surrender. This means that you acknowledge that you are not in control and that you will not be in control of the future. By surrendering on purpose, you give yourself permission to just show up.
Put your butt in the chair. Sometimes all it takes it a physical cue to get you going. Maybe that means you put your workout clothes on. Or maybe that means you stand at the top of your yoga mat. Maybe it means sitting in your favorite writing chair. This is about putting your body in the place where the work will happen.
Lower your expectations. Cut your expectations in half. And then cut them in half again. Make the entry point unbelievably simple. Rather than tell yourself you need to work out for an hour, just tell yourself you have to put your shoes on. Rather than tell yourself you have to finish an entire stack of paperwork, tell yourself that you only have to work for five minutes. This is about getting through the stuck point so that you can gain a tiny bit of momentum.
Be willing to suck at it. Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. Rather than entertaining the illusion of perfection, be willing to be generous to your own self. Allow yourself to be a beginner, to not do it well, to fail, and to try again. Over and over.
Set a timer. Often we are avoiding things because they are not fun, downright uncomfortable, or because they are going to take forever to finish. So set a timer for 15 minutes, 10 minutes… hell, set it for 5 minutes and see what happens. By giving yourself tiny increments to work through, you’ll push through the inertia and gain a quick win.