Why Procrastinate (And How To Stop) - Part One

I have to do this thing, but I’ll postpone it until tomorrow” … “Damn, I know I should start walking to lose weight, it’s good … But today I just can’t do it, I’ll start on Monday” …

How many times phrases like these (and all their derivatives) have resonated within you, or you have uttered them because, perhaps, in that moment, you did not want to do that particular thing? I am sure that, as has happened to me many times (many more than you might think), the same thing has happened to you too …

But why do we tend to procrastinate? Why, instead of immediately removing that “tooth”, do we tend to keep the pain until it is just so unbearable that we have to remove it by force?

“Foregone allusions” aside, let’s start by looking at the meaning of the word “procrastinate”. With this term, we define our intention to “postpone a certain thing to tomorrow, with the aim of stalling, or even getting to not do it at all”. In this mini-series of articles, we will first see what are the causes that lead us to procrastinate, and then what is possible to do to solve this problem, and become “doers“, or “Those who do”. Are you ready?

As I told you before, let’s start from the beginning, and immediately go to identify the possible causes of our problem, so that we can solve them quickly, and go in the opposite direction.

In what has been my life experience so far, I was able to identify six possible reasons why we procrastinate (small disclaimer … This has been my experience to date, yours is not necessarily the same. Let’s say that the ones which I will list shortly, are the most common reasons): but … let’s go in order.

1) Laziness

Yes, we start right away in a hard and sincere way. We must realize that most of the time we postpone something we have to do, the reason is this: the effort of taking those five minutes (or more, it doesn’t matter for the purpose of the result), do what we have to, and then forget about it. .

Let’s face it all, each of us is basically “lazy by nature”, there are very few people who, in reality, are “programmed” to respond immediately to the responsibilities, and to the demands that modern life puts in front of us every day.

And mind you, there might not even be anything wrong, if we knew how to correctly dose these different types of moments: the fact is that, often and willingly, we let ourselves be taken more by “comfort”, rather than practicality, with the consequence that, in the end, we move away from what our dreams are, going towards far worse consequences.

2) Lack of motivation

Here we begin to enter a “minefield”: most of the time, when we have to do something, we are not at all motivated to complete it. The reasons can be various, from the fact that, perhaps, it is something that we are “forced” to do, rather than one thing that does not particularly excite us, or that we may not feel like ours, etc.

Motivation, in itself, is an “ugly beast” to manage, and maybe in the future we will talk about it more in detail: what, in this moment, we are interested in focusing on, however, is the fact that, without that, our tendency to procrastinate increases dramatically.

Ok Piero, I understand that, when I have something that I necessarily have to do, the stronger the motivation, the more the chances of doing it without postponing increase … But how can I do it, if I really am not able to motivate myself to that point?” …

Here we could be helped by a little trick that, partly, I’ve already invited you to put into practice, that is to use well-defined habits.

Think about it for a moment, if every time you have to perform a certain task, you do it with enormous effort, soon your willpower will fail, and you will begin to procrastinate more and more: but if, on the contrary, you create a habit daily for which you carry out that particular task for a given time constantly, you will not need to put in an immeasurable amount of energy, and it will be “easier” to do it, even if you are not particularly “motivated”, or “inclined”, in doing so.

3) Fear of failure

We have already seen in this article which can be the main reasons for failure, when we decide to undertake a certain project. What we did not talk about in that case, however, is how much the “result” (pass me the term) of failure, in reality, not only can “hold us back” from undertaking a project, but can also be the cause of procrastinating indefinitely, something we could actually do very well.

Why does this happen? Because, in most cases, we are afraid of being “inadequate” in the eyes of others

I will quote you a sentence that, in this case, is particularly apt: “In my life I have missed more than nine thousand shots, I have lost almost three hundred games, twenty-six times my teammates have entrusted me with the decisive shot and I have missed it. I have failed many times. And that’s why I won everything in the end” (Michael Jordan)

We live in a society where “it seems” that appearing (in some way, not necessarily positive), has become much more important than “actually doing”: try to think if, every time Michael Jordan has missed a decisive shot, or made one of those mistakes mentioned in the sentence I quoted above, had been kept on the bench, or even worse, had not even been called up for that match where perhaps, in addition to the error, he realized, for example, another 70 points. For sure, now he would be a semi-unknown player, and not the champion we all know very well.

This is to tell you what, in the end: making mistakes is normal, it is something that each of us does, more than once in our lives, and that will happen until we return to be fertilizer for the fields. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing it, and indeed, the more we make a mistake, the closer we get to do well what we set out to do. The important thing is to “learn from your mistakes”, to avoid falling where we have already been.

4) Go against our values

Each of us has its own “system of values” which, in part, is transmitted to us by our parents, and by the people closest to us (be they family, rather than friends, rather than teachers, etc.) in our adolescent period and that, in part, we create ourselves, when we “leave the nest”, and immerse ourselves in adult life.

It is obvious that, unless we are completely “amoeba”, if we find ourselves doing something that is against what we believe in, or that we have been taught, the tendency is to try to delay it as much as possible, or even not to do it at all.

There are, however, cases in which, by force of circumstances, we cannot refuse to carry out that particular task: in a situation of this type, the choices we have available are limited to two/three at most, that is, when possible and does not involve excessive consequences, to change one’s system of values, trying to adapt it to the task we have to perform, or to completely change activities (understood in the workplace, or to make sure to find something else – I am not advising you to quit, mind you, but, when you realize that certain situations risk to become too “extreme”, perhaps it is appropriate to begin to consider taking other paths), or even, take advantage of the trick that I recommended in the previous paragraph, to try to do it in any case to the best of our ability and, subsequently, to evaluate any further possibilities.

5) Working "too much" and, consequently, "badly"

In this last period, I have often worked from early morning to late evening, all in a row, and now I can no longer do what I should, in a productive way” … “I know I should do that particular thing, but just thinking about having to spend all that time on it, I get hives”… What do these two phrases have in common?

If you notice, in both, we refer to an event that involves a period of prolonged and, in most cases, disorganized “stress”. The obvious consequence of all this is that our brain, by necessity, will take “pause periods”, in which we will be more inclined to look at our “social networks”, rather than waste time on other things, instead of dedicating ourselves to what we really have to accomplish.

The triggering cause of this event is the union between an increasing amount of work done on the one hand and, despite this, an increasing amount of work to be done, on the other.

Guess what the direct consequence of not seeing results (or changes) to this situation will be? That’s right… You said right… We will tend to delay what we have to do, making a situation that is, in itself, very complicated, even worse. We will see in the next article a possible method to solve this problem… In the meantime, consider bad time management as the real cause of what we just talked about.

6) You do not "particularly" like the "Dirty work"

As we have already seen in point 4, when we find ourselves having to carry out activities that go against our values, whatever we are talking about, we tend to delay them as much as possible.

In this last point of our article, we go into even more detail, also identifying those activities that, even if they do not go against what we believe, are particularly boring to carry out and, consequently, lead us not to want to complete them, even when we force ourselves.

We can almost consider them as the “pollens that are in the air in spring”: for those who are allergic, they are the most useless thing on this earth, while, for plants, they are a source of life. Strong as a contrast, right? Yet even what, at first glance, may “seem useless” for some, for others is the exact opposite.

In every activity we carry out, there are positive and negative things, even in those we love: the important thing remains not to focus on the single thing, but to look at the final result, so as not to use the “problem” as an excuse to not to lead to finish what we started.

Well, I would say that, for the moment, I have given you enough points to reflect on, and on which to ask yourself a few questions … As I told you at the beginning of the article, these are all things that I have experienced firsthand and that, cyclically, recur, despite everything. The positive thing, however, is that, as we will see in the next article, there are not only the negative things, but also the positive ones …

In our case, the methods to avoid procrastinating, and thus become people accustomed to “Doing” and “Solving problems”, rather than delaying them … Until next time!

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