It won’t come as a shock when I tell you procrastination is a huge problem for many people.
To put the issue of procrastination in context, between 15 and 20 percent of adults are chronic procrastinators and about a quarter of them consider it a character trait that identifies them. Among students, these numbers are significantly higher, with estimates that upwards of 80% of students suffer from procrastination to some degree…
But that’s NOT the main problem!
The behavior of procrastination is easy to recognize, but do you actually know why procrastinators procrastinate?
The main problem with procrastination is that most people don’t have the faintest idea of what is happening inside of their own minds. They subsequently are unable to cure procrastination because they are unable to tackle the root of the problem.
And that’s the main issue!
If you don’t understand why you procrastinate, you cannot fix it!
Too lazy to read right now? Watch the video version instead:
Procrastination Is NOT the Problem
There’s an analogy I often use for procrastination:
Imagine that you’re constantly coughing and go to the doctor for it. The doctor obviously notices the cough, prescribes you some cough medicine and sends you back home. But… this doctor utterly failed to treat or even diagnose the lung infection that is causing you to be coughing constantly!
How effective is the “treatment” going to be?
It may seem very obvious when you read it like this, but this is how most people fight against procrastination.
The first thing that you NEED to realize is that procrastination is NOT the problem in your life! Procrastination is the symptom of a problem (the “disease”) that you most likely aren’t even aware of! The “tools” meant to fix your procrastination try to cure the symptom, not the disease.
Recognizing Procrastination: 3 Common Kinds of Procrastination
If you’re here, you’re probably aware of the issue in your life.
But, to make sure that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive into the 2 common types of procrastination.
This is the most obvious kind we all know and hate.
Classic procrastination is where you know you are supposed to do something, but you’re simply not doing it. You’re telling yourself constantly that “I need to get this done TODAY!” and then continue to repeat the same thing to yourself every day until Christmas…
With this kind of procrastination, you feel terrible.
There is a sense of guilt because you know damn well what you’re supposed to do, but you’re playing games or watching NetFlix instead. If you have been procrastinating this way, you know how badly you feel.
And that’s why the other 2 kinds of procrastination exist…
The Chronic Planner
Your brain is tricking you!
The chronic planner is the kind of procrastinator that is ALWAYS ready to work on his or her goals. They have clear goals and for each of their goals they have created clear plans. They don’t just have an idea of what to do, they know exactly how to do it, when, and so on.
Your brain loves this!
That’s the trick the mind plays on a chronic planner. Because you’re constantly planning everything, your mind is tricking you into thinking that you’re being productive! People like this can actually feel good about procrastination, but at the end of the day, there is just one slight problem…
They are not executing!
When a chronic planner goes into execution mode, they often find that what sounded easy in their head is a lot harder to actually do. And so they quit shortly after, feeling bad for a moment. They then blame the plan and insist that they have to revise the plan, change goals or something along those lines.
Planning is their comfort zone!
This is you!
This is literally YOU right this moment!
Right now, you’re reading about how to overcome your procrastination, which is a good thing (don’t get me wrong). However, this doesn’t change the fact that right this instant, you could be working towards your dreams! And if only you did that, you wouldn’t have this issue in the first place, now would you? 😉
Creative avoidance is devious!
It consists of activities that do serve a clear purpose, but they are not the most important things! This kind of procrastination is so devious because you can feel great at the end of the day because you’ve been “productive” while your truly important tasks are still left untouched.
Here are some examples of creative avoidance:
- Cleaning your desk
- Selling some old clothes
- Endless reading/learning without action
- Doing small “urgent” tasks
- Doing the easy part of the work
- And many other ways!
They are activities that keep you busy so that your mind can tell itself that you’re doing great. In reality, though, it’s just an excuse to do the most productive thing.
“Oh no, I can’t make that sales call if my files are disorganized… let me rearrange and sort my entire hard drive! Yeah, that sounds good!”– A Master Procrastinator
This begs the question:
What Are the Causes of Procrastination?
You first need to know why you procrastinate in order to do anything about it.
This is the point where you’re going to have to work alongside me instead of just reading (yes, right now). The reason for this is that there are quite a few possible causes of procrastination and it’s ultimately up to you to understand yourself.
And no, that’s not an easy feat…
If it was that easy to cure procrastination, everyone would be in amazing shape, reach all of their goals and live a happy & fulfilled life. But… while it will require effort, I’ve created a free training that will help you overcome self sabotage (including procrastination)!
Your brain is not rational!
Who could’ve thought, right?
I’ll save you the details (you can read more about the present bias here) of the evolution of our brain, but here’s what you need to understand: As a mechanism to keep you safe, your brain places disproportionate value on the present moment.
Here’s how it works:
Doing the hard thing you’re supposed to do is perceived as painful to your brain. Of course, doing the work now means that you will enjoy way bigger rewards in the future compared to the “pain” of effort.
Logically, your mind would weigh the pain now to the pleasure in the future fairly.
But… that’s not what happens!
Instead, it values the present moment WAY more! So a little bit of pain (effort) is perceived as a LOT of pain. At the same time, a huge benefit in the future is diminished in your mind’s eyes. When your mind does the math now, there is a clear winner:
Not taking action…
Knowing this alone can already help you stop procrastination (to some degree) because you understand the trick your mind is playing on you. One tool you can use to deal with procrastination is precommitment. But note: While this can work, it’s not a cure for procrastination, because you’re not attacking the source!
Procrastination, Insecurity & Fear
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the deep psychological causes of procrastination.
One of the roots of the problem is insecurity.
Write this down:
You always, and I mean ALWAYS do the behavior that you want to do!
Before you complain, let me explain:
Logically and consciously, you want to do X (fill in the blank with your activity), but fear and insecurity can lead to procrastination. The root of your procrastination could be that subconscious level, your mind says “No, fucking way mate! I don’t have the guts to do THAT!”. And so a conflict arises between your conscious and your subconscious.
Your subconscious almost always wins!
And so, you get exactly what you want from the situation: to not take action and delay your important task (possibly forever). Procrastination is the symptom. Fear of the activity, fear of failure, being self-conscious and other fears could be possible causes of that procrastination.
See how that works?
We’ll dive into how to actually stop procrastination once and for all in a bit, but first I’ll go over some other common reasons why people procrastinate. After that, you can start figuring out which cause(s) apply to you specifically.
Let me give you an example to illustrate this concept.
The other day I was able to help a woman who was suffering from fairly severe procrastination. She had big ambitions, but she couldn’t get herself to do anything at all. Her mind simply would not let her do anything.
In her case, it was fear of failure.
When she was a kid, she had pretty strict parents. If she did something wrong, or intolerable in her parents’ eyes, she would lose pretty much all privileges. No tv, games, going out with friends, staying in her room and punishments like that.
That’s what caused her to procrastinate!
In her mind, she had the idea that if she failed, she would lose everything. Her mind would not let her do anything outside of her familiar comfort zone where nothing could go wrong. After all, the perceived consequences of messing things up were too grave for her!
Oh, and by the way…
She is 30!
Let that sink in for a moment!
Something that happened to her when she was a kid is what is causing a lot of her problems in her adult life! It must have been almost two decades since that happened, but it left an impact. Without her realizing what was truly happening in the background of her mind!
That’s why procrastination is often so hard to deal with!
Identity, Beliefs & Procrastination
Think about the way a thermostat works for a moment.
You set it to a certain temperature and if the temperature is below that, the heater kicks in. If the temperature gets too high, the heater stops and/or the air conditioning kicks in to cool the room. All to make sure that the room stays roughly at the same temperature all the time.
So, what does that have to do with anything, you ask?
You are a thermostat.
Over your lifetime, you have created beliefs about the world, about other people and about yourself. You have given yourself a certain identity as well. And again, these things are often so deep in your subconscious that you’re not even aware of it or where you undervalue the power of that identity.
Do you ever refer to yourself as a procrastinator? Either to others or to yourself? Or have given yourself another negative identity?
If so, it’s time to stop!
The more you keep saying that to yourself and other people, the more you reinforce this same identity. The more you keep reinforcing that identity, the more it becomes ingrained in you. The more ingrained it becomes, the harder it will be to overcome procrastination!
You want to start reinforcing a new, more beneficial identity. For this, look for role models or a mentor, try to get accountability and above all, force yourself to take action of some kind (even if just a little). You cannot overcome procrastination without taking action towards your goals.
I don’t have the space to go into details here, but this free training teaches you exactly how to cure your procrastination!
I’ve had quite a lot of issues with procrastination in my past.
Without going into too much detail: I’ve been bullied quite a bit back in high school. And as a result (among other things), I lost a lot of my confidence and developed limited beliefs about my capabilities.
I fell into the creative avoidance category of procrastination.
I did start an online business back in the day, but I lacked the discipline to see it through long enough to be successful. Years later I realized that the reason why I procrastinated was because of those doubts and limiting beliefs that I had at the time.
How to Cure Procrastination
Now that you understand the most common causes of procrastination, let’s look at the solution.
Firstly, you want to audit yourself.
If you’re being honest with yourself and you ask yourself the question of “Why have I not been taking action?”, you will start to understand yourself. The better you can understand your reasons for procrastinating, the better your chances of actually curing it.
The closer you can get to the root causes, the better. So keep asking yourself the question of why you feel like this a few times. Ask yourself when you first had these feelings. And ask yourself if you can recall a moment in your past where you think this originated.
When you evaluate your past experiences, are there any lessons you can take from them?
Your mind is holding on to these memories, past experiences and beliefs because it wants you to take the lesson(s) from them. Your mind wants to help you by making sure things like that don’t happen again. In other words, until you learn the lessons, your mind will want to keep holding on to the negativity.
Then, let it go!
With each piece of emotional baggage that you let go of, you re-own the confidence, self-esteem and parts of yourself that you have disowned through your past trauma. It’s like carrying a heavy backpack and slowly unloading the useless weight you’ve been carrying along all this time.
Remove the mental blocks and you will overcome procrastination by default.
That’s the idea of treating the disease rather than trying to “cure” the symptoms. You find out what specifically it is that is holding you back and you directly work on that level. The other levels below it will then shift into place and taking action right away will become your default!
I’d be lying if I told you that this will be an easy journey…
However, there is a step-by-step process to get rid of procrastination and other forms of self-sabotage! There’s an in-depth (47 minute) training video that I’ve created on just this topic! Destroy your procrastination sooner rather than later and get the FREE training here!